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Friday, August 1, 2008

08-08-01 PHOTOS: San Jose VTA

I apologize for going nearly two months without a photo update, but my web hosting provider went down for about the last month and before that I was getting ready for my big Chicago trip. Anyway, my primary website is back online and its time for me to bite the bullet and do the write-up for my big trip to the 17th annual USENIX Security Symposium in San Jose, CA last August.

I used this trip to explore the VTA light rail system and the San Jose Amtrak/Caltrain station. Over the course of the week I rode 3 of the 4 legs of the VTA Light rail and also took a CalTrain trip to/from San Carlos and also inbound from Mt View after an outbound VTA trip.

It's fascinating how nice everyone is out in CA. When employees came up to me it was always to ask if I wanted to take pictures of something or where I could go to get a cab ride pass. For a moment I thought I had accidentally wound up in Canada!!

Might as well cut to the photos. You can see the entire set here. You can also keep reading to enjoy the cream that came off the top.

Starting off at the Diridon Station we see an Altamont Commuter Express train laying over next to a Caltrain set both headed by F40s (#911 and #3101). ACE trains have been running into congestion problems as they run through the Altamont pass with UP freight traffic.

Here is a closer view of F40PH-2C #3101.

At the south end of the station complex is CP-CAHILL where the line condenses down to a single track for the trip to Gillroy (Caltrain) and beyond (Coast Starlight). To the right an Amtrak California trainset headed by Am-Cal #2004 used in Capitol Corridor service is the only resident of the nearly empty Diridon Station yard which has been deprecated in favor of the new Caltrain Maintenance Facility about a mile up the tracks.

Here we have Caltrain F40PH-2CAT #901 departing under a clear signal at CP-JULIAN as it begins its trip north to San Francisco.

Check out this video of CP-JULIAN from the rear of an arriving CalTrain.

Caltrain uses fairly new gallery car equipment on most of its trains. Here is #4021 preparing to depart North with train #73.

Caltrain's use of PoP fare collection and its eclectic mix of frequent local and express trains during the peak periods allows one to make intermediate stops. Here is train #75 arriving at the Menlo Park station. No, the other Menlo Park.

And a video of a train departing Menlo Park.

Here is a great cab ride video taken between Menlo Park and San Carlos. I got a late start on the video because I assumed the window would be crappy and was surprised to actually find it washed! As you can see Caltrain is the only East Coast style commuter line on the West Coast with a high quality RoW, frequent service and small bedroom communities with centrally located stations.

Moving onto the VTA, the two distinct lines traverse the downtown on a common tree lined semi street running RoW. It was explained to me that the light rail today is vastly under capacity because it was built in the Dot Com bubble years when San Jose was flush with cash and workers.

Here is 986B at the Convention Centre station. Downtown the system uses simple trolley wire to support heritage pole trolleys.

The newest branch goes out to Winchester along an old UP freight secondary track RoW. This line allowed for a new connection to the Dirdion Station served via a question mark shaped tunnel under the railroad tracks.

Here is 927A at the Winchester station. Like most light rail systems there is a great deal of platform accessories which make good photo angles difficult to find. There are plans to one day extend the line well past the current Winchester terminus.

Bike racks on the VTA vehicles function amazingly well and do not compete for seat space with passengers.

The newer lines are fully cab signaled and have running speeds up to 55mph. The older lines retain their automatic-block signaling.

The line to Santa Teresa is one of the older routes and despite mostly running in a freeway median it sports some great views. Here is 913 at the Santa Teresa terminal.

Here is #955 ready to depart Santa Teresa. The operator noticed me taking pictures and called me over to...take one of the inside of the cab. Talk about not being in New York City. Although while the operators are nice there was a nagging problem with a complete lack of a forward view.

And a video of that same train departing.

She was also nice enough to let me get a picture of the signal before we departed. The lunar white indicates a diverging movement compared with just plain green for a straight shot.

The Mountain View line is pretty boring being composed mostly of semi-street running trackage, but it goes past a lot of interesting scenery including the offices of many popular internet firms such as Yahoo and Google, the famous airship hangers at NASA Moffat field and the large antennas at AFS Onizuka.

The line terminates next to the Mountain View Caltrain station which allows for Circle Trips or an a railfan stopover on the way back to San Francisco. Here #982B lays over at Mountain View.

I will conclude with a video showing a VTA train squirming out from the tight curve under the CA 87 underpass and through the Museum Junction to enter the downtown zone.

Again sorry for the delay, enjoy.

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