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) San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, in partnership with Amtrak and Caltrans.
Ridership 1,177,073 (FY15) [1]
Website San Joaquins
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, 710, 712, 714, 716, 718
701, 703, 711, 713, 715, 717, 719
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 Siemens Charger 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 in California's Central Valley. Seven round trip trains a day run between its southern terminus at Bakersfield and Stockton, where the route splits to Oakland (five round trip trains per day) or Sacramento (two round trip trains per day).

The route has an extensive network of dedicated Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach buses that are critical to the performance of the service; in 2016, over 55% of passengers used an Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach on at least one end of their trip.[2] Buses are timed to meet trains and offer connections to points in Southern California (including Los Angeles Union Station where passengers can continue their journey on the Pacific Surfliner or Amtrak's long-distance trains), the city of San Francisco, the Central Coast, the North Coast, the High Desert (including Las Vegas), Redding, Reno, and the Yosemite Valley.

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.[3]

Like all regional trains in California, the San Joaquin is operated by a joint powers authority, the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA) is governed by a board that includes two elected representatives from each of eight counties the train travels through.[4] The SJJPA contracts with the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to provide day-to-day management of the service and with contracts with Amtrak to operate the service and maintain the rolling stock (locomotives and passenger cars). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provides the funding to operate the service and also owns the rolling stock.


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.[5]

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]

Annual Ridership
FY* Ridership
2013 1,219,818[3]
2014 1,188,228[6] –2.6%
2015 1,177,073[1] –0.9%
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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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,[11][12] until 1993, the San Joaquin also stopped in Berkeley.

Tehachapi Pass gap between Bakersfield and Los Angeles[edit]

As of 2017 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.[13]

Over the past 30 years service has increased from just one round trip per day to seven, five 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.[14] From 1987-1989 Amtrak used Superliner and ex-ATSF Hi-Level coaches,[15] for a short period beginning on June 15, 1987, this included a full dining car on one of the trains.[16] Amtrak requipped the San Joaquin trains again in 1989, this time with new Horizon coaches, when service expanded to three daily round-trips,[17] the San Joaquin began receiving the Superliner-derived "California Cars" that it uses today in 1995.[18]


Amtrak California operates its own fleet of EMD F59PHI, GE P32-8WH and Siemens Charger 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]

Sample "California Car" consist
November 4, 2013
Train Southbound #704
  • CDTX GE P32-8WH #2051
  • CDTX Surfliner coach #6462 "Moss Beach"
  • CDTX California Car coach #8005 "Kern River"
  • CDTX California Car café #8814 "Mission Valley"
  • CDTX California Car coach #8019 "Mad River"
  • CDTX California Car cab/baggage/coach #8305 "Mount San Jacinto"
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. Four 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]

Sample "Comet Car" consist
October 1, 2013
Train Southbound #712
  • CDTX EMD F59PHI #2010
  • CDTX Comet IB coach #5007 "The Del Monte"
  • CDTX Comet IB coach #5013 "The Citrus Belt Limited"
  • CDTX Comet IB coach #5008 "The Redwood"
  • AMTK Horizon Dinette (café car) #53510
  • CDTX Comet IB coach #5014 "Spirit of California"
  • CDTX Comet IB coach #5011 "San Diegan"
  • AMTK Non-Powered Control Unit #90218 "Oakland"
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.[19]

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).[19]

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.[19]

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[20] and the second trainset was put into regular service on April 15, 2014.


Amtrak San Joaquin (interactive map)
Statewide Rail Modernization Map, courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority. Note: the 2016 Business Plan proposes the IOS instead run from San Jose to a temporary station just north of Bakersfield.

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.

When the Central Valley segment of California High-Speed Rail is completed in 2019, there are plans for the San Joaquin to use the HSR infrastructures if the construction to San Jose is severely delayed.


The San Joaquin has an extensive network of dedicated Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach buses, over 55% of passengers on the route used an Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach on at least one end of their trip.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2015 State of California" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Draft 2017 Business Plan Update" (PDF). San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. p. 3. 
  3. ^ a b "Amtrak sets ridership record and moves the nation's economy forward" (PDF) (Press release). Washington: Amtrak. October 14, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2016. 
  4. ^ Sheehan, Tim (June 26, 2015). "Valley agency takes control of Amtrak San Joaquin trains". Fresno Bee. Retrieved February 11, 2016. 
  5. ^ "1958 SP Passenger Timetable". my ESPEE MODELERS ARCHIVE. December 9, 2000. Retrieved June 10, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2015 State of California" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Vital need for passenger train". Oxnard Press-Courier. May 5, 1971. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Amtrak to take another look at area rail route". Merced Sun-Star. March 22, 1972. Retrieved December 31, 2012. [dead link]
  9. ^ Cook, Gale (March 10, 1974). "San Joaquin Valley Amtrak route draws some tart comments". Modesto Bee. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ "San Joaquin train wins reprieve". Lodi News-Sentinel. September 1, 1979. Retrieved January 1, 2013. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Fixup funds are part of service proposal". Merced Sun-Star. March 21, 1980. Archived from the original on January 25, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ "'San Joaquin' trains catching on". Merced Sun-Star. July 30, 1982. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  13. ^ Solomon 1999, p. 20
  14. ^ "Amtrak will introduce new rail cars". Los Angeles Times. October 18, 1976. p. B17A. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Amtrak ridership up on San Joaquin line". Lodi News-Sentinel. February 21, 1987. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  16. ^ California 1988, p. 59
  17. ^ "Valley gets added service". Lodi News-Sentinel. December 18, 1989. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  18. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (June 23, 1995). "Sleek train debuts". Modesto Bee. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority/Caltrans. "San Joaquin Rolling Stock Presentation" (PDF). pp. 35–42. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 5, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  20. ^ "San Joaquin Trains 711 and 718: Operate with Refurbished Equipment" (Press release). Amtrak. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2013. 


External links[edit]

Route map: Google

KML is from Wikidata