State Fair 1996 Trip Report

By Dave Schultheis


We received fantastic news before the trip even began. The "train" trip was again "all-train;" no bus from San Jose to Oakland and back, like last year.

AMTRAK Police Detective Jim Martino # 198 was kind enough to meet us at the San Jose depot to make sure everyone got on the right train, and to make sure that the conductor knew who all the "troublemakers" were.

Fourteen hardy souls made up our group: John, Dennis, Ann and David, Mike, Dave, Mark and Becky, Jak, Thea, Tracy, John, Brandie and Paige.

AMTRAK's Capitol Train # 722 left the San Jose Depot right on time at 6:20 a.m. Food service started immediately as we proceeded past the arena and headed for Santa Clara. One of the commute trains passed us going the same direction, a first for many of us. AMTRAK has made a lot of changes at the "Great America" station, which is on Lafayette Street under Tasman Drive, but you have to take a side street to get there. They've installed a platform and signs, the street has been finished, and other improvements. We had a nice smooth ride through Alviso and past the ghost town of Drawbridge on the way to the new and improved "station" in the Centerville district of Fremont.

We picked up a number of passengers during stops at Oakland/Jack London Square, Emeryville, Berkeley, Richmond, Martinez, Suisun/Fairfield and Davis. There was a 10-15 minute delay near the Suisun/Fairfield station, due to some track work, but it didn't bother us too much. We arrived at the Sacramento depot a few minutes before 10 a.m. There were too many people to squeeze on board the first bus to Cal Expo, and we met the first sourpuss of the morning on board the second bus. Nobody sat next to him OR his newspaper.

The buses arrived at the Cal Expo main gate just a few minutes after opening time. As usual, your host escorted everyone on board the State Fair monorail to get the overview of the entire grounds. We then split into various groups with the agreement that everyone would make it back to the buses by either 4:50 p.m. (bus schedule) or 5:00 p.m. (bus driver).

We saw the spas, the Golden Bears, the food, the County exhibits, the Bungee Jump, the carnival, the Bee man, the bathrooms, the bird show, the barbeque, the Budweiser Clydesdales, the pigs, the sheep, the cows, the goats, the computers, the State Fair Police, the commercial exhibits, the wine tasting, the forest, the farm, the butterflies, Water World, the cinnamon buns, the pig races, the kayaks, Fur & Feathers, the county flags, and all the rest.

The weather was a little chilly (at first) for some of the people with sleeveless shirts, but it warmed up and became more pleasant. It never got oppressively hot, a trait for which Sacramento is famous.

Most everyone made it back to the buses by 4:50 p.m., with the last two arriving just in time to catch the second bus, and we left at 5:00 p.m.

The bus trip back to the train station was uneventful and they dumped us at the depot at 5:18 p.m. to wait for the train crew to arrive and let us on board.

We left a few minutes past the "advertised" time of 5:45 p.m. and headed back to the bay area.

The lounge car was up-and-running and the line was quite long before the train even started moving. There were a lot of snacks and sandwiches, sodas and beer, candy bars and pizza sold most of the way home.

We met some nice people on the train, but there were also a lot of people who slept most of the way home. The AMTRAK California locomotive was in "push" operation, so it was possible to see out the "front" of the cab car until the engineer got just a little bit too much "help" and closed the door. It was fun while it lasted.

The train arrived at the San Jose depot very close to the scheduled 9:15 p.m. Everyone made their way to their cars and then home, with another wonderful trip under our combined belts.

Just like last year, there will be some letters to AMTRAK, but there were not nearly the same problems as last year.

Your comments can go on this page. Just send them in.

See you next year!


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Preliminary report posted on August 20, 1996. Last updated at 16:55 PST on March 13, 1999.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA