Amtrak San Joaquins Come to Vacaville…by bus

A PHOTO story by Russ Jackson
with generous assistance from Art Lloyd!
The Past, Present, and Future: The Solano County city of Vacaville was served at one time in its history by two branch rail lines. Since they were abandoned trains roar past the city on what is now the Union Pacific/Capitol Corridor main line without stopping.

The Sacramento Northern, an electric interurban, entered the city on a line from Fairfield on the west. SN passenger service was discontinued around 1932, but freight service continued into the early 1950s. A portion of its right of way is now a paved bike path. Southern Pacific’s Esparto branch went from a junction with the main line at Elmira, through the city and its station on Depot Street, north to its namesake town. SP passenger service ended from Vacaville in the mid-50s, with the line abandoned and torn up in the early 80s. Both lines carried material from quarries, and tons of almonds, peaches, and onions.

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The Past. The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Pacific Coast Chapter, ran this steam excursion train up the Esparto branch through Vacaville on August 20, 1949, behind 2-6-0 locomotive 1660. Art Lloyd was the Society’s excursion director then, as well as beginning his career with the Western Pacific. This photo is from Art’s extensive collection!

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The Present. Beginning with the May, 2007, timetable, Vacaville is now a stop for San Joaquin train feeder buses. Amtrak California Thruway bus 3804 has stopped at the Davis Street Park & Ride on the north side of Interstate 80 in Vacaville, and will connect in Sacramento with southbound train 704. A morning bus connects from northbound San Joaquin train 701. The area behind the trees, just east of this location, was where the Sacramento Northern station and yard was located.

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On July 14, 2007, on time Amtrak train 6, the California Zephyr, is about to roar through the Elmira Road crossing of the UP/Capitol Corridor main line, which sees 40 to 50 freight and passenger trains speed by on the double track main daily. The SP branch line to Vacaville and Esparto originated from here. Elmira Road is now a six lane major city street that covers the old right of way. Many residents expected a station for the Capitols would be built here, but officials determined it would be too close to the planned station in Dixon.

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The Future. Eventually a passenger station for Capitol Corridor trains to serve this area will be built in the field just beyond the Peabody Road crossing above, which is the boundary between Vacaville and Fairfield, and is a main route to Travis AFB. This crossing will be grade separated and a platform will be constructed between the two tracks requiring realignment of the main line. Funding is almost complete. This photo was taken from the back door of the cab car on Capitol 729 on June 7, 2003, before access to these windows was blocked for security reasons.

Too bad the Esparto branch line was torn up. It could be used today for excursion trains to its namesake town, which is only a few miles from the Cache Creek Casino. (Photos by Russ Jackson and Art Lloyd)

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