11 January 2017

UPRR Leaves, Sort Of

Caltrain and Union Pacific have recently agreed on the terms of a deal for UPRR ceasing to operate freight trains on the peninsula, between Santa Clara (CP Coast) to San Francisco. This is not the end of freight, however. The Deal Terms Sheet (2MB PDF) outlines the process by which a smaller "Short Line" operator would take over the rights and obligations to continue serving rail freight customers on the peninsula. It also unravels a laundry list of contentious issues that pitted UP and Caltrain against each other. In summary, there are three phases to the deal:

  1. The agreement recently entered into by Caltrain and Union Pacific, stipulating that:
    • UP will start looking for a new short line freight service provider.
    • Caltrain will ensure that short line locomotives with freight PTC can operate throughout CBOSS territory, a condition described as "unconstrained interoperability," a great pretext for more CBOSS program blowouts
    • Caltrain will ensure that Caltrain rolling stock can operate on UP's freight PTC equipped Gilroy branch, or cease operating on the Gilroy branch.
    • Caltrain agrees to never electrify UP's Main Track 1 from CP Coast (Santa Clara) through San Jose to CP Lick (south of Tamien), the land under which Caltrain owns.
    • UP agrees not to object to the CPUC safety requirements (1.4 MB PDF) formally adopted on 10 November 2016 for Caltrain's electrification project.
    • UP allows Caltrain's SSF station reconfiguration project to proceed, trading some old yard tracks and a loading dock for $2 million plus a new Caltrain-funded freight yard track at Newhall in Santa Clara.
    • UP settles some old claims by Caltrain for track maintenance.
  2. In the coming months, 
    • UP will select a Short Line and obtain Caltrain's approval.
    • Caltrain will sign a new trackage rights agreement with the short line.
    • Caltrain will sign a new trackage rights agreement with UP that replaces the current trackage rights agreement, concerning the "South Terminal Area" around San Jose.
    • The Surface Transportation Board will hopefully approve the whole deal, which is the entry criterion into phase 3.
  3. Upon STB approval,
    • Caltrain will own the "common carrier" obligations and be on the hook legally and financially for abandonment of freight service, should that ever be contemplated.
    • The Short Line will own the common carrier obligations on the sidings and lead tracks not owned by Caltrain.
    • UP will transfer to Caltrain the rights for intercity passenger service north of CP Coast in Santa Clara, but not south of there.
    • UP will agree not to pursue legal action against the electrification project.
This agreement could open a tiny sliver of hope for building grade separations that are both cheaper and more community-friendly without stubborn opposition from UP. On the other hand, it gives no hope for relief from freight PTC interoperability, justifying additional costs that have not already been sunk in the bottomless pit that is CBOSS.


  1. Well, the "No electrification" clause could also be read that UPRR would like 1 track available that is not electrified.

    That brings up a topic of what to do with Capitol, Blossom Hill, Morgan Hill, San Martin & Gilroy stops. If they can't be electrified, then you gotta use diesels. If you use diesels, you're using Bombardier cars. If you use bombardier cars, then you can't do level boarding.

    There's always lots of drama involved with cutting back service, so now there's another thing to make level boarding more complicated.

    I recall there was talk of handing the Gilroy extension to Capitol Corridor. Potentially you could try to setup a "timed-transfer" at Tamien and San Jose with both Caltrain and Capitol trains running side by side to SJ. Unfortunately, Capitol Corridor only has 1 train leaving SJ that might align with a Gilroy train, so until CC expands more to SJ.

    1. How 'bout 'sBART'? Run all-day modern dmu service between Gilroy and Cahill, scheduled for timed transfers to Caltrain and Capitol Corridor, rather than extending a handfull over oversized, overweight residual push-pull trains

    2. One article on this site (can't remember the name) said that level boarding will be accomplished in this sequence:

      TL:Dr: Bombardier equipment will be retired before level boarding begins

      2014: No level boarding. Bombardier and Gallery cars use 8 inch platforms

      2019: Gallery equipment retired, electric equipment uses low platforms

      2024: Bombardier equipment retired, all gallery cars

      2029: Level boarding transition begins, some platforms get raised, both the upper and lower doors are used depending on the platform height.

      2034: level boarding complete, HSR usea high platforms as well

    3. Also, HSR is building San Jose to Fresno (via Gilroy and Pacheco pass) first, so Gilroy wouldn't be a problem

  2. That is correct - Capitol Corridor is planned to add service to the existing Caltrain stops at Tamien, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy, new stations at Pajaro/Watsonville and Castroville, and the existing Salinas station. I believe 2018 or 2019 is the current estimate. As with Caltrain to Gilroy, this would be a commute-hour service only, two trips north to Sacramento in the early morning and two returning south to Salinas in the evening. More info at http://www.tamcmonterey.org/programs/rail/salinas-rail-extension/

    1. What is the source for the statement that "2018 or 2019 is the current estimate"? The last that I heard, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) "is in the midst of a paradigm shift governing the planned expansion ... between Oakland and San Jose," and that CCJPA was therefore deferring the planned southward extension "pending funding for right of way improvements to increase tacks capacity between Oakland and San Jose[.]" (See page 115 of 124 at http://www.tamcmonterey.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Agenda_2016_9_28_Meeting29-13.pdf )

      Accordingly, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) is supporting state legislation to fund Capitol Corridor improvements that would permit service to Salinas, but in the meantime, TAMC has once again approached Caltrain about operating trains to Salinas (including the interim stations that you mentioned). (See Item 5 on page 88 of 89, here: http://www.tamcmonterey.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Agenda_2016_12_7_Meeting31.pdf ) But that does not look too promising.
      As far as I can tell, the notion of Capitol Corridor or Caltrain extending south of Gilroy appears to be dead, or delayed indefinitely. But I sure hope that I'm wrong about that, hence my question about the source for the 2018-2019 estimate.
      -Ryan Donlon

    2. Replying to my own comment: I just found this article in the Monterey Herald projecting a completion date of 2020 for Capitol Corridor service to Salinas.


