The goal of my final weekday in the Bay Area was simple, finish ACE and Caltrain. I was dithering about whether Caltrain would be easier to get via bus (a SamTrans day pass for $6, plus probably a little extra for BART one way) or train ($10 for a 2 zone day pass). I ended up deciding on a Caltrain Day Pass when I was sitting on the N-Judah (after taking a PCC on the F to it).
The day started well. I started on an F Heritage Streetcar and walked over to the Folsom and the Embarcadero stop on the N/T. I got off the N at 8:42 at the Caltrain terminal I ran across the street, bought a $10 Zone 2 Caltrain Day Pass as they said “All Aboard” for the 8:44 Limited Train. I quickly flashed my ticket to the gate minder (what’s the point of POP if proof-of-payment makes you miss trains!) the conductor is at the last car saying “this car.” I just make this train that should give me a reasonable photo stop at South San Francisco.
I get to Milbrae at 9:00. I see my train arriving to double back to South San Francisco as we arrive. I run over the overpass and made it with some time to spare. The doors taking an extra minute to close.
I get off at South San Francisco along the middle of a rail yard at . It is the only full time Caltrain station where you cross another track to board. I get my photo essay and head back south on the 9:23 one stop to San Bruno. I have a half hour there to get a photo of the grade-level current station before a new high-level elevated station opens next year. The current station is directly beyond the BART tunnel portal and I get a neat shot of a train there. My next southbound train comes in at 9:51 this I take to San Mateo, arriving at 9:59.
I get off at San Mateo and realize what I thought were ‘historic’ looking stations and signs from passing trains is all fake and its just a modern station designed to ‘look’ old. Its still a lot better than the just bus shelters of some Caltrain stations.
I head back north one stop on the slightly late 10:33 train to Burlingame. This has a nice historic SP depot.
From Burlingame its time for the final Caltrain walk to the other station that now receives weekend only service, Broadway. I start walking north, stopping an excellent home made donut shop and get the next northbound train, a half-hour later going through, while I get my photo essay of Broadway. I keep walking (at this point it gets a bit hot and I’m ready for it to be over) to the Milbrae Multi-Modal Transportation Center as the signs say. The payoff though is getting photos of the west side of the station that I didn’t get on Wednesday.
I hear announcements about delays in BART service over the platforms (although only one of Milbrae’s 2 platforms and 3 tracks is in passenger use) and the 12:13 northbound Caltrain comes in a little late to my final Caltrain stop of Bayshore. This station is probably most bizzare because it has four tracks, a very tall pedestrian bridge with elevators and one single entrance that requires looping between gates along the tracks. This photo essay takes a while.
Eventually I walk up the hill to the T Station at Arleta, and get some photos of the MUNI stop for a line that is less reliable than the bus it replaced. I get on the next T to Marin Street and take a walk out by the MUNI Metro East yards a block away from third Street. I get 23 Street and walk back over to the 22 Street Caltrain station for some photos.
From there I’m on the curvy 48 bus over to 24th Street/ Mission BART.
I get to 24 Street/Mission at 2:09 with the goal of getting a few more photos of the BART stations beneath San Francisco before I head out to West Dublin/Pleasanton to catch the shuttle bus to the ACE at Pleasanton. I enter my fare card and find total mayhem. There is a train on the normal SFO/Milbrae-bound track that has Not In Service on the LED signs. The station loudspeaker says this train will continue to Milbrae, the driver is announcing on board that the train is continuing to Richmond. I have to get on. Soon we leave, use the crossover north of the station and head towards Richmond to 16 Street-Mission. I get off and find a 24 Street Mission train across the platform. I get on this and it terminates. I get on the next Daily City-bound train south to Glen Park. I get my photos and board the next SFO-bound train south at 2:36 wanting pictures of Balboa Park within fare control. We leave the station and come to a stop just beyond the tunnel portal along the 101. My heart stinks, I’m going to miss the bus at West Dublin/Pleasanton and not get every ACE station. I finally get to Balboa Park at 2:50!
At 2:58 I’m on the next East Bay train, a Dublin/Pleasanton Train. The signs don’t work but the front dot sign says Pleasanton that I but no one else on the platform notices. It is annouced. During the ride I have my timetable out and am feeling a bit optimistic about my connection, then were stuck at Lake Merrit briefly and the driver announces “He assumes we will make up some of the time.”
Stuck at Fruitvale again for door issues, the conductor thanks us for our patients and apologizes with “Best Laid plans sometimes don’t pan out.” Then they announce doors won’t open at Coliseum in a couple cars and that hopefully a tech will join the train in route to try and fix them.
I arrive at West Dublin/Pleasanton 4:00 and jog to the bus stop on the Pleasanton side of the station (it’s scheduled at 3:57) having to go down a staircase along a path out of the parking garage. I miss the bus by 3 minutes. I end up walking back through the station and overpasses getting both the Dublin and Pleasanton entrances. I then head across the street (and parking lots) to a mall and grab a Subway Sandwich in the food court. I have to throw the towel in at one of the two ACE stations I need (the 10:30 thruway bus from Stockton, meeting a Sacramento-bound train isn’t an option, its just too late and downtown Stockton gave me bad vibes on previous visits since both stations will be closed when the connecting train arrives).
At that point its nearly 5:00 and I head to a different stop later on the route, outside the mall. Bus Route 52 comes in and the bus driver claims she waited an extra for 4 minutes not seeing her usual BART transferring passengers. Most don’t bother showing ACE tickets, no one actually pays a fare.
Bus route 52 (that only runs when ACE runs making about 8 trips with only one bus per day) leaves the mall at 5:02. The bus is quite crowded, more then usual. A couple of people boarding at a later stop comment. I tell them why. We get on I-680 east to head south to the ACE station. It’s a chatty bus.
We get to the Pleasanton ACE station at 5:18 and I do a quick photo essay avoiding the crowds. There lots of we know each other since ACE is a single line and people take usual trains often with the same company employees who ride the same shuttle as them. I chose a good choice of a car with outlets so I can recharge over the pass.
We enter Livermore with plenty of houses.
We stop in Livermore at 5:39 and are off again at 5:40. We go towards the windmills. The line is two tracks as we approach Vasco Road.
- 5:44–stop at Vasco Road. A few people are waiting to board.
- We slowly leave approaching with hills with windmills on them. The line is double tracked and slow down. We’re climbing between bays there is a traffic jam on the highway that we go under. They do a ticket check as we climb. There some rock cuts, we follow a road.
- 5:54–Altamont siding with a nice view of windmills. I lose cell service, we pass Summit garage.
- 5:57–over a neat bridge.
- 5:58–windmills and a former tunnel of the original SP Railroad that was abandoned in 1984
- 6:04–pass an abandoned area with steel
- 6:05–Midway with power lines and fields. I take people heading downstairs as a queue for Tracey coming up. There some horses
- 6:11–regain speed passing a tree farm.
- 6:13–Quickly get some photos of Tracy doing a quick photo essay walking between doors. This one has a bigger crowd so I chose it not to spend an hour at. Damn to BART (for not letting me spend an hour at both platforms).
- 6:16–Pass subdivisions leaving Tracey.
- 6:17–Now pass industry speeding by. Tree farms through the San Joaquin Valley. We pass agricultural facilities. The scenery is like the San Joaquin.
- 6:23–A wide river and lakes. Some subdivisions along them. We pass some farms as we approach Lathrop. My only ACE photo stop.
I get off at Lathrop/Macenta at 6:27 and start my photo essay. There is a MAX bus to Modesto waiting that fills with commuters. The stop isn’t all that scenic in an industrial area that lacks sidewalks. I walk the long way around to a nearby grade crossing (a few people walked off the platform (I don’t blame them) on the ballast to get there) for that angle and a photo of the station’s modern entrance sign. The layover is long enough (and quiet) that its the perfect place to take care of some phone calls I need to make. A few cars and the MAX bus arrive to pick up passengers. I’m the only one waiting for the train to continue to Stockton.
