Amtrak California

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Amtrak California
Amtrak California logo 2012.svg
Amtrak California.JPG
Amtrak California train at San Jose Diridon Station
Owner Caltrans Division of Rail
Locale California
Transit type Inter-city rail
Number of lines 2
Headquarters Sacramento, California
Website Amtrak California
Began operation 1976
Operator(s) Amtrak
Reporting marks CDTX
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Amtrak California Map
The two Amtrak California routes – Pacific Surfliner (green) and San Joaquin (blue). Other Amtrak routes in California are shown in black; the Capitol Corridor is shown in red. Non-Amtrak commuter rail lines shown in yellow.

Amtrak California (reporting mark CDTX) is a brand name used by the Caltrans Division of Rail on two state-supported Amtrak rail routes within the U.S. State of California, the Pacific Surfliner and the San Joaquin.[1] It also includes an extensive network of Thruway Motorcoach bus connections, operated by private companies under contract. Although not part of the Amtrak California brand, Caltrans also provides support for the Capitol Corridor, and shared the use of "Amtrak California" branded Thruway buses and trainsets.[1]


The former logo of Amtrak California, still seen on equipment.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) assumed operation of almost all intercity passenger rail in the United States in 1971. Service in California, as in most of the United States, was basic and infrequent. In 1976 California began providing financial assistance to Amtrak.[1] At the same time, Caltrans Division of Rail was formed to oversee state-financed rail operations and the brand Amtrak California started appearing on state-supported routes.

In 1990, California passed Propositions 108 and 116, providing $3 billion for transportation projects, with a large portion going to rail service.[2] As a result, new locomotives and passenger cars were purchased by the state, existing inter-city routes expanded, and one new inter-city route, the Capitol Corridor, began operation. A more distinct image for Amtrak California, such as painting locomotives and passenger cars in "California Color", was established with the arrival of new rolling stock.

Rolling stock[edit]

Top view of GE P32-8WH (left) and EMD F59PHI (right) locomotives at Emeryville station.


Amtrak California operates a fleet of EMD F59PHI and GE P32-8WH locomotives that are used on San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor trains. These locomotives are owned by Caltrans and carry the CDTX reporting marks.[3]

The Pacific Surfliner trains also use a dedicated fleet of 15 EMD F59PHI locomotives that are painted to match the livery of the "Surfliner" passenger cars, but they are Amtrak owned instead.

Locomotives from Amtrak's national fleet such as P42DC are often used as substitutes when the Amtrak California dedicated fleet of locomotives undergoes maintenance.

Twenty additional locomotives built by Siemens will join Amtrak California's locomotive fleet starting from 2016. These locomotives, named Charger, were parts of a multi-state order funded by a combination of federal and state money. Illinois Department of Transportation, acting as the leading agency, awarded the order to Siemens on December 18, 2013.[4][5] Caltrans ordered the first six with the initial order in 2013, then exercised the option to buy 14 more locomotives in 2015 to replace Amtrak-owned locomotives currently used on Pacific Surfliner.[6]

Passenger car[edit]

California Car / Surfliner bi-level trainsets[edit]

Bicycle rack on a California Car
Main article: Surfliner (railcar)

Amtrak California's routes typically use bi-level, high-capacity passenger cars, dubbed the Surfliner and California Car. All of the California Cars are owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Most of the Surfliner cars are owned by Amtrak with some owned by Caltrans.

The design of the cars is based on Amtrak's Superliner bi-level passenger cars, but several changes were made to the design to make the car more suitable for corridor services with frequent stops. One very important difference is that the Surfliner and California Car have two sets of automatic doors on each side instead of only one manually operated door on the Superliners, which speeds up boarding and alighting considerably.[3] Additionally, Surfliner and California Car coaches are equipped with higher-density seating and bicycle racks to permit transport of unboxed bicycles.

Consists on the San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, and Pacific Surfliner routes usually include between four and six cars, with one locomotive and a cab control car on the rear end.

Superliner I rebuilds[edit]

In 2007, Amtrak California paid for the repair of seven wreck-damaged Superliner Coaches owned by Amtrak in exchange for a six-year lease, intended to quickly add capacity on busy Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains. Four of the cars have been painted to match the "California car" livery and three have been painted to match the "Surfliner" livery. Each car also has the current Amtrak logo on the middle left side of each car.

Superliner I/II coaches from Amtrak's national fleet are used on some consists due to shortages of inter-city "Surfliner" & "California cars."

