Fresno, CA (FNO)
Built in 1899 in the picturesque Mission Revival style, the station is within easy walking distance of City Hall and the Fresno County government center.
2650 Tulare Street
Santa Fe Station
Fresno, CA 93721
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 369,582
- Facility Ownership: City of Fresno
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Fresno
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
- San Joaquins
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Amtrak stop in Fresno is located one block south of the City Hall and a few blocks east of the Fresno County government center, which contains a number of civic structures. The station is an intermodal center also used by intercity bus services.
Amtrak occupies a portion of the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown that is named after the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF)—the “Santa Fe” for short—that once ran through Fresno. Erected in 1899, the depot was designed in the Mission Revival aesthetic popular at the turn of the 20th century. When completed, the Fresno depot was a picturesque composition of intersecting volumes that made the building appear larger than its actual floor plan. The hipped and gabled roofs with wide eaves were covered in red Spanish clay tiles that contrasted with the warm, earthy tones of the stucco on the walls. The choice of cladding was popular, for its texture drew comparisons to the adobe used in many of southern California’s early missions and ranch houses.
As with most standard station designs, the basic form of the Fresno depot was a rectangle whose long side fronted on the tracks for maximum exposure. The elevation facing Santa Fe Avenue was marked by a central three story square tower with a hipped roof. At the tower’s base there was a porte-cochere that protected passengers from inclement weather as they arrived by carriage or automobile; the wall above was embellished with a delicate clock face executed in wrought iron. The tower also intersected the main volume of the station which was two stories. The passenger waiting room and ticketing areas were on the ground floor and railroad offices were located on the second level. The passenger areas were flooded with light that entered through wide, arched, tripartite windows and doorways whose central transoms were shielded by decorative spindles.
The two story central section of the depot was framed by one story wings to the north and south. The north end of the building boasted an open air waiting room that was a popular feature in warmer climates. It was wrapped in an arcade that continued down the trackside façade of the building to shelter passengers from the summer sun and the winter rains as they waited outside for the arrival of the train. Facing Tulare Street, the waiting room was fronted by a remate, a dramatic curvilinear gable common to the Spanish Revival style of architecture. In its center above an archway was a stylized, curved Juliet balcony with a balustrade of twisting wrought iron.
The south end of the building was reserved for freight functions, as indicated by the wide, arched doorways that allowed for the easy movement of hand wagons loaded with crates and parcels. The space’s function is also given away by the wheel guards at the base of the doorways and the small, high windows that provided security for the valuable items stored within. Although the gracious arcade did not extend along the freight room, the doors were sheltered by a canopy, but the difference between the two coverings clearly demarcated the passenger and freight zones of the depot.
Almost as soon as it was finished, the depot was altered by the ATSF to add needed office space; Fresno was a busy shipping point and also served as the Valley Division headquarters. In the course of nine separate modification projects between 1909 and 1985, the depot’s south wing was expanded, the outdoor waiting room was enclosed, and the tower, clock, and porte-cochere were obscured. In effect, the alterations destroyed the building’s original picturesque composition.
Due to a change in personal travel options and a shifting of federal support to highways and air transportation infrastructure after World War II, passenger railroads began to decline. Similar to many depots in that era, the Fresno station was closed in 1966. Ten years later, concerned citizens had the depot listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its architecture and the role it had played as a hub of community life. The ATSF used the building as a communications and control center, but allowed the exterior to deteriorate until the old depot was finally shuttered in the early 1990s and sat vacant for more than a decade. For many years, Amtrak used a freight house located a few hundred feet south of the depot. Constructed in 1926, the two story building referenced its neighbor through the use of Spanish Revival elements such as remates.
Following years of abandonment, the city of Fresno purchased the building in 2003 with the intention of restoring the structure as part of a larger downtown revitalization plan. The $6 million project returned the depot to its 1899 appearance and created comfortable passenger areas and new office space. Demolition work removed various additions, although the expansion of the freight wing was retained to provide office space. The depot’s walls and roofs were strengthened in accordance with current seismic codes, the tower and clock were reconstructed, windows and doors were rebuilt or replaced, and a new coat of stucco was applied. The station grounds were also upgraded with the addition of a roundabout between the depot and the freight house for better vehicle access, improvements to the parking area, and the creation of new landscaped planting beds that took into account the existing groups of mature palm trees.
Inside, an enlarged 5,400 square foot passenger waiting room, ticket counter, and back office better accommodate San Joaquins and Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach riders. 12,300 square feet on the first and second floors were rehabilitated as leasable office space in order to generate income as well as to make the station a busy place throughout the day. Guided by Johnson Architecture of Fresno, the restoration received numerous preservation awards upon completion.
