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Southern Pacific commuter train, 1956-1960s

Southern Pacific commuter train (San Francisco peninsula), 1956-1960s

Fred Klein, 2003, 2013

The Southern Pacific ran commuter trains along the peninsula route (San Francisco to San Jose) from the early 1900ís until the service was taken over by Caltrain in 1982.SP bought ten 145-seat double-deck gallery cars from Pullman Standard in 1955.These were followed by 21 more ACF-built cars in 1956-7, and 15 more PS cars in 1968.The 1955-57 gallery cars were delivered in dignified two-tone gray paint, but during the 60ís were gradually repainted solid gray with gray painted doors.The 1968 gallery cars were painted solid gray with unpainted aluminum doors.It was very common to see cars of both paint schemes mixed together.Consists had 1-8 cars depending on the traffic demands and the platform length of the stations in the trip.In the early pre-freeway years, trains had more cars: rush hour trains also had more cars.Many of the rush hour trains used the old Harriman-roofed standard coaches (in 1969 SP had 55 standard coaches and 46 gallery cars).The SP gallery cars were retired by Caltrain in 1985 and replaced with stainless steel push-pull Nippon Sharyo cars.


Fairbanks-Morse trainmasters were the favorite commute power because of their ability to rapidly accelerate between the frequent commuter stops.Initially the trainmasters were in the black widow paint shown below, but in the 60ís they were repainted in the gray and scarlet bloody nose scheme before their retirement in 1972.A similar commuter train for the late 1960s to early 1970s should be led by a bloody nose trainmaster.EMD GP-9ís were also used and completely replaced the Trainmasters by 1972. They had dual controls so the locomotive did not have to be turned.None of these SP gallery passenger cars had engineer controls, and the locomotive was always in the lead.The post-1985 Caltrain cars with an engineerís cab greatly simplified operations with push-pull running and no reversal of the locomotive.



Photo of an SP rush hour commute train in the 1960s just south of San Francisco. Photo from page 160 of Dorinís Commuter Railroads.


Southbound rush-hour train #136 in the late 1960s. Note the solid gray repainted car four cars back, and the old standard height coaches probably dating to the twenties on the rear. Power is a Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster. Photo from page 157 of Dorinís Commuter Railroads.


Commute train on September 15, 1957 powered by two black widow GP9s. From page 188 of Signorís Southern Pacificís Coast Line.


Commuter train, 1956 to mid 1960ís



The beauty of this train is that a prototype train can be purchased off the shelf without modification.The trainmaster is from Atlas.The SP black widow scheme was released as a model in 2000, and the later SP bloody nose model came later.The gallery cars (prototypes made by ACF and PS in 1956-7) are available from Wheels-of-Time in both two-tone gray and solid gray.The cars include a lavatory window at one end.Unlike many other passenger cars, the gallery cars are prototypical as modeled and painted.


LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01



Dorin, Patrick, Commuter Railroads, A pictorial review of the most traveled trains, Superior Publishing Co., 1970.

McGovern, Janet, Caltrain and the Peninsula Commute Service, Arcadia Publishing, 128 pages, 2012.

Ryan, Dennis, and Joseph Shine, Southern Pacific Passenger Trains, vol. 2, Day trains of the coast line, Four Ways West publications, 2000.

Signor, John, Southern Pacificís Coast Line, Signature Press, 1995.