Monthly Archives

May 2008

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RailPAC Meets with Senator Boxer in DC

Capitol Hill Day with NARP

Wednesday 30th April was Capitol Hill Day for the NARP Board. The three newly elected NARP Board members, all RailPAC members from California, RailPAC President Paul Dyson, members Ryan Stern and Dennis Lytton joined Jim Loomis from Hawaii (yes, really!) to visit representatives or their staffs on Capitol Hill.

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Pictured here are Ryan Stern, Paul Dyson, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dennis Lytton during a brief photo opportunity. The Senator confirmed her support for High Speed Rail and for passenger rail in general. We also visited the offices of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Daniel Akaka, Reps. Brad Sherman, Neil Abercrombie, and Diane Watson.

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My California Rail Pass Adventure Trips 1 and 2

Report and PHOTOS by Noel T. Braymer

california-rail-map-08.jpg For $159 dollars with the California Rail Pass you can travel on Amtrak trains and buses in California for 7 travel days over a period of 21 days!

I had wanted to use the rail pass to travel around California for some time and the April 19 RailPAC/NARP meeting in Sacramento was just the excuse I needed to try it.

My adventure started just trying to get the rail pass. You can’t order a rail pass over the internet and make reservations for your tickets. You must either call Amtrak or a travel agent. On a Sunday morning I called Amtrak and was on the phone for over a half hour, most of it on hold. I was told there was a computer glitch and finally told to call back on Monday. On Monday I called and in less than 10 minutes I had my reservations for the SAN JOAQUIN on April 19th and my rail pass. On Tuesday I went to my local Amtrak Station and it took almost a half hour to set up my California Rail Pass and print my tickets. It all seemed needlessly complicated. It is easier to book international airline flights on the internet which no longer issue paper tickets. But I was happy to be ready to go.

I drove my car to Santa Ana to pick up the AMBUS to Bakersfield. I could have caught the bus in my home town of Oceanside, but I wanted to return on the 704 train out of Sacramento for Bakersfield. This would get me home sooner and allow me to ride a train instead of the bus connection to Stockton. The problem is the bus connection for the 704 out of Bakersfield only goes as far as Santa Ana. I suppose the expectation is no one will ride a bus that late at night. Well no one told the passengers on the very full buses connecting with the 711, the first train out of Bakersfield at 4:55 in the morning.

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3:56 AM in Bakersfield. Three San Joaquin trainsets wait for morning departures. My train leaves at 4:55 AM and the bus wasn’t scheduled in until 4:40!

On all my trips the buses and trains ran mostly on time or early. There is a lot of padding in the bus schedules; you can for example expect to sit at LAUS on the bus for at least a half hour. The only time I was late was on the bus from Stockton which was late and got into Sacramento 10 minutes late so I was late for my meeting.

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The back of the Sacramento station The tracks in the foreground are for the RT light rail. Ambuses connect with stations all over Northern California, a part of the Caltrans Division of Rail’s good work.

The ride out of Sacramento on the 704 was a relaxing joy. It was so nice to ride a train instead of a bus out of Sacramento. I wish I could do it more often, but the connection to Oceanside doesn’t work. The 701, the morning Sacramento train out of Bakersfield has no bus connections south of Los Angeles. The only mishap occurred in Fresno when the train hit a shopping cart left on the tracks which knocked off an airbrake hose. Despite this the train still arrived in Bakersfield a little early.

My next train trip was from Oceanside to San Luis Obispo and back.

To get to LAUS I rode Metrolink, leaving Oceanside at 5:22 AM to arrive in Los Angeles by 7:20 AM to connect with Amtrak train 799, the 7:30 AM departure to San Luis Obispo. I was a little nervous about making my connection but there was no need to worry.  The 799 is a joint Amtrak/Metrolink train and the two trains connect with each other. The time slot for the 799 belonged to Metrolink. For Amtrak to run this train it agreed to carry Metrolink pass holding passengers as far as Oxnard making all Metrolink stops in between. Most of the passengers who got on with me at LAUS also rode the same Metrolink train I did into LAUS, but were Metrolink riders. On the Surfliner trains running north and south of LAUS there is a 15 minute layover compared with the 10 minute connection between Amtrak and Metrolink. It would be nice if Amtrak had through ticketing and advertised this and other possible connections to the 799 with Metrolink.