Comet car single-level trainsets[edit]

A leased NPCU leads a single level set at Martinez, CA

Increasing ridership on the San Joaquin led Amtrak California to purchase 14 Comet IB rail cars from New Jersey Transit in 2008 for $75,000 per car. Caltrans paid approximately $20 million to have these former commuter cars refurbished and reconfigured to serve as intercity coaches at Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops.[7]

Caltrans has also paid to lease and refurbish 3 Horizon Dinettes (café cars) and 3 Non-Powered Control Units (old F40PH locomotives converted to serve as a cab/baggage cars.)[7]

New bi-level cars[edit]

As the leading agency of a joint purchase agreement with the Midwest Coalition consisted of Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri, Caltrans awarded a 130-car order to Nippon Sharyo on November 6, 2012, to be built at Nippon Sharyo's new factory at Rochelle, Illinois, of which 42 will go to California. The car design is based on existing California Cars with heavy involvement by Caltrans. The first cars are expected to be delivered by late 2015.[8]


Amtrak California utilizes a livery and logo that is different from the standard Amtrak colors. All state-contracted Thruway Motorcoach and state-owned locomotives and passenger cars, with the exception of equipment used on the Pacific Surfliner route, are painted in the "California Colors" of blue and yellow. Each permanently assigned passenger car is named after a geographical feature of California.

The Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains are the two routes most identified with the Amtrak California image, since they extensively use "California Colored" equipment. The other state-supported rail route, the Pacific Surfliner, uses a unique blue and silver paint scheme that is different from the other Amtrak California-branded trains.


Pacific Surfliner[edit]

Main article: Pacific Surfliner

The Pacific Surfliner is a major commuting route in Southern California. The entire length of the line runs from San Luis Obispo in the north, down to San Diego in the south. It hugs the California coast for most of the route, providing a stunning backdrop. Most trains on the Pacific Surfliner route only travel a portion of the whole route. With 2.7 million passengers in fiscal year 2013, this is Amtrak's most heavily travelled service outside of the Northeast Corridor.[9]

San Joaquin[edit]

Main article: San Joaquin (train)

The San Joaquin operates twelve trains (six in each direction) each day between Bakersfield and Stockton. From Stockton, four trains from Bakersfield continue west to Oakland, while two trains proceed north to the state capital of Sacramento. Central Valley communities served include Fresno, Corcoran, Hanford, Lodi, Madera, Merced, Modesto, Turlock/Denair and Wasco. Delta/Bay communities of Antioch, Martinez, and Richmond are also served by the San Joaquin. Los Angeles is not served because in order to get there, the train must use the Tehachapi Pass line, where the Union Pacific prohibits passenger train use due to heavy freight traffic, but normal Amtrak trains rarely pass there as a detour if their railway tracks are being repaired.

Capitol Corridor[edit]

Main article: Capitol Corridor

Although not part of the Amtrak California brand, the Capitol Corridor is closely associated with it. The service uses Caltrans equipment, and both Caltrans and Amtrak assist with its operation. The Capitol Corridor route runs north from San Jose through the East Bay to Oakland and Richmond, then east through the Delta communities of Martinez and Suisun City, and the Sacramento Valley cities of Davis and Sacramento. One Capitol Corridor train per day continues east of Sacramento during the afternoon commute to the small Sierra Nevada town of Auburn, returning in the morning. Plans have been proposed to extend an additional train per day to Reno, Nevada (a longtime major tourism and gaming destination for Northern Californians).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About Amtrak California". State of California Department of Transportation. 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  2. ^ Prop. 108: Passenger Rail And Clean Air Bond Act Of 1990; California Streets and Highways Code, Division 3, Chapter 17
  3. ^ a b All Aboard - Amtrak California Archived February 5, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^
  5. ^ Tita, Bob (February 27, 2014). "Caterpillar Loses High-Speed Train Contract". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  6. ^ John Palminteri (2015-11-10). "Cleaner Train Engines Coming to the Central Coast". KEYT-KCOY-KKFX. 
  7. ^ a b "San Joaquin Rolling Stock Presentation" (PDF). San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority/Caltrans. pp. 35–42. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  8. ^ Nippon Sharyo and Sumitomo Corporation receive the Contract Award for 130 Bi-Level Passenger Cars from Caltrans and IDOT
  9. ^ "Amtrak Sets Ridership Record And Moves The Nation's Economy Forward - America’s Railroad helps communities grow and prosper" (PDF) (Press release). Amtrak. October 14, 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-03. 

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