Sunday, January 19, 2014

CalTrain's 150th Celebration: Native Sons

A couple of hundred people, some of them dressed up in 19th century costume, arrived at the CalTrain station at 4th and Townsend Saturday morning for a 150th birthday celebration of the San Francisco to San Jose rail line.

There were also plenty of politicians, including transit powerbroker Tom Nolan above right who heads the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB) with City Treasurer Jose Cisneros above left. Cisneros is one of three San Francisco County members of the nine-member organization that governs CalTrain, along with six additional reps from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Though he is not on the PCJPB, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner also showed up, possibly to get his face on television again.

At 9:40 we boarded a free train ride to the Santa Clara station, a wooden structure dating from 1863 that has recently been turned into a Railway Museum.

As part of the junket, CalTrain was handing out little gift bags with muffins and dried apples to the passengers, including a large contingent from the Native Sons of the Golden West, a fraternal organization formed in 1875 for California-born white men that was a powerful force in the creation of racist immigration laws to exclude Asians and Mexicans.

During World War Two, they were also responsible for much of the lobbying of California governor Earl Warren, a member since 1919, for the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps. From all accounts, the organization has become more inclusive in modern times, limiting membership to California-borns of any race, but their early 20th century history is shameful.

At seven vintage stations along the route, the train would pause for a proclamation, read by the mayor or some other representative of various Peninsula towns...

...including Palo Alto, where we were joined by their newly elected mayor, Nancy Shepherd above right. She was attending the tented 150th celebration, which turned out to be a local politicians' networking and speechmaking extravaganza.

More about the history, future and politics of CalTrain will come in the next installment.


janinsanfran said...

I have to admit that looks like a brutal jaunt -- unless they were passing out free drinks?

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Jan: It only gets more brutal in Part 2, but it was also oddly informative. And sadly there were no drinks of any kind being offered, nor was there a store anywhere near the Santa Clara station to buy anything for the trip back.