Just before the 799 left LAUS at 7:30 AM a Superliner train arrived. It was the inbound Southwest Chief 45 minutes early. It had been some time since I had ridden a train on the Coast Line north of the San Fernando Valley. Too long, since I had forgotten what a great trip it is! The best part is north of Goleta where you have miles of open coastline and almost no development. It is almost hard to believe there is still that much open space next to the coast in California. You can only see this area by train since there are few roads in this area.

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This is the station for Lompoc. Set near Vandenberg AFB, which is a major rocket launch area. There is lots of beach and open space.

The 799 was running early until we had a long meet near Carpinteria, which we never recovered from arriving in San Luis Obispo a few minutes late.
San Luis Obispo is a pleasant town to walk about, with many Victorian Homes in the area by the train station. I was able to eat lunch near the train station and take pictures in the area.

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Just south of the San Luis Obispo train station, this statue in the historic section of town honors the Chinese track workers who built most of the railroads in California and most of the West.

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This is train 798 getting ready to leave San Luis Obispo.

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It’s not a locomotive, it is a cab-baggage car. Amtrak uses this converted F-40 on the Coast Daylight trains between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo.

It had been a long time since I had ridden on a Superliner Train, let alone the Coast Starlight. The one long distance train you can ride on the California Rail Pass is the Starlight from Los Angeles as far as Dunsmuir. In May of this year the Starlight was not just on time but early.

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Inside of the SLO station, ready for Train Day.

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Metrolink has been placing ticket machines outside of its normal service area, capable of selling both Amtrak and Metrolink tickets as seen here in San Luis Obispo. More connections to come?

Train 11, my train going south arrived in San Luis Obispo by 2:43 PM and had to wait to leave on schedule at 3:20 PM. When we finally left Train 14 was coming into San Luis Obispo and couldn’t leave until 3:40.

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The Starlight at San Luis Obispo.

The trains were Starlights, not Starlites, with 2 locomotives, a baggage car, 3 sleepers, diner, lounge and 3 coaches. Something I hadn’t seen before the coach attendant assigns seats before you board the car and keeps a record of what seats are available.

The trip between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara has no stops and could be upgraded to at least 79 mile per hour running in many places for long stretches. Even with the current top speed limit of 75 in a few places and 60 mile per hour for most of the line, the Starlight on the day I rode it was very early into Santa Barbara. We had to stop just outside of Goleta by 5:30 PM and wait at a siding for a Surfliner due in Goleta at 5:47. We still got into Santa Barbara by 6:01 and couldn’t leave until 6:17.

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An early Starlight in Santa Barbara which gave smokers a long smoke break.
The train did get into Van Nuys about 5 minutes late, but we still got into Los Angeles by 8:40, which was 20 minutes early. That was still too late to catch the 8:20 Surfliner from LAUS to Oceanside so I had to wait for the 10:10 PM connection on train 796.

This report is continued in Trip 3 on the next post.

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My California Rail Pass Adventure Trip 3

Report and PHOTOS by Noel T. Braymer

My final trip (of three) was a weekday trip up to the Bay Area. Again I took the early morning San Joaquin, the 711, on an almost full bus.

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The train was full by Fresno with crowds of school groups. Half of this San Joaquin was reserved for them. Yes, that is duct tape holding up this sign.

I had been looking at the menu for the Lounge car and wanted to try an entree on this trip. When I asked for the Spanish Omelet I was told they were out. They were out of almost anything for breakfast except junk food. This is an old story with Amtrak that they can’t or don’t stock enough food, and/or can’t restock when laying over where there isn’t a commissary. One of the things I wanted to do was to try the connection for Amtrak to ACE from Stockton to San Jose and travel through the Altamont Pass.