- 7:22–leave Lathrop/Macenta. I board with a door with a conductor and flash my ticket. I tell him I was just making a photo stop. He says “That’s fine”. We leave passing fields on the Lathrop/Macenta line and go get slowly switching from the Altamont Pass Route to the UP San Joaquin route (Amtrak uses BNSF’s). Pass the junkyard of the day.
- 7:28–Joined by another railroad, some UP locomotives are off in the distance and pass a subdivision. We pick up some speed, passing an RV park and some houses.
- 7:33–Join yet another railroad and pass a UP I intermodal fright in a yard. Other tracks join us. I see the houses of Stockon and some ACE trains in the yard.
- 7:36–Reach the junction with BNSF, Kiddie junction.
We arrive at the Stockton Union Pacific-ACE station at 7:39 blocking the grade crossing. It discharges all of us. I walk a block south to get my leaving the station photos. The train leaves at 7:45 and I walk parallel to it to find it stopped again waiting for another train to go by the grade crossing of the BNSF and UP tracks. I keep walking, knowing that my San Francisco-bound San Joaquin is late so I don’t need to hurry to much. At 7:48 I see a San Joaquin along the east-west BNSF track and see that its heading south, the last train of the evening. I keep walking over to the Amtrak station.
- 8:28–717 leaves Stockton into the sunset. I wait for my ticket to be collected. I’m tired and don’t pay has much attention to the last rays of sunlight on the delta as I sit in one loud car. I ask the conductor if there is a quiet car (kind of as a joke), no but he advises me to move to the front car. A nice, dark and quite Superliner. These cars are in many of the California train consists because of car shortages and are always empty since the doors have to be manually operated and are not opened at most station stops (except for those with luggage servicing).
- 8:58–Antioch. Our conductor announces Martinez as the connecting point for train #14 the coast starlight to Northern California and Oregon.
- 9:21–Arrive Martinez and just sit. We finally get the all aboard at 9:26.
- 9:50 – Announcement for Richmond. We stop at 9;52. Heading south we go a little slower for a bit there some light towers up, track work. We soon speed up again.
At 10:02 we get to Emeryville. I am the first passenger to board the Thruway Bus. The driver has but is clearly not used to his Amtrak issued iPhone. I grab the second row of seats for what will be the usual scenic ride across the bay that earns an extra 100 AGR Points.
- 10:10–The driver introduces himself as Jordan and were off.
- 10:17–Through the toll plaza of the Bay Bridge through the sleek bus only lane at the toll plaza.
- 10:25–I realize we’re going to the Embarcadero first. Maybe no one had a ticket to the Financial district, the normal first stop. I decide to cap my final night with a Cable car ride back to the hostel. The bus basically runs the red light as I walk from the Embarcadero Station to the Muni Metro Stop. I take the Muni Metro to Powell Street and head up to the surface for a final late night cable car ride.
A supervisor with a booming voice announces the destination as Powell & Hyde Streets. I’m of on the Cable Car at 10:48.
At 11:09 I get off at Bay Street to walk the last few blocks into Fort Mason, my hostel. I get there to a huge snafu that puts me in a bad mood with a quite nice hostel. I go to my room and find my key doesn’t work. I get a new key and find someone asleep in the bed I was assigned and all my luggage gone! There is another empty bed. I freak out wanting to know what has happened to my belongings! I go back to the Front Desk and am asked if I’m Jeremiah. It turns out I somehow had two different reservations and wasn’t booked on a continuos one. The hostel computer messed up and somehow thought I had forgotten to check out and assigned me a new bed! I get fresh sheets and head back down to the room to make it and sleep in an adjacent bed. Not believing how the hostel messed up.