From: "James Dent" james DOT dent AT itochu DOT com
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 13:34:43 -0500
Subject: More on Palo Alto, CA with pictures
"mn_station3.jpg" - image/jpeg, 36858 bytes, 468x304 (35kb)
From San Francisco Chronicle...
After 60 years, Palo Alto's railroad depot is due for a face-lift
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, March 23,
Like any handsome 60-year-old with style, the Palo Alto railroad station is
in need of a face-lift. Starting this summer, the once spiffy depot will go
under wraps and emerge in a year or so looking like a million dollars, which
is what the overhaul will cost.
The station is kind of a modern classic. Opened by the Southern Pacific
railroad in January of 1941, when streamlined trains were sweeping the
the new station was a big break from the old-time depots.
It has sweeping lines, glass block windows, and what former station agent
and railroad historian Donald Perez called "a striking irregular beauty,
quaintness and charm."
The style is streamline moderne, a close relative of art deco, a style that
had its high noon in the 1930s. Palo Alto was the only railroad station in
Northern California to get this treatment and it is on the National Register
of Historic Places.
"It's a neat old building," said William Fellman, manager of the city of
Palo Alto's real property division. The city, Stanford University and the
federal government are putting up the money. Stanford and Palo Alto are
contributing $100,000 each. The federal contribution is $800,000.
For the money, the depot will get a new roof, all new rest rooms, seismic
work and an overhauled interior.
The station is just down the tracks from El Palo Alto, the tall redwood that
gave the town its name.
It also features one of those grand murals that used to grace rail stations:
This one shows Leland Stanford pointing the way West, with a cavalcade of
mission padres, American Indians and settlers. At the end of the line is the
orange and black Daylight streamlined train, pride of the Southern Pacific
in the days when the station was new.
The mural, and the passenger trains have faded since then, but both of them
seem to be on the comeback trail. One of the projects is to touch up the
Palo Alto was one of the few places that streamliners like the Daylights,
the Starlight and the Lark used to stop on their way from San Francisco to
But Palo Alto was always biggest as a commuter station. The streamliners are
gone, but the commuter business is thriving. Starting next month, Caltrain,
which runs the old SP service, will add two more daily trains, which means
that 80 trains, an all-time high, will stop at Palo Alto on weekdays.
Now the station waiting room is only open in the mornings, since there is
only one station agent. He's Dale Warkentine, who likes a one-man office.
"If something goes wrong, I look in the mirror and yell at the guy," he
When the overhaul is complete, the waiting room will be open as long as the
trains are running.
But the depot is more than a place for trains -- it's also a major terminal
for SamTrans and Valley Transportation Authority buses. The VTA, which
operates in Santa Clara County, is managing the station overhaul project.
And even the rail commuter business is different from what it used to be. In
former days, most Palo Alto commuters rode to San Francisco to work. Now
many commuters live in the city and work on the Peninsula.
To accommodate them, Bikestation Palo Alto opened two years ago. The idea
was commuters to Palo Alto could get off a train, hop on a bike, ride to
work and back at the end of the day. They could leave the bike in the
"It's a whole new deal," said Larry Chinn, the Bikestation manager.
But it's hard to please the wary commuters. "It's about time they did
something," said one commuter who was waiting for a southbound train. "It's
the little things that get you," he said. "Like the rest rooms being closed
in the afternoons. The way they don't have enough benches to sit on when you
are waiting for the train. Stuff like that. It's like they don't care, not
He said he's glad the station is being fixed up, but not hopeful. He
wouldn't give his name. "Here's my train," he said, "gotta run."