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At the Stockton Amtrak station I got off and caught a Thruway bus to the ACE Stockton station.

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Stockton ACE is the old SP station, and is an impressive brick building that was recently restored. The one platform is on a stub end track.

This works fine for ACE, but when the Amtrak Sacramento bound trains top there, the passengers have to detrain at the grade crossing because there is no available platform. I read an ACE newsletter on the ACE train which said they are working to extend this track to the main line so Amtrak trains can use it. Such a connection would be helpful, too, if ACE is extended to Sacramento. Very few people got on the ACE train at Stockton. Most of the riders got on at the suburban stations enroute.

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As we headed into the Altamont Pass I could see lots of windmills and the right of way of the old SP, which you can follow by the old pole line along it.

As traffic grows here it will make sense to put this right of way back into service. But, as I discovered, the Pass isn’t really the problem that I thought it would be. Between Stockton and San Jose there are several major junctions such as near Tracy and at Niles, which can slow trains down. I can say that not only was the ACE train I rode on time, but at every meet the UP freights were waiting for us. There will be a need to upgrade the trackage in the route in the near future.

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The lush and green ACE station at Pleasanton.

I wasn’t expecting to find a race track at Pleasanton or to be riding in the middle of a golf course there either. I don’t know what Pleasanton would think of High Speed Rail in their back yard.

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San Jose. Good-bye ACE and hello Caltrain. ACE was almost 5 minutes early, in by 11:36 and due there at 11:40.

From San Jose I rode Caltrain to Millbrae. In just a few years there has been a lot of constuction at the Caltrain stations and around them. I noticed a lot of new housing near the stations.

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This is the VTA light rail station at the San Jose train station. All-new housing is being built next to this and other Caltrain stations.

I also noticed track work and a few grade separations. From Millbrae I caught BART, and at Balboa rode Muni. Caltrain, BART, and Muni are not on the California Rail Pass, but I did want to ride them and enjoyed the experience.

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Now there are two Muni stations for the Caltrain station in San Francisco. This is the view from 4th Street where the T-line trains stop. On the left is a Muni car leaving the station next to the Caltrain station, heading down Townsend.

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At San Francisco’s Embarcadero near the Ferry Building is the Amtrak “station.” It is a ticket office with a waiting room for the frequent bus connections to Emeryville.

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The bus drops you off at Emeryville with plenty of time to wait for your train. I took the 718, the last San Joaquin train of the day.

At Richmond we picked up a young man, who sounded British, without a reserved ticket who told the conductor he wanted to go to Yosemite. When told he needed a reserved ticket for the bus connection and he had missed that bus for the day, he then asked for a ticket for Las Vegas. He was told by the conductor that he had missed the bus connection to Las Vegas and his best bet would be to get off at Martinez, make reservations for tomorrow, and find a place to stay for that night. Just goes to show how far we have still to go to have rail service that you can travel by on impulse.

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Near Martinez some kid threw a rock at a coach lexan window, which left a big crack. The window itself will stop bullets, but what a hassle and an expense to replace!!

Finally on the 718 I got to try the Spanish Omelet. It was better and a much better deal than the breakfast sandwich and bottle of diet Coke I had at a newsstand in San Jose at noon for my breakfast! The return trip was uneventful. The only odd thing to report was when taking the bus from Bakersfield the driver for reasons unexplained went non-stop to Newhall by way of Mojave and Palmdale. If I wanted to go that way I would have wanted to do it by train! Needless to say we were 35 minutes late by the time we stopped at Newhall in the middle of the night. Traveling on the California Rail Pass is a great way to see a lot of California. For me it was a chance to see the progress that has been made since the last time I traveled to these places by rail. It also gave me a chance to see where progress is still needed. But, I can recommend the California Rail Pass and California as a great place to travel by rail.