Funding for the work was obtained primarily through the California Department of Transportation, the California Pollution Control Financing Authority, the California Office of Historic Preservation, and the city of Fresno. The rededication ceremony held on February 12, 2005, was attended by the mayor and city council members, officials from the California Department of Transportation, and U.S Representative Jim Costa who helped obtain funding for the work. In addition to the traditional ribbon cutting ceremony, the celebration included tours and history exhibits.
Fresno is located at the center of the San Joaquin Valley, which was explored by the Spanish in the late 18th century. Early travelers encountered bands of the Yokut American Indians who were spread throughout the region. The valley was not settled by European-Americans until the 1820s. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, much of the land in southern and central California was broken up into large estates that were often doled out to the friends of those in power. Although isolated from populated coastal areas due to the mountain ranges, the valley was used for grazing. The Gold Rush of 1849 attracted adventurers to California from the eastern and Midwestern United States. Many dreams of gold came to naught but settlers remained in the west and built lives. Subsequently, many of the Yokut were driven off their land and onto designated reservations.
Substantial population growth in the San Joaquin Valley did not occur until the arrival of the Southern Pacific (SP) and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroads in the late 19th century. By the early 1870s, the SP—and the Central Pacific Railroad (CP), which it controlled—were working on a line that would run down the valley to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles. Those cities were California’s two most important ports and political and economic centers for the northern and southern regions of the state, respectively.
By spring 1872, the CP platted the land that soon became Fresno. According to historical accounts, plans called for establishing a station near the San Joaquin River where water could be obtained. Leland Stanford, one of the backers of the CP, traveled to the area in 1871; a few miles south of the proposed site, he saw lush fields of grain growing in the desert. Intrigued, he visited the farm and learned of the irrigation system put in place by early settler Anthony Easterby. Inspired by the productivity of the land, the station location was moved down the line and adjacent to Easterby’s property. The new community was named “Fresno,” the Spanish word for “ash tree,” since the area was dotted with them.
Similar to many railroad towns, the street grid was oriented to the tracks, and a small wood depot was hastily built, along with a couple of stores, stables, hotels, and saloons. The village quickly gained in population as merchants moved from nearby Millerton; although located on the San Joaquin River, Millerton had been bypassed by the railroad and flooding remained a concern. Within two years of its founding, Fresno was named the county seat and therefore gained a courthouse and government and legal offices.
Early settlers labored to build the irrigation ditches and canals necessary for agriculture. In order to streamline this process and promote settlement on a larger scale, nine agricultural colonies were established on the perimeter of Fresno. Most colonization efforts aimed to secure water rights, prepare the land for agriculture, and then sell the plots. The first to experience great success was the Central California Colony, started in 1875 on six square miles southwest of downtown. Promoters divided the parcel into 192 20-acre farms, and even planted starter grapevines. Across the board, the early results of colonization were uneven as farmers struggled to determine the best crops for the land and climate. Interestingly, the imprint of these schemes remains on the landscape in the form of the farmland on the city’s edge and in many of its street names.
Agriculture became the mainstay of the local economy, and raisins soon put Fresno on the national map. The city became famous for the sun-dried fruit, and by the first decade of the 20th century, local farmers produced almost 200 million pounds per year and shipped them across the country. Figs, olives, and grapes for wine production were also grown. The quick expansion of the city and the region’s agricultural bounty prompted the SP to erect a new brick depot at Tulare and H Streets in 1889 that could handle increased freight shipments. Enlarged between 1914 and 1929, the station stretches along the tracks and features a deep, shady eave, numerous cross gables, and a turret. Closed in 1971, the depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and was later reborn as an office building.
The SP had a monopoly on fast transportation within the valley for two decades, and its freight rates prompted complaints from farmers who thought them too high. The primary rival to the SP in California was the ATSF, which had entered the far southern area of the state in the 1880s. In the mid-1890s, the new San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad (SF&SJV) proposed an alternate route through the San Joaquin Valley; by purchasing the SF&SJV in 1899 and securing trackage rights over the SP’s Tehachapi line, the ATSF gained a route between Los Angeles and the San Francisco bay area. The main line tracks were laid through Fresno in 1896.
A century later, Fresno is the dominant hub of the San Joaquin Valley, and one of California’s largest cities. The valley is considered one of the world’s most productive agricultural zones, and its products, which are shipped across North America, contribute billions of dollars to the state and national economies. Products range from grapes and tomatoes to cotton and dairy goods. In addition, the city has also developed as a medical center.
The growth of the city over the 20th century attracted immigrants from around the world, as well as Americans from other sections of the country. The rich histories of these groups are exhibited in festivals held throughout the year, such as the Taste of Armenia that features food, dancing, and children’s activities. The Cinco de Mayo celebration is one of many events that explore the region’s Hispanic heritage. Fresno is also known for its Christmas Parade. Held since 1929, it features a wide array of floats, bands, and dancing troupes.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station. The San Joaquins service is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California, Department of Transportation, and is managed by the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.
- 11 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 98 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Shipping Boxes
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift