Fremont, CA (FMT)
After the city gained Capitol Corridor service in 1993, it worked to purchase and restore the historic Southern Pacific depot, which included moving the building across the tracks.
37260 Fremont Boulevard
Fremont, CA 94536
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 40,617
- Facility Ownership: City of Fremont
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Fremont
- Platform Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Track Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The restored former Southern Pacific station in Fremont, served by both the Capitol Corridor and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), provides a waiting room for travelers as well as a diner with a marble counter and classic metal pedestal stools from the former Cloverdale Creamery; a meeting room which can be rented for functions; and an observation porch from which patrons can sip their coffee and watch rail activity in this downtown location. One of six surviving rail depots within the city limits, today’s Fremont Amtrak station is located in the Centerville district—Centerville being one of the five towns that was incorporated into the city.
While there had been a horse-drawn narrow gauge railroad between the towns of Newark and Centerville since 1882, and train service to nearby Niles even earlier, the first steam-powered passenger train of the Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad arrived in Centerville on the morning of May 29, 1909 to a hearty celebration of its arrival. It was more than a year later that the Centerville station moved out of its boxcar and into a new SP “One Story Combination Depot No. 23.” SP built the single-storey depots where the station master and his family could find lodging elsewhere; otherwise they would live upstairs in a two-storey version of the same. The depot’s design included a ticket sales counter, an area to check baggage, a telegraph bay and stationmaster’s window out onto the platform and a small attached warehouse for freight. This wooden depot was painted in standard SP colors of colonial yellow, dark yellow and medium brown; the roof in moss green; and the window sashes in white.
Thus Centerville, an agricultural town sited between the southern end of San Francisco Bay and the Mission Hills, joined the web of rail transport that once linked much of California in the early years of the 20th century. The trains carried milk and produce from the area’s dairy and truck farms, orchards and fields, brought relatives and immigrants to town and allowed residents to journey easily to the state’s larger cities for both business and pleasure.
The country’s massive shift to automobile transportation eventually brought the halt of passenger service to Centerville after March 29, 1940. Up to 1958 the depot saw freight traffic instead of passengers, and was used as a Railway Express Agency, supporting the shipment of crops from the Williams packing shed which stood about where the restored depot now stands. Southern Pacific formally retired the depot on September 30, 1961.
Over the next 30 years, the building served as a maple furniture store, a toy store, a spice store and an electronics store; but by 1991, the depot was vacant, boarded up and deteriorating. The old station building in Centerville’s downtown gained a new lease on life with Fremont’s petitioning for Amtrak service in 1991. The call for rail service was heard: in July of 1992, Caltrans named Fremont’s Centerville station to be a new stop on its Capital Corridor train line. However the state did not provide the $500,000 the city sought for renovations, but just enough for a platform, shelter, and parking lot. On June 4, 1993, the Capitol Corridor train rumbled into town, returning passengers to the stop after a 53 year absence. At first, they had little shelter and nothing but a platform to stand on.
The city of Fremont acquired the depot in December of that year and began to plan its restoration, which required moving it to the opposite side of the tracks as part of the purchase from SP. Additional urgency likely attended the purchase: if the depot had not been moved, SP might have had it demolished. And, on March 15, 1995, the depot moved across the railroad tracks to its new location and was turned 180 degrees to properly face the rails.
Between state and federal funding, the city managed to obtain $900,000 for moving the depot, creating a new foundation, and restoring the depot to its early 1920s appearance. The restored station and a crowd of excited celebrants welcomed its first Capitol Corridor train of its new life on June 12, 1999.
While its proud city considers the Centerville depot to be historic (and it is, in an important sense), it is not on either the state or the national official registers of historic properties. The city maintains that only 12 of the 60 original No. 23 style SP depots built between 1896 and 1916 are standing today, and of these, the Centerville depot is the only one in use as a train station.
Shortly after the station reopened, the same Fremont redevelopment agency that had restored the station designed and built an outdoor community gathering space on the south side of the rails across from the station. This 20,000 square foot space became the Bill Ball Plaza, in honor of a former mayor of Fremont, and featured an attractive reproduction of a Southern Pacific train shelter as part of a wisteria-clad arbor. Tidy landscaping, hardscaping and lighting combined in this public space to create a pleasant and sympathetic compliment to the depot on the other side of the rails. The plaza was begun in 1999 and completed in 2002, with an eye to providing a future eastbound ACE platform. The project, which was also intended to attract businesses, cost $1.7 million, which included the purchase of five parcels, design and construction.
The Fremont area’s history begins with the long tenure of the Ohlone peoples, who lived beside what we know as San Francisco Bay for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived in California. In 1797, Father Fermin Lasuen founded the Mission San Jose at the foot of Mission Peak, about 15 miles northeast of the Pueblo of San Jose and not far from Centerville. The Franciscan fathers converted the Ohlone to Catholicism and this is where agriculture and ranching in Alameda County began. Not many of that Mission’s original adobe buildings have survived, but the site has been reconstructed and become a historical park open to the public.
Between 1836 and 1848, much of the Fremont area was further divided by Mexican grant into three large ranchos: Rancho del Agua Caliente (Warm Springs area), Rancho Arroyo de la Alameda (Niles – Decoto area), Rancho Potrero de los Cerritos (Newark – Alvarado area) as well as the Ex-Mission San Jose. With the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, the trickle of American explorers became a flood of settlers and the former Mission San Jose became a boisterous supply center for hordes of miners on their way to the gold mines. However, many coming to the Fremont area discovered the fertile lands and turned the countryside from a pastoral haven to one of intensive agriculture. Agriculture dominated the area by the time of the Gold Rush, with grapes, apricots, nursery plants and olives as leading crops.
At the same time, John C. Fremont mapped a trail through Mission Pass to provide a route for American settlers into the southeastern San Francisco Bay Area. In 1853, Washington Township was established, taking in the communities of Mission San Jose, Centerville, Niles, Irvington, and Warm Springs. In the 1870s, the railroads began to come through the area, following hard on the success of the first transcontinental railroad passing not far to the north of the towns. The hamlet of Vallejo Mills became a railroad junction that developed into the town of Niles. The Decoto Land Company incorporated to buy land and lay out the town of Decoto along the Western Pacific Railroad line. The town of Newark was started by the South Pacific Coast Railroad which built a narrow gauge line south to Santa Cruz and north to Alameda. Newark became famous for the Carter rail cars manufactured there.
From 1912 to 1916, Niles, just next door to Centerville, became home to one of the earliest of the film studios to migrate to California, Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, owned by George K. Spoor and Gilbert M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson. On April 1, 1912, the 52 members of the company arrived by train, invading a town of 1,400 people, and brought imaginations and a sense of excitement with them. Over the next few years they constructed a large compound and produced a minimum of two 15-minute one-reel films every week. In 1915, Charlie Chaplin signed with Essanay, and this is where he made his famous film, The Tramp, among others. With the establishment of rival studios that began making longer films, Essanay became obsolete; and after Chaplin left in 1915, they closed not long after.
In the post-World War II boom era, the larger communities to the north of Washington Township began to acquire smaller towns to feed their growth. Out of self-defense and wishing to preserve their identities on their own terms, the five small towns of Irvington, Centerville, Niles, Mission San Jose and Warm Springs incorporated in 1956 into the city of Fremont, which touches the bay north of the city of Newark, which remained its own corporate entity.
A short trip across the bay from San Jose and Palo Alto, Fremont has grown up with the coming of high tech and automotive production to the bay area. One of the original Apple Computer production facilities was in Fremont (it ceased production in 1993); other semiconductor and communications firms soon established in the city and nearby.
Today the rolling hills reach above the city much as they have in the past, golden and dotted with the gnarled dark green of trees, beckoning the visitor up to the historic garden grounds of the California Nursery Company, the Niles Depot Model Railroads and Museum in the restored Niles depot, or to the Niles Canyon Railway with its steam and diesel excursions out to Sunol.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station. The Capitol Corridor route is primarily financed and operated in partnership with the State of California. It is managed by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), which partners with Amtrak, the Union Pacific Railroad, Caltrans and the communities comprising the CCJPA to continue development of a cost-effective, viable and safe intercity passenger rail service.
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Long Term Parking Spaces
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Short Term Parking Spaces
- Wheelchair Lift