Can you currently get from LA to San Fran by rail?

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Comstock

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I've just been reading about the Hyperloop and the (perhaps more realistic?) proposed California High Speed Rail.

Which begs the question, can you currently make the journey, and how long does it take? Wiki talks about high speed rail from Bakersfield to Sacremento, but nothing else.....
 
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edwin_m

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You can also get trains between Oakland (across the bay from San Francisco) and Bakersfield where there is a connecting bus to LA. This one gets six trains end-to-end per day, an intensive service by American Intercity standards, and very approximately follows the high speed route.
 

richardderby

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Harpers Tate

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Note that the SFO terminal for all Amtrak trains is in fact across the bay in Oakland, from where a bus connection serves the city proper.
 

ac6000cw

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You can travel all the way by train from LA to San Francisco itself by changing from the Amtrak 'Coast Starlight' to Caltrain (commuter rail) at San Jose (and vice-versa southbound) - on weekdays at least. The weekend Caltrain service is more limited so the timings are tight to impossible (especially given the poor timekeeping of Amtrak long-distance trains generally!).

By that route, it's almost exactly 12 hours northbound, a bit longer southbound if trains are on-time.
 
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bangor-toad

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Hi there,
It is possible to do LA to San Francisco on trains but not on one service.

The Amtrak Coast Starlight, see richardderby links above takes you from Union Station is LA up to San Jose. That takes the day, 10am to about 8:30pm.
You can then get a Caltrain up the west bay through Palo Alto, Menlo Park, past SFO airport and into San Francisco. Link (pdf) to the timetable.


I did the trip a few years ago. I flew into LA, stayed in an airport hotel that night and got the LA metro to Union station in the morning. It was then a day's ride along the coast.
Let me stress this bit: It's a great trip!

You leave through the mad suburbs of LA, past Burbank airport and go up and through the LA mountains. You then drop down to the coast and go along the top of beach through Santa Barbara and then there's a trip through Vanderberg US Airforce base.
Then its onto the central valley which isn't the most interesting bit to be fair but it's a got to late afternoon and it's an excellent moment to check out the beer offerings in the restaurant car.
The bit around King City is dreadfully boring unless you like looking at cabbages but fortunately there's a lot of freight traffic to look at.
Then once past Salinas you start to get to the outer suburbs of San Jose and the start of the whole built up area.

You need to change trains at San Jose unless you want to carry on to Oakland, Sacremento or other places north.
Or since it'll be dark, stay in San Jose and check out the rather good brew pubs and the go on to San Francisco the next day in daylight.

Cheers,
Mr Toad
 

Groningen

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The route between Oakland and Bakersfield is as flat as the Netherlands. The busconnection to and from Los Angeles is more interesting. One travels across the Tejon Pass at a height of more than 1.200 meters. Los Angeles is just at sealevel! Bakersfield at 120 meters. Trucks look like snails and going down hope that the breaks work.

https://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/811/41/San-Joaquin-Schedule-011116.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tejon_Pass

Going with the Coast Starlight; there is only at San Luis Obispo a little bit excitement with a few S-curves to gain height. To Atascadero about 200 meters higher than SLO.
 

ianhr

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Another option, not mentioned is to leave/join the CS at Oakland Jack London Square and take a short bus ride (12 blocks along Broadway and quite frequent) to 12th Street/Oakland City Centre station and then BART to San Francisco, since the buses and BART run until late this is not vulnerable to late running of the CS.

Also if you are taking the San Joaquin route via Bakersfield there is a direct connection to BART at Richmond to/from San Francisco, you merely go up/down the escalator at Richmond to transfer between Amtrak and BART platforms.....much better than the advertised bus connection via Emeryville and no problem if you have luggage!
 
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Groningen

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Yes, but why leave the train at Richmond to enter BART system and pay extra. I assume that Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco have about the same prices!
 

ianhr

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Yes, but why leave the train at Richmond to enter BART system and pay extra. I assume that Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco have about the same prices!

Yes, unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there is no through ticketing for any of the rail based transfer options. If you transfer from Amtrak to/from Caltrain at San Jose, or from Amtrak to/from BART at Oakland or Richmond you must pay another fare. Amtrak seem to prefer to direct their passengers to buses for most destinations that they do not serve directly rather than cooperate with other passenger rail operators.

However I think there may be some inter-availability of tickets between Amtrak and Metrolink south of LA towards San Diego but I believe the conditions are complex.... I am open to correction.
 

LAX54

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Hi there,
It is possible to do LA to San Francisco on trains but not on one service.

The Amtrak Coast Starlight, see richardderby links above takes you from Union Station is LA up to San Jose. That takes the day, 10am to about 8:30pm.


and a mere (approx) 350 miles !!
 

philabos

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Yes, mostly a single track railroad with passing sidings. Not all that much freight.
Timekeeping fairly decent absent locomotive failure and grade crossing incidents.
 

Ianigsy

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However I think there may be some inter-availability of tickets between Amtrak and Metrolink south of LA towards San Diego but I believe the conditions are complex.... I am open to correction.

No particular wisdom on this, but when I travelled into LA from Anaheim and back again in 2004, I was on Metrolink in both directions and on the way out in the evening, a conductor came through specifically asking for Amtrak tickets. It's an interesting network and it seemed quite strange to be seeing Canadian liveried locos so far south- LA Union Station has a style all its own but the network operates very much on the basis that it's there to get people into LA (and to a lesser extent San Diego) in the morning and out again in the evening.
 

edwin_m

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No particular wisdom on this, but when I travelled into LA from Anaheim and back again in 2004, I was on Metrolink in both directions and on the way out in the evening, a conductor came through specifically asking for Amtrak tickets. It's an interesting network and it seemed quite strange to be seeing Canadian liveried locos so far south- LA Union Station has a style all its own but the network operates very much on the basis that it's there to get people into LA (and to a lesser extent San Diego) in the morning and out again in the evening.

Many cities in North America operate this "commuter rail" model where passenger services are largely confined to peak hours because there aren't enough passengers at other times and often the line is needed for use by freight.
 

Mikey C

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The AMTRAK bus link from Emeryville to San Francisco might be a bus, but it does go over the Bay Bridge which is pretty dramatic and there are several drop offs once you get to SF, so it's pretty convenient
 
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