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April 1, 2012 / jocarussell

Today’s Lesson

Engineer Signaling a Sharp Left Turn

Engineer Signaling a Sharp Left Turn

Today’s post is a collection of little known or uncommon facts about CalTrain. Some of them are quite surprising, and I only learned of them by accident. I hope you find them both entertaining and educational.

Traffic Laws for Trains (As illustrated by the picture at the top of the post): Similar to the laws for driving an automobile, when the trains turn signals are not functioning properly, the engineer is required to use hand signals when making turns. Since the engineer typically sits on the right side of the train, the British system of hand signals is employed.

Traffic Laws for Trains: In the great Coca Cola truck crash of 1999, even though the truck was stopped illegally on the train tracks, the driver was not cited. The CalTrain engineer, however, received a citation, since it was ruled that he should have steered the train around the truck.

Inquiring Minds: A woman seated on the upstairs level stopped a conductor and asked how she was supposed to get down. When asked how she got up to the second level, she replied, “I climbed up the stairs, but now I want to know how to get down.”

CalTrain Technology: We have been hearing a lot about the electrification of CalTrain lately, but the plans for improved technology do not stop there. Once the electrification infrastructure is in place, the next step will be to convert all CalTrains to use the ultra-modern “hover” technology. This technology will provide for an almost silent, perfectly smooth ride, with no bumps.

CalTrain Ticket Technology: The new electronic tickets were originally designed with no requirement for Tag on/Tag off. This requirement was added by a member of the clerical staff during the contract preparation phase. It was added as a prank, inspired by the famous “wax on/wax off” scene in the movie The Karate Kid. Since the prank was not discovered prior to finalizing the contract, the technology was added to the system to support tag on/tag off.

Special Events: The College Park couple who won the 1997 dance marathon competition aboard CalTrain were taking their first ever train ride and met accidentally while waiting to board the train. They later married in a quiet ceremony performed between Santa Clara and Redwood City. The honeymoon was quite a surprise for the other passengers.

Inquiring Minds: Conductors have not yet determined the correct answer to the question: “What time does the 11:45 train leave?”

Health and Welfare: The folksy “5-second” rule regarding food that falls on the ground is superseded, on CalTrain, by the “5-inches” rule: if any food comes within 5 inches of the floor, it is contaminated.

Popular Programs: The Baby Bullet program has been so popular with passengers that plans are in the works to have them stop at all but three stations up and down the peninsula. This will allow over 80% of the passengers to arrive at their destination in less than the average travel time.

Little Known Facts: Every baby born on CalTrain in 2007 was delivered by the same crew member. In addition, each child was given the first name of Wilson, in honor of the conductor/midwife. All the newborns were girls.

Inquiring Minds: A woman asked the conductor, “Is this the train to Fremont?” The conductor told her that the train would not be going to Fremont. Another passenger then asked if the train was going to San Francisco and was told it was. The woman who asked for the train to Fremont then berated the conductor, “Why did you tell me no? I want to go to San Francisco, too!”

CalTrain in the News: Gun control activists have recently launched a Bay Area campaign and are getting news coverage in their efforts to rename CalTrain’s ‘Baby Bullet’ program, since it promotes the use of firearms in crimes and the killing of innocent animals. The name being proposed as an alternative is the “hug-a-bear” service.

Special Events: Thursdays are singles nights in the bike cars. It is recommended that anyone who has “baggage” leave it in the luggage car.

Little Known Facts: If you lived your entire life on CalTrain, sooner or later you would meet everyone you have ever known.

CalTrain Rules and Regulations: It is illegal to fish from a CalTrain car while it is in motion.

Little Known Facts: In the 2008 presidential primaries, one of the candidates, looking to tradition to help his campaign, decided on an impromptu whistle stop speaking tour on CalTrain. Unfortunately, the decision was made to start in Gilroy and work North along the peninsula. Since it was a weekend, there was no CalTrain service originating in Gilroy. A total of 8 people who had gathered for a sampling of various alcoholic beverages (and a bewildered young man who thought it was Tuesday) heard the only speech that was delivered. Despite their enthusiasm, the candidate dropped out of the race only two days later.

CalTrain Services: Although several passengers have tried to use the service, it is NOT true that the large relief facilities found on CalTrain may also be used as an elevator to get to the second level seating.

Special Events: The CalTrain Clothing Optional day for 2012 is scheduled for June 31. Riders are reminded to bring a towel or cushion to sit on. CalTrain will NOT be responsible for any rashes resulting from contact with the seat cushions.

Little Known Facts: The typical CalTrain conductor will travel over 1,000,000 miles during their career on the peninsula. Most of these miles will be traveled while they are alive.

Special Events: The annual “Moon CalTrain” competition has been won by the same individual for 3 years running. Mr. A— V—, weighing in at 628 points, has been named “Full Moon Emeritus” by the IMA (International Mooning Association).

Inquiring Minds: A surprising number of people boarding the train in San Francisco ask the conductors if the train will be going North or South.

CalTrain Services: For a small additional fee, the assistant conductor will sit in a seat to hold it for a passenger boarding at a later stop. In cold weather, this has the additional benefit of warming the seat. Pay in small, unmarked bills.

Health and Welfare: Rumors that swine flu actually originated in a CalTrain restroom have been dismissed with prejudice by governmental health agencies.

A mind is a pitiful thing to waste. Check your calendar. Take care.

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