Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tale of 2 train stations goes back a century


Passengers exit a train while others board at the Suisun City train station. The train station on Main Street will get updates that include improved lighting and signage, remodeled restrooms, and making the area more accessable for people with disabilites. About 490 people pass through the station on an average day. (Adam Smith/Daily Republic)

From page A1 | March 30, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Suisun City has a train station, Fairfield plans to get one and officials from both cities seem happy with the situation.

What a difference a century makes. This is the 100th anniversary of the conclusion to a tug-of-war between the two cities, when railroad moguls decreed Fairfield-Suisun could have only one train station and both cities wanted it.

These days, there’s no train station war at all. Both cities will have their own.

Fairfield plans to start building its Fairfield-Vacaville train stop near Vanden and Peabody roads in 2015. The $81.5 million project includes building a bridge to take busy Peabody Road over the tracks, a station building, a boarding platform between the tracks reached by a tunnel and a solar array.

A Fairfield train stop could open in 2017, with service from the Capitol Corridor line that runs between the Sacramento area and Bay Area. Commuters could take the train to the Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Richmond.

Meanwhile, Suisun City plans to update its Main Street station for the 21st century at a cost of $700,000. It plans to do painting, remodel restrooms, improve lighting and signage and make the area more easily traversed by people with disabilities.

Suisun City has had a train station since 1868. About 490 people get on and off trains there on an average day.

When the Fairfield train stop opens, the area will have two train stations within about 5 miles of each other. But local officials seem unafraid this is more than is needed.

Fairfield Public Works Director George Hicks talked about increasing overall ridership, not simply splitting up those riders already using the Suisun City station.

Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez isn’t worried that a new Fairfield station will send his city’s long-established station into eclipse. One reason is the Suisun City station is in the established, historic Old Town area. Fairfield’s is targeted for an area with a few subdivisions and businesses such as storage yards, but no real attractions.

“Of course, Suisun City will be less important, but it won’t be for another 10 years, unless Fairfield can come up with a waterfront and the kind of restaurants we have,” Sanchez said.

Fairfield plans for developers to build 6,000 homes, a Main Street-style business area, parks and industry around its train station in coming decades. But even then, Sanchez sees the Suisun City station continuing to thrive. Suisun City may become a destination for those new Fairfield residents who are only a short train ride away, he said.

“It will be a boom for Suisun City,” Sanchez said.

Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering served as mayor of Suisun City from 1986 to 2006 and played a role in revitalizing the Suisun City station in the early 1990s. He also sits on the Capitol Corridor board of directors.

The Fairfield station will pick riders from Vacaville, parts of Fairfield and Travis Air Force Base who don’t use the Suisun City station, Spering said.

Express trains might go straight from the Fairfield station to the Richmond BART station, Spering said. Trains leaving the Suisun City station stop at the Martinez station along the way.

Yet he sees the Suisun City station continuing to have daily Capitol Corridor runs to the Bay Area, even if those express trains pass it up.

“By the time that Fairfield station opens, we’re going to have additional trains,” Spering said.

So each city will apparently have its own station. A train station dispute like the one that broke out 100 years ago will be avoided.

Suisun City got its station when the California Pacific Railroad built the region’s first rail line. The first train ran from Vallejo to Suisun City in 1868. The few hundred people who lived in the area in these pioneer days had another way to get around besides by foot, horse or boat.

But that station was located several blocks south from its present location, at the end of Solano Street, in the middle of Suisun City, several blocks from neighboring Fairfield.

Suisun City’s train station became part of that town’s identity. Meanwhile, residents in Fairfield wished their town had a station, too.

In 1912, Fairfield stopped wishing and started acting. The town in March of that year sued to compel Southern Pacific – the latest owner of the rail line – to build it a station, too, little more than a half-mile north from the Suisun City station.

On March 19, 1912, the State Railroad Commission conducted a hearing at the Solano County Courthouse in Fairfield. Southern Pacific officials said the company could not afford to have two stations so close together to serve 1,500 residents who lived in the two towns.

Southern Pacific asked Suisun City to show why the existing depot shouldn’t be moved toward Fairfield to serve both towns.

That idea didn’t fly in Suisun City. The Suisun City-based Solano Republican reported that, while Suisun City didn’t want to interfere with Fairfield’s interests, neither did it want to sacrifice its own.

Fairfield won the battle. The depot moved a few blocks to its present location. No longer was it called the Suisun station.

“Suisun-Fairfield! Change cars for Vallejo, Napa and Santa Rosa,” brakemen yelled on March 25, 1914, for the first time.

Suisun City apparently decided to make the best of the decision.

“The change of the passenger depot is one of the events which will help bridge the differences felt in the past and unite the two towns that never should have been separated,” the Solano Republican said.

Still, Suisun City in another sense won the battle. The Suisun-Fairfield station today is within the city boundaries of Suisun City. Fairfield has no station in its boundaries.