      The article does not mention policy changes by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.

      Ryan Donlon

  3. Does not sound very logical to me. Reasonably would be that the shortline operates Last Mile Diesel Electric units, which would be CBOSS equipped. Considering the new regulations permitting modern rolling stock, that shortline could procure (accordingly modified) units from the shelf, such as the German/Swiss class 187 (TRAXX 3 by Bombardier), or a descendent of the SBB Eem 923 by Stadler.

    1. While I agree with you a little, in this case, why have 3 lines, when you can operate 2 and simply extend one of them over commute hours. You always lose ridership for every transfer and since Gilroy ridership is already low, having sBART would not be viable, IMO.

  4. The Permanente branch may get a little confusing. For UP's Permanente local to get from the Permanente branch to UP's non-electrified tracks, it will have to cross under Caltrain's wires. Would UP get permission from Caltrain to cross over their tracks or will the short line railroad operate the Permanente branch?

    If you don't know what the Permanente branch is, it is a freight branch that follows VTA's 902 light rail line from San Jose Diridon to Winchester station. Then it continues past Winchester light rail, eventually getting to the Permanente quarry

  5. Freight trains operate under the wire all the time. The Permanente branch would be governed by the new trackage rights agreement with UP, covering the areas between Santa Clara and Tamien.

    1. Okay, I assumed all electrified track is owned by Caltrain. And that from Santa Clara university to Tamien, Caltrain electrifies the tracks on the west side of the line, whereas UP has a non-electrified track on the east side. So I see that UP will have to get permission to cross beneath the wires to go from its dedicated track to Diridon Track 9 and the Permanente branch?

    2. Freight trains, even double-stack freight trains, can easily cross electrified tracks. Caltrain's overhead contact system will clear AAR Plate H everywhere in San Jose. See table 3.14-21 in the FEIR.

  6. So......

    * Caltrain agrees to take on any financial burden of formal abandonment of freight service on Caltrain's trackage;
    * Caltrain agrees, in perpetuity, to not electrify UP's main track #1 on Caltrain-owned right-of-way

    * UP pays some back bills for track maintenance;
    * cash-and-property swap for freight yards/dock


    > * UP will agree not to pursue legal action against the electrification project.

    Seems like UP gots an awful, awful lot, for that last concessioon. Charles Augustus Milverton comes to mind ;). How much traction would UP really have, over the STB? It's not like the STB is a sranger to AARA-compliant freight running under catenary! There's this thing called the North East Corridor, after all...

  7. I think UP's concern about electrification is to not limit the possibility of running double stack container trains down their line in case other lines are blocked for some reason. I can certainly understand that concern and NEC trains certainly can't have double-stacks under the wire at height it's suspended at.

    With that said, there are actually are not too many precedents in the world where double-stack containers run under the wire. I think some lines in India do that with extra long pantographs.

    It's not a technically complicated issue, but extra long pantographs aren't exactly "off the shelf" items. Also, that opens the can of warms as to whether you raise the catenary all along the Caltrain corridor or just Santa Clara south. If Caltrain hangs the catenary higher for UP, then you can see Port of SF asking for a similar concession north of Santa Clara for their port freight traffic. Higher Catenary will have issues near some bridges (I-380) and SF tunnels, so perhaps this agreement is Caltrain's way of shutting the door on Port of SF.

    1. I would beware of sweeping generalizations like "NEC trains certainly can't have double-stacks under the wire" because they are easily contradicted. The planned contact wire heights are high but not unprecedented in the US.

    2. I stand corrected. Given the low clearances in Hudson tunnels and need for the special low Bi-Level coaches, I thought catenary was low too. Man... I might as well just nuke my whole post. :(

  8. Perhaps Caltrain wanted to jump at the chance to cut a deal with the UP simply the opportunity is rare. Class ones are kinda enthroned legally and don't really have to budge.

    In a larger sense - and OT - is not the big unknown at the moment how the new government in DC is going to treat not so much Caltrain but CAHSR? Jerry Brown wants to rumble with Trump and HSR could end up politicized no matter how much infrastructure spending is being touted. That last minute agreement about funding seemed desperate.

    BTW I did not figure how to comment under my usual sobriquet, which is synonymouse. I used to post on the CA HSR blogsite but somehow got kicked into moderation detention and my posts deleted. I kinda think that blog is wrapping up.

    1. I think if you select "Name/URL" in the pull-down menu titled "Reply as," you can use your usual nom de plume. You're welcome here!

  9. Sorry, could find "Reply as" under "Name/URL"