San Joaquin (train)

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San Joaquin
A San Joaquin at Emeryville in 2012.JPG
A San Joaquin at Emeryville station in 2012
Service type Inter-city rail
Locale California
Predecessor Golden Gate, San Joaquin Daylight
First service March 5, 1974
Current operator(s) Amtrak California, a partnership of Caltrans and Amtrak
Ridership 1,219,818 (FY13) [1]
Website Amtrak Website
Amtrak California Website
Start Bakersfield, California
Stops 13 (Bakersfield–Oakland)
10 (Bakersfield–Sacramento)
End Oakland, California
Sacramento, California
Distance travelled 315 miles (507 km) (Oakland)
282 miles (454 km) (Sacramento)
Average journey time 6 hours, 8 minutes (Oakland)
5 hours, 15 minutes (Sacramento)
Train number(s) Southbound:
702, 704, 712, 714, 716, 718
701, 703, 711, 713, 715, 717
On-board services
Catering facilities Café Car
Baggage facilities
  • Overhead bins and luggage racks for carry on bags
  • Baggage compartment for checked luggage (between select stations)
Rolling stock

EMD F59PHI locomotives
GE P32-8WH locomotives
Bi-Level Trainsets:

California Car coaches
Surfliner coaches
Superliner I coaches

Single Level Trainsets:

Comet IB coaches
Horizon dinettes
Non-Powered Control Units
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
Operating speed 79 mph (130 km/h) maximum
52 mph (84 km/h) average, including stops
Track owner(s) BNSF and UP

The San Joaquin (sometimes referred to as San Joaquins) is a passenger train operated by Amtrak, with funding from the California Department of Transportation as part of the Amtrak California network in California's Central Valley. Twelve trains a day run between its southern terminus at Bakersfield and Stockton, where the route splits to Oakland (four trains each way per day) or Sacramento (two trains each way per day). At Bakersfield, Thruway Motorcoach service offers connections to the Pacific Surfliner at Los Angeles Union Station, several points in Southern California, the High Desert and the Central Coast. At Emeryville, Thruway Motorcoach service offers connections to San Francisco.

The San Joaquin is Amtrak's fifth-busiest service and the railroad's third-busiest in California. During fiscal year 2013 (FY2013), the service carried a record 1.2 million passengers, a 6.6% increase from FY2012. Total revenue during FY2013 was US$39,401,591, a 1.9% increase over FY2012.[1]

On July 1, 2015, management and governance of the San Joaquins passed to the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.


Golden Gate/San Joaquin Daylight[edit]

Ex-Southern Pacific EMD FP7 on the San Joaquin at Oakland in 1975

The San Joaquin runs over lines that once hosted several passenger trains a day. The top trains were the Golden Gate on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (predecessor to BNSF), and the San Joaquin Daylight on the Southern Pacific Railroad (later acquired by Union Pacific). Prior to 1960s service cutbacks passenger service continued south of Bakersfield, to Glendale and Los Angeles.[2]

In April 1965 as ridership on passenger trains continued to drop, the Santa Fe Railway received permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission to severely curtail Golden Gate operations, with service finally abandoned three years later. The San Joaquin Daylight was discontinued with the start-up of Amtrak in May 1971.

Other passenger trains that ran through the Central Valley included Southern Pacific's Owl and Santa Fe's San Francisco Chief and Valley Flyer.

Amtrak era[edit]

Passengers in the lounge seating area in the café car of a San Joaquin train, 2014

Amtrak routed all Los Angeles-San Francisco service over the Southern Pacific's Coast Line in its initial 1971 route structure, leaving the San Joaquin Valley without service. Both the Southern Pacific (San Joaquin Daylight) and the Santa Fe (San Francisco Chief) had served the region.[3] Beginning in 1972 Amtrak revisited the decision at the urging of area congressmen, notably Bernice F. Sisk, who favored service between Oakland and Barstow or, failing that, Barstow and Sacramento.[4] Service began on March 5, 1974 with one round-trip per day between Bakersfield and Oakland and a bus connection from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. Amtrak chose the Santa Fe route over the Southern Pacific, citing the higher speed (79 miles per hour (127 km/h) vs. 70 miles per hour (113 km/h)) of the Santa Fe and freight congestion on the Southern Pacific. The decision was not without controversy, with Sisk alleging that the Southern Pacific lobbied the Nixon Administration to influence the decision.[5]

In 1979 Amtrak proposed discontinuing the San Joaquin as part of system-wide reductions ordered by the Carter Administration. The state of California stepped in to provide a yearly subsidy (then $700,000) to cover the train's operating losses, and it was retained. At the time the state asked Amtrak to add a second daily frequency between Oakland and Bakersfield, and to extend the service south over the Tehachapi Pass to Los Angeles.[6] Amtrak added the second train in February 1980, but attempts to extend the train over the Tehachapi Loop failed due to Southern Pacific's opposition.[7][8]

Tehachapi Pass gap between Bakersfield and Los Angeles[edit]

To this day the San Joaquin does not continue south of Bakersfield because the only line between Bakersfield and points south, the Tehachapi Pass, is one of the world's busiest single-track freight rail lines.[9]

Over the past 30 years service has increased from just one round trip per day to four round trips to Oakland, plus two round trips to Sacramento.

