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Caltrain route began with SF & SJ Railroad in the 1860's

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  • 1/5 San Mateo Journal
    Published Monday, January 5, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal The San Francisco and San Jose railroad Rediscovering the Peninsula By Darold Fredricks El
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2009
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      Published Monday, January 5, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal

      The San Francisco and San Jose railroad

      Rediscovering the Peninsula
      By Darold Fredricks

      El Camino Real had been the most important transportation link between
      San Jose and San Francisco since the Spanish first traveled the
      Peninsula in the 1770s. It was a hard, tiring, all-day trip walking
      or on horseback, lasting from sunup to sunset, if one were to arrive
      at either destination safely and before dark.

      The need for a faster means of transportation began surfacing in the
      1850s when railroad construction became more practical. The first
      attempt to finance a line from San Francisco to San Jose failed due to
      a financial depression in 1855. Another attempt was made a few years
      later, however, and after an initial bond-raising success by a new
      company named the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, a contract
      was signed Oct. 24, 1860 for the actual beginning of the railroad.

      The financing was done on the local level with 585 initial shares of
      stock subscribed for at $100 each. This was not enough money to
      complete the line, but the city and county of San Francisco voted to
      bond itself for $300,000 worth of stock, followed by San Mateo County
      for $100,000 worth of bonds, and $200,000 from Santa Clara County.
      The planning began. To help pass the bond issues, a ground-breaking
      ceremony was held at San Francisquito Creek (Palo Alto) on May 1,
      1861. The bonds passed, and by November, working with horse-carts and
      picks and shovels, the construction crew had laid a grade from Belmont
      to Santa Clara.

      The tracks to San Francisco were laid through the well-populated sandy
      hill area of Colma rather than the more direct and shorter route to
      the east of San Bruno Mountain. It was a longer route to downtown San
      Francisco, but the terrain was easier to lay tracks on. The east side
      was rugged, hilly, and steep-cliffed, and the technology to overcome
      the engineering obstacles was not yet available. This eastern route
      would not be conquered until after the earthquake in 1906. The Civil
      War slowed the flow of rails and material to the West Coast, but work
      continued. The heavy winter rains of 1862-63 contributed to great
      delays, but knowledge of proper drainage procedures was gained from
      the excessive rainy season. To show off the new railroad, a
      celebration was held on October 17, 1863, although much work was yet
      to be done. The directors of the railroad and the investors could not
      wait to ride on their new adventure even though it was not completed
      from San Francisquito Creek (Palo Alto) to San Jose. A special train
      was run as far as the tracks were laid, and then they had a picnic
      with libations in Mayfield (Palo Alto). It was an historic event, and
      the next day service was inaugurated with one train down the Peninsula
      and back to San Francisco. However, it was not until Jan. 16, 1864,
      that the tracks were completed to San Jose. Two trains daily were
      then scheduled, leaving from Fourth and Brannan streets with stops at
      Bernal, San Miguel, School House (Colma), 12-Mile House, San Bruno
      House, 17-Mile House (Millbrae), San Mateo, Belmont, Redwood City,
      Menlo Park, Mayfield, Mountain View, Lawrence's, Santa Clara, and
      San Jose. The time of travel each way was two hours and 20 minutes.

      In 1868, the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad was acquired by the
      Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1870, the Southern Pacific was absorbed
      by the powerful Central Pacific. The Central Pacific was controlled by
      Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark
      Hopkins, known as the Big Four. In 1884, it was reorganized as the
      Southern Pacific Corp. and a nationally oriented, profit-hungry
      corporation ruled the railroad. This resulted in poorer service and
      less local attention.

      In August, 1964, the Southern Pacific discontinued four commute trains
      due to a drop in the average number of daily passengers from 29,640
      in 1957 to 23,529 in 1962. Freeway construction and prosperity had
      encouraged the passengers to use alternate means of transportation.
      The automobile had become very popular for commuting to the city.
      In 1971, Southern Pacific got out of the passenger business on the
      Peninsula and concentrated on hauling freight. Amtrak was formed to
      handle passenger service in the United States. In July 1980, Caltrain
      took over the commute service. [BATN: From 1980 until 1992, Caltrans
      contracted with SP to provide passenger service in the corridor,
      sharing operating subsidies with San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa
      Clara counties. The state assumed sole responsibility for station
      acquisitions and other capital improvements until the service resulted
      in formation of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board in 1987. The
      JPB agreed to assume operating responsibilities for Caltrain effective
      July 1, 1992, and to shoulder 100 percent of the operating subsidy a
      year later. See http://www.caltrain.com/caltrain_overview.html for
      additional details.] In 1996, Southern Pacific merged with Union
      Pacific.

      Ironically, in today's more environmentally-conscious atmosphere,
      there are efforts being made to re-train drivers to park their cars
      and once again ride the rails.
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