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Train Day PHOTOS 4

From Los Angeles Union Station More photos added 5/21
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Train Day banner above the waiting room
Report and Photos by Robert Manning, RailPAC Director

National Train Day started for my wife (Joyce) and me when we boarded Metrolink Train #353 at San Bernardino which departed promptly at 8:45 am. The train was totally filled by the second stop (Rialto CA) and arrived into Los Angeles Union Station ten minutes early. This was the start of a very enjoyable day.

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Entering the train station waiting room, with part of the huge crowd!

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As we entered the crowed station, I noticed the north portal where the original ticket counters were located was open. This area is normally closed to the public and used for special events. In this area there were two sections: One for children where there was face painting, games and toys. The second area had a disc jockey playing music and it was packed.

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We then went to the RailPAC booth which was located on the south side of the station adjacent to other train related tables and a model train layout. The RailPAC booth was being cared for by our new member and Coast Starlight supporter Justin Walker and Associate Director Ken Ruben.

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RailPAC President Paul Dyson, shown above (right) with this writer, and Vice President South James Smith also helped out at the booth and later checked out other venues at the station.

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We were later paid a visit by Emmett Fremaux, Amtrak Vice President, who was very pleased with the turnout for this event. (l-r) Fremaux, Smith, Manning, Ruben. Several other RailPAC members including Tony Escarcega and Anton Lazzaro stopped by the booth for a visit.

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RailPAC Treasurer Emeritus Jim Clifton (with the Train Day fan) joined with Ken Ruben at the RailPAC table. (This photo by Dave Snowden)

Later we went trackside to see three refurbished Amtrak cars: A Surfliner Business class café car, which was beautifully appointed and very comfortable looking. Next was a refurbished Coast Starlight Pacific Parlor car which features a flat screen Television with surround sound, located on the bottom level of the car. The upper level was totally redecorated with refurbished seating and wall panels. This car will also serve gourmet meals in addition to an extended bar service and will also include regional wine tasting. The last car was a refurbished sleeping car and it was very nicely appointed. I must commend Amtrak for these three cars, they got it right!
When we left the station it was packed with people. This was a very successful event and I think everyone had a very good time.
Robert Manning, RailPAC Director

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Train Day PHOTOS 3

From Los Angeles Union Station and Fullerton

Photos by Mike Palmer for RailPAC (except as noted). NOTE: Other photos from LAUS are forthcoming and will be posted when they are available. A set of photos can also be found on Trainweb’s “What’s New” page.
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Visitors to Los Angeles Union Station from the MTA parking structure first see this historic mural above the east entrance to the pedestrian tunnel. (file photo by Russ Jackson)

Photographer Mike Palmer rode Surfliner #769 from Fullerton to LAUS, which was an apporpriate thing to do on Train Day. Mike reported he had to be a standee, and that Business Class was sold out!

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The RailPAC table at LAUS included (l-r) Caltrans Division of Rail Associate Robin Owen, RailPAC/Coast Starlight advocate Justin Walker, and RailPAC member/Southern California Transit Advocate member John Ulloth.

Mike Palmer reported that Union Station was very crowded. Cab ride simulators/video screens were very popular and there was a long line to check them out. He rode the Gold Line train to Pasadena as part of his day.

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Another view of the RailPAC table with (l-r) John Ulloth again, and Oliver Lieu of California High Speed Rail.

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At the Fullerton Amtrak station Nena greeted visitors to Train Day with handouts and refreshments.

Mike Palmer took Surfliner #582 back to Fullerton, and rode Business Class this trip. He reported it had a respectable load but was running up to 15 minutes late. End of a perfect day on Train Day.

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Train Day PHOTOS 2

From San Luis Obispo Amtrak station!

Photos by David Weisman for RailPAC

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The classic San Luis Obispo station sports its Train Day banner on May 10, 2008.

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Amtrak “Daylight” train set for 798/799 was at the platform for tours. This family enjoyed the day, among hundreds of others who came for the festivities.

