Santa Clara-Great America, CA (GAC)
The station offers easy access to the Great America amusement park, known for its roller coasters, live stage and musical shows, and themed fantasy lands.
5099 Stars and Stripes Drive
Under Tasman Drive Overpass
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 151,802
- Facility Ownership: N/A
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Santa Clara
- 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).
In the late 1980s, the state of California decided to make significant investments in intercity passenger rail. With a service area that spans eight northern counties, the Capitol Corridor was inaugurated in 1991 and envisioned as an alternative to congested Interstate 880. Located on the northern fringe of town near California’s Great America amusement park, the Santa Clara-Great America station consists of a concrete platform with a simple shelter to protect passengers from the warm summer sun and cool winter rains. Lush flowering shrubs line the edge of the platform and provide a showy display of white and red blossoms. The station is also a stop for the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), a rail service that links Stockton and San Jose, and local buses run by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
Passengers heading for a day of fun and sun at the amusement park can hop a shuttle bus from the rail station to the park entrance. Opened in 1976, Great America was the result of a partnership between actor Fess Parker, who had played Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett on television, and the Marriott Corporation and was intended to be a family-friendly destination. Marriott later decided to sell the complex, and it was purchased by the city of Santa Clara which in turn sold it again in the late 1980s. Today, California’s Great America remains a prime regional destination known for its roller coasters, live stage and musical shows, and themed fantasy lands.
When the Spanish first explored the area along the southern end of San Francisco Bay, it was inhabited by the Ohlone American Indians who moved between the uplands and the shore where they hunted amid the wetlands and gathered grasses to construct shelters. In the latter half of the 18th century, the Spanish Empire based in Mexico began to make greater efforts to secure the California coast. Franciscan missionaries worked toward the conversion of the region’s American Indians to Christianity, a stated goal of Spanish colonization.
In January 1777, the friars established Mission Santa Clara and set out to work among the Ohlone, teaching not just religion, but also practical skills such as woodworking and tanning. While some Ohlone willingly participated in the mission system, many were forced into compliance. The Franciscans chose the Santa Clara Valley because its grassy expanse, dotted with sturdy oaks, was interlaced with springs that could be used to irrigate fields and support herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. Santa Clara was also meant to balance the mission at San Francisco, thereby creating a strong Spanish presence on the lower half of San Francisco Bay—one of the best natural harbors on the west coast of North America.
Two years later, the first mission complex was flooded by the Guadalupe River, and the friars decided to move it upland. The cornerstone for the permanent church was laid in November 1781 at a ceremony presided over by Father Junipero Serra, who is considered the founder of the chain of 21 missions that eventually stretched from San Diego northward to Sonoma. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, most of the mission properties were secularized and broken-up into “ranchos” or ranches that were subsequently granted to the friends and family members of important Mexican officials. The friars retained control of Santa Clara until 1836, after which it fell into disrepair.
In the next decade, life in California changed quickly and in a dramatic fashion. Following a three year war with Mexico, the United States gained control over the region in 1848. Within a few months, the word that gold had been discovered at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada Mountains spread like wildfire, setting off what is considered the greatest voluntary mass migration of people in human history. Hundred of thousands of Americans and foreigners set their sights on the perceived riches of California and quickly swelled the territory’s population. While only a lucky few actually found gold, many discouraged miners determined that the region’s fertile lands were worth staying around for to farm and establish a new life.
A small community formed around the old mission in the 1840s, and with the influx of settlers due to the Gold Rush, a town site was surveyed in the early 1850s. About that time, nearby San Jose was chosen to serve as the first capital of California. Between its newfound political power and the attractiveness of its fertile farmlands, the south bay region attracted settlers. Santa Clara benefitted from its proximity to San Jose. To accommodate the needs of residents, a college was founded in 1851 by the Jesuits amid the ruins of the mission. The town also gained prominence as the center of an extensive agricultural zone whose principal products were fruits, including apricots, plums, and cherries.
At mid-century, California experienced a period of railroad fever whose ultimate goal was to link the West and East Coasts. The Gold Rush had swelled the population of San Francisco which from then on was the dominant city of northern California. In 1861, a group of investors incorporated the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (SF&SJ) to link the two most important cities in the Bay Area; Santa Clara was one of only two intermediate stops. Because it is only about three miles northwest of San Jose, it probably would not have received its own station but for the influence of the college’s trustees, many of whom were stockholders in the enterprise. Ground was broken in May, and the line was completed to San Jose by January 1864. The first excursion ride that month between the two endpoints attracted thousands who crowded into coaches, box cars, and cattle cars. When the overburdened train reached San Jose, it was greeted with a 13-gun salute and city leaders proceeded with the usual speeches and good wishes.
Only four years after the commencement of service, the SF&SJ was absorbed by the new Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). The SP proceeded to construct a line into southern California and then towards the east, eventually linking with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway at Deming, NM in 1881 to complete the second transcontinental railroad. A few years later, the SP consolidated its power over regional railroading by purchasing the narrow gage South Pacific Coast Railroad, which had been constructed in the 1870s to link Alameda and Santa Cruz. It passed through Santa Clara and adjacent farmlands and provided access to stands of timber in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Santa Clara remained the quieter cousin of bustling San Jose; the second half of the century would bear witness to great change. World War II set off a burst of research into high technology to support the war effort, such as computing, radar and radio, and aeronautics. Post-war, San Jose and Santa Clara developed as the epicenter of semiconductor production. These chips allowed for major developments in the electronics industry, and established corporations and start-ups moved to the area. Orchards were transformed into office parks boasting names such as Intel and National Semiconductor. Between 1940 and 1960, Santa Clara’s population exploded from about 6,600 residents to 59,000. The region also gained a moniker known the world over—“Silicon Valley”—due to one of the major ingredients needed to make semiconductors. In time, the region blossomed into a global hub for high technology, and today hundreds of companies focus on the development of microprocessors, computer software and hardware, and biotechnology.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station. TheCapitol 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
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Wheelchair Lift