Menlo Park to Newark

The Dumbarton Line

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Map submitted by Paul Carr.

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The old Southern Pacific swing bridge can be seen in the distance, left permanently in the "open" position to allow passage to boat traffic. The concrete structures in the foreground are part of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. Photo by Andrew Laverdiere, February 2009.

This is the only rail line that crosses the San Francisco bay, the middle portion of which was abandoned in 1982. Union Pacific continues to operate the east side of the line, from Newark Junction to the west, to serve industrial customers. Caltrain owns the other side from Redwood Junction to the east, usually using it for storing work train equipment. Caltrain was chosen to operate on the line for future commute service. This project would add four stations to the Caltrain system: Union City, Fremont-Centerville, Newark, and Menlo Park/East Palo Alto. The two swing bridges along the line would have to be replaced. About 33% of the bridge collapsed due to an arson fire in 1998. This project is currently facing financial difficulties with many asking if it is really needed. Construction is scheduled to start in 2009 after a 30-month environmental review, and begin service in 2012.

Thanks to Paul Carr for contributing information about this route.

There was also a swing bridge crossing Mowry Slough. It was moved to the open position in the late 1980s at the request of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Feral Red Foxes were using this bride to gain access to marshlands and predating the endangered Clapper Rail.

Paul Noble
Edgewood , NM
2/4/2011

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Would be interesting to run a "fishing train" out to the swing. There would be several who would pay for the service.

Randy
Houston, TX
7/16/2011

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The plan by caltrain to start revenue service over the ROW has been shelved. Monies are now being spent on extending bart to San Jose.

Evan
Oakland, CA
11/13/2015

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I have a short video with the west side of the line at the part with the signals and missing track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBTMI_WTSww

Alexander Howell
California, CA
7/24/2016

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I remember bicycling across the newly constructed Dumbarton Bridge in 1982 or '83. Caltrans held an open house for cyclists and pedestrians before opening the newly constructed span to vehicle traffic. On a Sunday afternoon as we drove westbound on 84, I noticed a pair of SP GP-9s (lashed with the cabs facing opposite) slowly rolling east bound across Marsh Road towards the bridge. I was only 8 years old and had no ability to stop the car or ask my dad to turn around. I'm sure it was a training run and the train didn't go all the way out to the bridge. The swing bridge looked uninhabited and was in the open position. That's an opportunity I missed and will remember until my dying day.

Twenty years later, I commuted home on 101 late at night after finishing my shift in San Jose. I'd noticed a string of Herzog gravel cars parked on the overhead rail trestle south of Marsh Road, and exited the freeway to investigate Caltrain locomotive activity adjacent to the bridge. (This is the rail trestle with the engraved SP corporate logo embossed in the top of the concrete support pilings). I hadn't seen a freight train cross the trestle since the mid 1970s, and felt intrigued to investigate. Pulling into a corporate office park next to the main line, I observed a Caltrain GP-9 and their SW1500 move the Herzog cars back and forth as MOW crews spread gravel. A short while later, the Geep proceeded westbound through Fair Oaks towards Redwood Junction. I followed this locomotive through some crime ridden streets and marveled at the rail crossings that still functioned despite two decades of disuse. The satellite dish signals were deactivated and turned 90 degrees inward. It wasn't my best move driving a surplus police auction Dodge sedan through a gang infested neighborhood at 1AM with police everywhere. But the experience was worth it as I watched the Geep cross Fifth Ave near the Costco and visualized? the heyday when mainline SP freights rolled through. That was the line the American Freedom Train utilized in the 1970s to reach San Francisco. Also President Warren G. Harding's funeral train left the Bay Area via this route.

If anyone has any photos of SP freights crossing the bridge, I'd love to see them!

John Kreslake
San Mateo, CA
5/20/2018

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Do you have any pictures or information about The Dumbarton Line? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.