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For the current service in San Francisco, see Caltrain.
Service type Commuter rail
Status Discontinued
First service October 18, 1982
Last service March 1, 1983
Successor Ventura County Line
Former operator(s) Southern Pacific Railroad
Start Union Station
Stops 6
End Oxnard
Average journey time 1 hour 40 minutes
Service frequency Two weekday round-trips
Train number(s) 101–104
Line used Coast Line
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s) Southern Pacific

CalTrain was a short-lived commuter rail system in the Los Angeles area which operated between 1982–1983. It connected downtown Los Angeles's Union Station with Oxnard in Ventura County and was a forerunner of the modern Metrolink Ventura County Line and the first local rail service in Los Angeles since 1961. Service ended in the face of high costs, lower-than-expected ridership, a changing political climate and staunch opposition from the Southern Pacific Railroad.


The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provided funding of $6 million for the service. Some of the money was to be spent on capital improvements, such as new station platforms. These would be located on Southern Pacific (SP) territory, prompting a round of litigation between SP, Caltrans, and the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The SP challenged the authority of the transportation agencies to construct these platforms on its property without its consent. After a ruling by the Supreme Court of California in favor of Caltrans the service proceeded, with the first trains running on October 18, 1982.[1] It was the first local rail service in Los Angeles since Pacific Electric discontinued operations on April 8, 1961.[2]

CalTrain faced serious problems in its first few months. George Deukmejian replaced Jerry Brown as Governor of California on January 3, 1983. Deukmejian favored highway projects over public transit, and showed no enthusiasm for what many called a "pet project" of the former governor. Daily ridership stood at 300–350 passengers, disappointing Caltrans officials who hoped for 2,600 daily riders.[3]

The most serious problem, however, remained the disagreement between the state and the SP over the tariff that the state should pay to the SP for the use of its infrastructure. The state, together with local governments, was prepared to pay between $70,000-100,000 per month, while the SP insisted on the much higher figure of $588,000. By February $200,000 remained of the original $6 million allocation, which did not include the $2-3 million potentially owed the SP should its figure be upheld.[4] After the PUC suspended the service in March 1983 the matter was litigated, with the Interstate Commerce Commission eventually ruling in 1985 in favor of the SP. This ruling ended attempts to resurrect commuter service in southern California until Metrolink began operation in the 1990s.[5]


Initially CalTrain used GE P30CH diesel locomotives and single-level Amfleet coaches leased from Amtrak. These were soon replaced by EMD GP9s and bilevel coaches from the SP's Peninsula Commute equipment pool. Caltrans leased an additional four bilevel coaches from Chicago's Regional Transportation Authority but these could not be used because they required head end power (HEP) for heating and the SP's locomotives used steam heat, which was not compatible.[6]

Station stops[edit]

When service began in 1982 intermediate stops included Simi Valley, Panorama City, and Glendale. Planned additional stops included Camarillo, Moorpark, Chatsworth, Northridge, Burbank Airport, and Burbank.[7] Chatsworth opened on December 29, 1982.[8] Service to Moorpark began in early 1983; service to Burbank Airport began in February 1983, just prior to the service's discontinuance.[9]


  1. ^ Smith, Ed (October 13, 1982). "Railroad Stay Denied: Commuter Service Given Go-Ahead". Oxnard Press-Courier. Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
  2. ^ Smith, Ed (October 18, 1982). "87 Take Inaugural Oxnard-to-LA Train". Oxnard Press-Courier. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ Smith, Ed (January 5, 1983). "CalTrain End Eyed By State". Oxnard Press-Courier. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  4. ^ Hartmann, Bea (February 3, 1983). "Demise of CalTrain Called Imminent". Oxnard Press-Courier. Retrieved August 9, 1983. 
  5. ^ "ICC Ruling Casts Doubt On LA-Oxnard CalTrain". Pacific RailNews (259): 4. June 1985. 
  6. ^ Caldwell, Charles M. (February 1983). "Southern Pacific". Pacific News 22 (2): 12. 
  7. ^ Caltrans. "CalTrain train schedule 1981". Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  8. ^ "State Officials Dedicate New Train Station". Oxnard Press-Courier. December 29, 1982. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  9. ^ "It's Here". Oxnard Press-Courier. February 16, 1983. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 

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