Today's 54-mile round trip of the Bay Area's Freedom Train from San Jose to San Francisco to honor the civil rights legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may be its last after three decades, but all 1,400 seats were sold out.
The traditional train ride coordinated by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley left the Caltrain's Diridon Station in San Jose at about 9:45 a.m. on the holiday celebrating King's birthday, Caltrain spokesman Will Reisman said.
Tickets for all of the 1,400 seats available on the Caltrain train, which the association charters for the trip each year, were sold even though the group has announced that today's excursion would be its last, Reisman said.
The trip was one of about 30 Freedom trains run across the country started after King's assassination in 1968. The tradition was started by his late widow Coretta Scott King to commemorate the 54 miles marched by her husband and other civil rights activists from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965.
That march, to bring attention to civil rights and racial equality in the United States, is also being showcased in the Oscar-nominated movie "Selma" in current release.
But the San Jose-San Francisco Freedom train is the last of its kind in the nation since the Bay Area train began operating 30 years ago and will be the end of an era for Caltrain, Reisman said.
"This is the only one remaining," Reisman said.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "Caltrain has always been part of this tradition and we're sad it's ending. It's been important for us."
Kathleen Flynn, president of the association, sent an email to Reisman on Friday stating that she had sold all of the tickets for today's train ride and to "expect 1,400 people and a boatload of media" at Diridon Station.
Flynn thanked supporters in the email and added, "This has been both a wonderful and sometimes difficult journey.Thanks to you, I'm still kicking!"