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Inside the station a visitor signs RailPAC’s “We Need More Trains” petition, as did visitors at other sites around the state. Train Day volunteer hostess Alice Bunker of SLO oversaw refreshments and handouts, with our thanks!

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A display by the San Luis Model Rail Association attracted much attention, of course. Members Michael Mickens (center) and Stuart Young (left) were there to explain trains to new fans.

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RailPAC member/photographer David Weisman explains what we are all about to a group of visitors.

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Train Day PHOTOs 1

May 10 at Sacramento, the Rail Museum, and Davis
Photos by Russ Jackson, RailPAC

NOTE: Photos from other locations will be posted soon!
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What would Train Day be without a train? The California Zephyr, #6, arrives at the Sacramento Valley Station to pick up a large number of passengers riding on Train Day. In the background are the Amtrak California buses ready to depart all over Northern California.

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Inside the station crowds visit tables to pick up brochures, talk trains, and have cookies. In the foreground RailPAC Treasurer, Bill Kerby, is talking to a customer, while behind the tables (left) Caltrans Division of Rail Marketing Associate Charles Wittig, RailPAC Associate Director Mike Barnbaum (in the Amtrak T-shirt), and member Debra Muro (right) work with the folks in this busy station.

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The Amtrak ticket window was busy all day

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The California State Rail Museum advertised Train Day on its outside wall. Riders with Amtrak tickets were admitted free.

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Inside the CSRM the old met with the new. SP steam locomotive 2467 was on display next to Amtrak California Car “Muir Beach”, which drew a large crowd of young and old for tours.

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Who is that lady behind the Train Day fan? That’s RailPAC Director Marcia Johnston, who along with station agent John Murphy, handed out Train Day materials, coffee, and cookies to folks who came to the Davis Station.

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These visitors to the table at the Davis station came “because they heard it was Train Day.” Marcia was happy to help show them what it was all about.

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FREE TRAIN RIDE on Metrolink from Riverside to LA

Metrolink wants you to ride for free from the DOWNTOWN RIVERSIDE STATION on the Inland Empire-Orange County line to San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, and Oceanside. Trains depart Riverside at 7:50 and 9:15 a.m. Return trains depart Oceanside at 2:50 and 4:30 p.m. On May 17 ONLY.

FOR DETAILS and the full schedule see http://www.metrolinktrains.com/documents/Special_Events/Riverside_flyer_final.pdf

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RailPAC Petition re Prop 1b funds. Your reply will be very helpful!

RAIL PASSENGER ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA
1017 L Street PMB 217, Sacramento, CA 95814
www.railpac.org

WE NEED MORE TRAINS

· In 2006 California Voters passed the Proposition 1B Bond Measure which included $160 million for additional intercity passenger rolling stock.

· Many of our intercity trains are full and we need more equipment to satisfy growing demand.

· With gasoline at $4.00 per gallon more and more people are looking for alternatives.

· BUT the state Department of Finance says the new cars are not needed, based on a flawed sample of ridership on a few trains.

We the undersigned call on the Governor to direct Caltrans to proceed with the equipment acquisition.

E-mail your support by sending YOUR Name, Address AND e-mail address as soon as possible to:
pdyson@railpac.org

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National Train Day May 10 Complete California locations

Join Amtrak, the CCJPA, NARP,and RailPAC in celebrating National Train Day May 10th!.
NEW info re the California events, posted 5/8!
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Train Day brochure and new RailPAC brochure will be available at all California Train Day locations! Look for RailPAC members at many of the locations.
CALIFORNIA EVENTS ARE NOW PLANNED FOR THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS Newly posted events are in bold.

