Caltrain Successfully Completes Three Major Milestones Towards Completion of Electrification Project

Caltrain today announced that it has completed the installation of every pole for the Overhead Contact System (OCS), which provides power to the electric trains, upgraded the signal system that allow electric trains to operate along the Caltrain corridor and successfully tested the new electric trains at maximum track speed of 79 mph. These three major milestones bring the Caltrain Electrification Project closer to passenger service in fall 2024. 

Caltrain and contractor Balfour Beatty have worked to install 2,569 pre-engineered poles and upgraded the existing signal system that will allow the electric trains to operate in an electrified corridor along the nearly 160-year-old right-of-way, which has continued to be active railroad during this process. The work in upgrading the existing signal system included upgrading every grade crossing on the electrified corridor.  The steel poles were safely lifted and elevated into place and then mounted on concrete foundation, a process that involved ongoing collaboration and hours of work around the clock to complete. A video of the final pole installation can be found here

With the final OCS pole installed, crews can now hang the last of the wire, as well as finish the final work on the OCS that will provide power to the electric trains, which will be tested along the full corridor from San Francisco to San Jose later this year. 

Additionally, Caltrain and the vehicle manufacturer Stadler, have successfully run tests using the OCS and the upgraded signal system with the new electric trains operating at maximum track speed to ensure that all the individual systems are working together as intended. Cameras were placed atop the trains to ensure that the interface between the pantograph on the train and the OCS was fully integrated and operating as designed and constructed. The trains were first tested at walking speed and with each subsequent test the speed was increased until reaching the maximum authorized track speed of 79 miles per hour.  

“These three milestones are a big step forward for the Caltrain Electrification Project and we’re now even closer to completing this transformative project,” said Caltrain’s Executive Director Michelle Bouchard. “I’m grateful to the tireless work of our staff and partners who have gotten us to this point, and I’m excited for the public to have another chance to see these world class trains this Saturday in San Francisco.”  

The South San Francisco Traction Power Facility went live in August, making it possible to fully power the entire Caltrain electrified corridor once the testing and OCS is complete this fall. Trains are currently being tested on the southern end of the corridor and will be expanding to more parts of the system in the months to come. 

The 51-mile Caltrain Electrification Project will be the first 25KV OCS system on the west coast and will provide power to the new state-of-the-art-electric trains.  

As crews continue to install more poles and wire for the electrification system, Caltrain is embarking on a public outreach campaign to educate passengers, residents and businesses about best safety practices along the corridor. The agency has sent out mailers, hosted community meetings and embarked on social media campaigns to remind everyone that all overhead wires on Caltrain property should be assumed to be energized now. More safety information about Caltrain Electrification is available here

The electrification of the Caltrain system will deliver major benefits to the communities that it serves. Electrification will reduce Caltrain’s greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate the particulate matter caused by the aging diesel engines. Engine noise created by the trains will also be reduced.  

Service will become both more frequent and more comfortable as state-of-the-art electric trains replace the 30-year-old diesel fleet. Caltrain electrification has also created thousands of jobs locally and throughout the country, both to electrify the corridor and to assemble the new trains, which were debuted to the public in July and are available for a public tour in San Francisco on Saturday, September 23. The infrastructure that is being installed will be compatible with future high-speed rail on the corridor.  


About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy. Serving the region since 1863, Caltrain is the oldest continually operating rail system west of the Mississippi. Looking to the future, Caltrain is set to electrify the corridor by 2024, which will reduce diesel emissions and add more service to more stations while advancing the agency’s equity goals. 

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Media Contact: Dan Lieberman, 650.622.2492