Almanac

News - October 16, 2013

Menlo Park celebrates rail history

Caltrain is kicking off a year of festivities celebrating 150 years of continuous commuter rail service on the Peninsula with a community festival in Menlo Park on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The events will take place at the Menlo Park train station at 1100 Merrill St. in Menlo Park and will include a re-enactment of a historic picnic that took place in October 1863 near Menlo Park.

According to Caltrain, the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad completed the line to San Jose in January 1864, but management invited notables, including Governor Leland Stanford, for a VIP train ride when construction was about two-thirds complete. Caltrain says it will re-create that picnic with a cast of costumed re-enactors and a 19-century-style band.

The re-enacters are scheduled to arrive by train at 12:14 p.m.

A train stop shelter opened in Menlo Park in 1863, and the current structure was built in 1867, according to Frank Helfrich of the Menlo Park Historical Association.

Other activities on tap for the Oct. 19 event include informational booths, model railroads and exhibits, and displays including a Wells Fargo stagecoach, a vintage bus and a replica of the transcontinental railroad's golden spike.

There will be Moveable Feast food trucks, ice cream, face painting and family fun activities.

Among those scheduled to speak are Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki, Caltrain's board chair Ken Yeager, state Sen. Jerry Hill, and San Mateo County supervisors Warren Slocum and Adrienne Tissier.

Admission is free. To RSVP, contact Jayme Ackemann at ackemannj@samtrans.com

History of commuter rail

Caltrain provided this brief history of the Peninsula commuter rail line: The railroad known today as "Caltrain" is the oldest passenger railroad in the West in continuous operation.

Constructed by the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad, the railroad subsequently was absorbed by the Southern Pacific, which operated the Peninsula Commute Service for more than a century. A transition to public ownership began in the 1980s, first under the state of California, followed by a three-county agency called the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which has owned and operated Caltrain since 1992.

There are seven Peninsula rail depots on the National Register of Historic Places. From north to south, they are: Millbrae, Burlingame, San Carlos, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Jose Diridon. Four of them were built in the 1800s.

Those interested in the history of the Peninsula rail can follow the Twitter feed @SFSJRailroad or check the Facebook page: SFSJRailroad.

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