Los Angeles Union Station
800 N. Alameda
Downtown Los Angeles

All-Day Events
10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Train Tours on Amtrak Equipment
Train Driving Simulators
Train Model Display by the Orange County N’Gineers Model Railroad Club
AmtraKids Depot Activities: Facepainting, arts & crafts, toy trains and performances by the Fun Train Strolling Minstrels (11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.)
John Acurso Train Photography Exhibit
Train Cutout: Get Your Picture Taken for Free
Appearance by ARTE (Amtrak’s Environmental Mascot)
Radio Personalities from Radio Disney at the AmtraKids Depot (11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.)
2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Free Concert by Drake Bell!
Amtrak Display Booth
Vendor Display Booths (Look for RailPAC in the original ticket hall)

Sacramento Station – Northern California’s Busiest Station Celebrates! Commemorative postcards, stickers and other giveaways will be handed out from 9am – 2pm in honor of National Train Day at Sacramento, Northern California’s busiest train station (and the 8th busiest in the nation) on May 10th, 2008 while supplies last. Light refreshments will be served. Sacramento Regional Transit will also be on hand to promote their light rail service! RailPAC will be there!

San Luis Obispo Station
1011 Railroad Avenue
San Luis Obispo, California 93401
Come join the San Luis Obispo station for their open house celebrating National Train Day. Scheduled activities will include refreshments, commemorative postcards, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries. Trader Joe’s is donating some
refeshments.

Anaheim Station
2150 East Katella Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92806
Scheduled activities will include Information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

9:30am – 2:30pm
Bakersfield Station
601 Truxtun Ave
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Activities planned include music and commemorative postcards, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last.

10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Davis Station
840 Second Street
Davis, CA 95616
Come check out local supporters, and commemorative postcards, stickers and other giveaways.

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Emeryville Station
5885 Landregan Street
Emeryville, California 94608
Celebration includes Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), and Amtrak presentation of the first-ever California Golden STAR Award. Family-friendly fun such as a model train display, cookies and punch, and kid’s activities.

10:30am – 2:30pm
Fresno Station
2650 Tulare Street
Fresno, CA 93721
Come join the fun with refreshments, commemorative postcards, stickers and other giveaways with Operation Lifesaver, the Fresno City Police Bicycle Unit, and the Station Host Association.

Irvine Station
15215 Barranca Parkway
Irvine, CA 92718
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

9am-12pm
Radio Show – Rhythm of the Rails hosted by DJ “Cousin Mary”
12345 S. El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
Program featuring train inspired music
For more information: http://www.kfjc.org

Travel Town Railroad Museum
5200 Zoo Drive (Griffith Park)
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Docent-guided tours through historic railroad cars at the Museum.
For more information: http://www.traveltown.org

Martinez Station
601 Marina Vista Drive
Martinez, CA 94553
Scheduled activities will include refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

Oxnard Station
Oxnard Transportation Center
201 East Fourth Street, Suite 106
Oxnard, CA 93030
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

Salinas
Farmers Market

San Diego Station
1050 Kettner Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92101
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

9:00am – Noon
San Francisco Station
The Embarcadero
, Pier 2, Suite 118
San Francisco, California 94111
Festivities include refreshments, commemorative postcards, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, various Amtrak materials, along with refreshments and staff available to answer inquiries.

San Juan Capistrano Station
26701 Verdugo Street
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

Santa Ana Station
1000 Santa Ana Boulevard
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

Santa Barbara Station
209 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

10am-4pm
Pacific Coast Railroad Company
Santa Margarita Ranch Pacific Coast Railroad
The Pacific Coast Railroad Round-Up
For more information: http://pcrailroad.blogspot.com

Solana Beach Station
105 Cedros Avenue
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Scheduled activities will include information from a local rail enthusiast group, refreshments, stickers and other giveaways while supplies last, and staff available to answer inquiries.

Van Nuys Station
7724 Van Nuys Boulevard
Van Nuys, California 91405
Activities include refreshments, commemorative postcards, stickers, and giveaways with Amtrak staff available to answer inquiries.

For more information about National Train Day and planned events, you can also visit
www.nationaltrainday.com/home www.narprail.org/trainday