Rolling stock[edit]

For its first two years of operation the San Joaquin used single-level coaches Amtrak had inherited from other railroads. In October 1976 Amtrak "Amfleeted" the San Joaquin, introducing new Amfleet coaches to the service.[10] From 1987-1989 Amtrak used Superliner and ex-ATSF Hi-Level coaches.[11] For a short period beginning on June 15, 1987, this included a full dining car on one of the trains.[12] Amtrak requipped the San Joaquin trains again in 1989, this time with new Horizon coaches, when service expanded to three daily round-trips.[13] The San Joaquin began receiving the Superliner-derived "California Cars" that it uses today in 1995.[14]


Amtrak California operates its own fleet of EMD F59PHI and GE P32-8WH locomotives that are used on San Joaquin trains. These locomotives are owned by Caltrans and carry its CDTX reporting marks. Amtrak owned locomotives are also occasionally used on the San Joaquin, including the P42DC.

"California car" bi-level trainsets[edit]

San Joaquin train at Fresno Station

The San Joaquin is equipped with Amtrak California's fleet of "California Car" bi-level, high-capacity passenger cars owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Each trainset typically consists of two coach cars, a coach/baggage car, a café (dining) car, and a cab/coach car. The cab/coach car is a similar to other coaches but with an engineer's operating cab and headlights on one end, allowing the train to be operated in push-pull mode, which eliminates the need to turn the train at each end-point. Caltrans is in the process of refitting the cab/coach cars to have a space on car's lower level for storage for checked luggage and bikes.

Caltrans also owns several Surfliner bi-level cars that are used on some San Joaquin trainsets. The newer cars look very similar to the California Car fleet, but feature reclining seats, open overhead luggage racks and a restroom on the upper-level of each car.

In 2007 Caltrans paid to repair several wreck-damaged Superliner I coaches in exchange for a six-year lease of the Amtrak owned cars that are normally used on long-distance trains. 4 of these cars are painted to match the "California car" livery and often appear in service on the San Joaquin route in place of a coach/baggage car.

"Comet car" single-level trainsets[edit]

A single-level trainset on the San Joaquin.

Increasing ridership on the San Joaquin led Caltrans to purchase 14 Comet IB rail cars from New Jersey Transit in 2008 for $75,000 per car. The former commuter cars refurbished and reconfigured by Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops to serve as intercity coaches at a cost of approximately $20 million. The refurbished cars have reclining inter-city seats with tray tables (4 per row), AmtrakConnect WiFi, two power outlets at each seat pair, luggage racks, trash/recycling bins, a restroom, and 6 workstation tables in the center of the car.[15]

Caltrans has also paid to lease and refurbish 3 Non-Powered Control Units (F40PH locomotives converted into cab/baggage cars) and 3 Horizon Dinettes to serve as café cars (using the same equipment as other Amtrak California trains).[15]

These single-level cars will be used to create two "Comet car" trainsets that will run between Oakland and Bakersfield. That will allow Caltrans to break up two bi-level "California car" trainsets to use the cars to add another coach car to each of the San Joaquin's remaining "California Car" trainsets.[15]

Caltrans had planned to use the "Comet car" trainsets on trains starting in July 2013, but the refurbishing process took longer than expected. The first "Comet car" trainset was put into regular service on October 21, 2013[16] and the second trainset was put into regular service on April 15, 2014.


Amtrak San Joaquin (interactive map)

The San Joaquin runs from Bakersfield's Truxtun Avenue Station northward on BNSF Railway's Mojave Subdivision within Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Subdivision from Bakersfield to Calwa (Fresno), then on the Stockton Subdivision from Calwa to Stockton.

At Stockton the routes split to Oakland or Sacramento:

  • Trains to the Sacramento Valley Rail Station diverge in Stockton and run north to Sacramento on Union Pacific's Fresno Subdivision and on the Martinez Subdivision within Sacramento.

Proposed high-speed rail[edit]

In July 2012, California approved initial construction of the California High-Speed Rail system between Northern and Southern California. A US$9 billion ballot initiative was approved by the voters November 2008. In many places the route will run through the San Joaquin Valley along the same alignment as the San Joaquins. The first section selected for construction runs between Fresno and Bakersfield, and is expected to be used by the San Joaquin trains upon completion in 2017. The high-speed tracks will allow trains to operate at up to 125 miles per hour, vs. the current 79 mph maximum speed on the shared freight route, resulting in an estimated travel time saving of 45 minutes to one hour.[17]


  2. ^ Timetable documenting service as continuing from Bakersfield to Los Angeles "1958 SP Passenger Timetable"
  3. ^ "Vital Need for Passenger Train". Oxnard Press-Courier. May 5, 1971. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  4. ^ "AMTRAK to Take Another Look at Area Rail Route". Merced Sun-Star. March 22, 1972. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  5. ^ Cook, Gale (March 10, 1974). "San Joaquin Valley Amtrak Route Draws Some Tart Comments". Modesto Bee. 
  6. ^ "San Joaquin train wins reprieve". The News-Sentinel. September 1, 1979. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  7. ^ "Fixup funds are part of service proposal". Merced Sun-Star. March 21, 1980. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  8. ^ "'San Joaquin' trains catching on". Merced Sun-Star. July 30, 1982. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  9. ^ Solomon 1999, p. 20
  10. ^ "Amtrak Will Introduce New Rail Cars". Los Angeles Times. October 18, 1976. p. B17A. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  11. ^ "Amtrak ridership up on San Joaquin line". The News-Sentinel. February 21, 1987. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  12. ^ California 1988, p. 59
  13. ^ "Valley gets added service". The News-Sentinel. December 18, 1989. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  14. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (June 23, 1995). "SLEEK TRAIN DEBUTS". Modesto Bee. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  15. ^ a b c San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority/Caltrans. "San Joaquin Rolling Stock Presentation" (PDF). pp. 35–42. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "San Joaquin Trains 711 and 718: Operate with Refurbished Equipment". Amtrak. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  17. ^ Revised California HSR Business Plan, April 2012, p. 2-14


External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google