Caltrain debuts its new electric train fleet in San Francisco

A lime green line at the foot of the doorway starts the tour into the all-new Caltrain electric feet.

Caltrain has run in the Bay Area since 1863, and prides itself as the oldest continuously operating rail system west of the Mississippi. It will soon take a huge leap into the future of locomotive transportation.

Stepping on board, there’s an immediate tantalizing aroma of that fresh-train smell. Like leaving the car wash. Evergreen fresh.

A robotic female voice announces that the doors are closing, and then you’re sealed inside the most advanced train on the market. Power outlets for each seat. Space underneath for luggage or scooters. The paired seating like today’s Caltrains remains, but they’re well spaced from one another.

A detail view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A detail view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

A side view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A side view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

A side view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A side view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

An interior view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

An interior view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE


(Charles Russo/SFGATE)

On the wall inside each passenger car is a live screen showing rider destinations akin the newest BART cars. The only oversight onboard might be the trash/recycling bins that are sized relatively small for a train that is set to fit 2,169 riders at max capacity.

Wisnet security cameras appear throughout the cars, but the digital eyes don’t dampen the polished interior. Connecting the train carts is a white tunnel that resembles the narrow hallways on Princess Leia’s Tantive IV ship from the opening of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.”

The Star Wars-esque passageway inside the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

The Star Wars-esque passageway inside the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

Once a tin can of calamity, the Caltrain bathroom is now fit for an astronaut with generous room and multiple steel handles to help hang tight over the occasional bumps along the Peninsula tracks.

Up front, inside the conductor’s cockpit, Caltrain engineers are giddy to give these all-electric trains a ride. The new console replaces most of the buttons with screens, and comes with cruise control, a new amenity. The trains can hit up to 110 mph but don’t expect these speeds when the trains come on board. There’s enough oversight and cameras inside the console to ensure the driver can’t pick their nose without someone else knowing.

A view of cockpit controls inside the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A view of cockpit controls inside the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

Stadler — as in, the Stadler Plant in Salt Lake City where the EMUs are built — adorns the nose of the train in black lettering serving as a new nickname for the fleet.

Not everyone rides Caltrain, but if you live along the South Bay or near its train station in SoMa, then you’re familiar with that iconic horn. Once a button, the horn is now a toggle that’s ready to broadcast whenever a train approaches a four-way intersection.

Production on the fleet began in 2019, and Caltrain broke ground on the Electrification Project in 2017. The first electric trains arrived in the Bay Area in March.

An older model Caltrain, left, sits idle across from the newly unveiled electric train, right, at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

An older model Caltrain, left, sits idle across from the newly unveiled electric train, right, at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

Expected to debut for public use in 2024, the new trains mark a pivotal transition for the South Bay transit system. Its current fleet of diesel-electric locomotive powered trains were yesterday; the electric multiple units (EMU) are inbound for tomorrow.

Until then, anticipation grows as train enthusiasts begin to catch glimpses of the sleek fleet on the tracks as the EMUs continue to appear on the Peninsula for testing on the tracks.

A side view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A side view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

Model trains inside the 4th and King station show different versions of Caltrain throughout the years.

Model trains inside the 4th and King station show different versions of Caltrain throughout the years.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

A detail view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A detail view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

A front-facing view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A front-facing view of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

The new electric Caltrain, right, sits idle across from an older model, left, at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

The new electric Caltrain, right, sits idle across from an older model, left, at the 4th and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

A view from the causeway of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat.  September  24, 2022.

A view from the causeway of the new electric Caltrain, on display during a media preview event at the Fourth and King station, in San Francisco, on Sat. September 24, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

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