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Southern Pacific-Caltrans commuter train, 1982-1985

Southern Pacific-Caltrans commuter train, 1982-1985

Fred Klein, 2013

The Southern Pacific ran commuter trains along the peninsula route (San Francisco to San Jose) from the early 1900’s until the service was taken over by Caltrain in 1982. In 1982, Caltrain took over management of the commute service but contracted with SP to provide service using the old SP equipment until the Caltrain Nippon Sharyo gallery cars and F40PH locomotives arrived in 1985. 


Caltrain leased three gallery coaches and a GP9 from SP in 1982, and painted them in a “rainbow”  scheme that was not repeated in their post-1985 paint scheme. Quoting Matthew Young from the Wheels of time website,


“Starting in 1978, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) entered into agreement to help and later assisted in growing the operation. In 1982, CalTrans, leased GP9P 3187 and three 1955 Pullman-Standard SP Bilevels which were repainted in this early Caltrain "rainbow" scheme. Interestingly, the three sets of cars and matching locomotive were rarely seen together, but always mixed with sets of the original SP grays. In the summer of 1985, Caltrain started to receive new push-pull bilevel equipment and F40PH locomotives to replace the aging SP rolling stock. Stay tuned for pics on Wheels of Time of this transition period where you will see the old SP "subs" with new Nippon Sharyo cars and as well as F40PH pulling ACF & PS bilevels.”


SP locomotive power was an EMD GP9 in gray with scalet “wings” at both ends (except for the one with the experimental Caltrans scheme). They had dual controls so the locomotive did not have to be turned, but it still had to run around the train at both terminals.


Thanks to Wheels of Time, the 1955 SP gallery commuter cars are available in three paint schemes: the two-tone grey of the original factory scheme, the simplified solid grey of the 1960s repaints, and the Caltrans rainbow scheme.


The experimental Caltrain “rainbow” scheme of 1982 applied to a GP9 diesel and a 1955 Pullman Standard gallery commuter car. Matthew Young photo.


The rainbow Caltrain scheme applied to three gallery commuter cars. The cars appear to be stored and not in service.



A commuter train with one of the 1968 gallery cars (with the unpainted aluminum door) and a gray-and-blue 1982 Caltrain re-paint of a 1955 car, behind an SP GP9.


Commuter cars, 1982 to 1985

A model “train” with all three of the 1982 Caltrain “rainbow” repaints of the 1955 SP gallery cars. These would seldom be coupled together into one prototype train, but call this a pretend publicity train. The GP9 diesel is from Atlas. The first gray gallery car is a Wheels of Time model of the 24-window 1955-57 gallery car that is true to the prototypes made by ACF and PS.


The last gallery car is from Con-cor, and represents the 1968 PS car with unpainted aluminum doors. The Con-cor model is of the 16-window, 161- to 168-seat gallery car that Pullman Standard made from 1958-1970 for CNW. The Southern Pacific gallery cars of the 1968 order from PS had 20 windows per side (with the end lavatory window being half-size). The con-cor model is of the 16-window CNW prototype, but is otherwise reasonably close in appearance to the SP cars. I added road number decals to the Con-cor car. 


LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01




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

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 Pacific’s Coast Line, Signature Press, 1995.