That could change within a few years, when both cities finally have a station of their own.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Discussion | 15 comments

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  • LilMarch 30, 2014 - 12:28 am

    First, express trains are not even mentioned in Amtrak's updated business plan. So where is Spering coming up with this? I would ask him but he does not respond to questions from his constituents. Spering, can you point to any kind of information that references express trains being created? Second, the 490 people who get on and off does not represent 490 unique individuals. According to Capitol Corridor, about 70% of people who use the train are commuting to work. If you commute one way, you have to commute the other way. So at least 70% of that 490 number are people being counted twice (on and off). Break it down and that number actually represents 318 unique people. Even if a new station doesn't take away any of the existing passengers but lures in the same amount, that is only 318 people. So we are building an $81.5 station so that MAYBE 318 people will take the train? How does this make sense to anybody? Third, does Sanchez really think that this is not going to persuade people not to take use Suisun's station? Of course this station will siphon off people. Especially if Spering's "express" trains skip Suisun. Since 70% of riders are commuters, they are going to take the express train and not use Suisun. Mr. Sanchez, 70% of train riders are commuters and are not using your station just because of nearby restaurants. What a waste of money this is.

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  • HKMarch 30, 2014 - 5:11 am

    The potential for Spering's property out there to appreciate is all the source he needs.

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  • Rick WoodMarch 30, 2014 - 12:30 am

    Now, that's the first time I've heard that the DR once had the editorial opinion that "two towns...never should have been separated." It's as true today as it was then. The dead hands of Captains Wing and Waterman guide our emotions today. Isn't it about time that we leave those ghosts behind us?

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  • FedUpMarch 30, 2014 - 7:03 am

    I used to commute by Amtrak. I really do not understand why the Old Court House parking lot, across the rail bridge in Fairfield, now stores trash cans and recycle bins for Solano Garbage. It could be used for commuter parking so people could walk over the railway bridge to the Suisun Train Station instead of driving over to Suisun from Fairfield on Highway 12. That is a waste of time, gas and is inefficient. I live in downtown Fairfield. I hate having to drive out if my way to get to the station. Now sure who can fix this but it makes no sense.

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  • CD BrooksMarch 30, 2014 - 7:42 am

    No majority in this city to my recollection supported the FF station since the idea was first presented. I think most agreed no station, no houses but absolutely build the overpass on Peabody. The council conveniently tied the overpass to the station project and it has been on ever since. We ALL know cost overruns and delays are a standard here and we ALL know that station is not what the majority wants. I believe that all funding should be directed to build the overpass first. Then create parking, security and shuttles if necessary for the Transportation Center. Direct further funding to the SS train station and surrounding areas to be redesigned or whatever it takes to make that a feasible option. Public transportation has to be available, efficient and affordable. If you build it they will come, IF you provide convenience and enough parking to encourage their support.

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  • S KApril 01, 2014 - 7:35 am

    IMO, has to be one of THE BIGGEST DumbArse things that I have read about, that the local politicals want to do. Just as the train is getting up some steam leaving one station, it will again have to slow down, coming to a stop mere miles apart, DUMB DUMB DUMB>>Your tax dollars being thrown down the toilet. Remember ALL THIS come election time!!!

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  • BobMarch 30, 2014 - 8:04 am

    That's the same game Spearing ran in Suisun Gave his property to his Aunt, when he left Suisun politics and got the land back his redevelopment had made him money and left the city to pay back funds it kept Of course Pothole Pete would like anything Jim told him We need to VOTE this bunch out or home owners are going to be left holding the bag for the return of the spent redevelopment funds

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  • HKMarch 30, 2014 - 4:04 pm

    I agree, but how will these guys get voted out if the DR can't or won't report on Spering's conflict of interest?

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  • TylerMarch 30, 2014 - 8:13 am

    The new train station is only the excuse to build Traintown. Those thousands of new homes have to fulfill the wishes of both AB32 to reduce air pollution and ABAG to site new housing in high density "walkable communities" near transit. No transit? No problem, just build a train station! But the train is an expensive way to commute. I don't believe the type of wages that will buy a high density townhome between FF and Vacaville will also pay for an expensive commute mode. And never mind merging FF and Suisun; this will yield a giant merge of FF and Vacaville.

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  • FredMarch 30, 2014 - 9:15 am

    The only thing Fairfield has managed to accomplish here is another vacant lot with a sign on it (even without an RDA). As far as that area goes, who would want to live in there? Right next to an airbase with a wonderful view of NBR (hope ya don't get a chemical leak). But then it's not like those folks can see anything other than there neighbor with those zero lot lines. We already had Cordelia isolated over by 680 & now Fairfield builds up another isolated area. Those in Cordelia complain about police coverage & response time as it is & now we will get another similar problem. City Management at its finest as usual. Keep up the great job Mraz et al, you are maintaining a great Fairfield tradition...And way to go Pete Sanchez with the Fairfield slap down...

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  • JagMarch 30, 2014 - 9:43 am

    There is another side of this to, (Yep) good old Harry this guy has got to go. I keep saying the young people of Fairfield have got to get out and out vote the senior citizen of this city to get this guy out, I hate to make it an age war but that is what it has become, I remember when Brian (the deputy) guy was running for city council he was saying he would vote to stop it but then Pam won and she fell right into line with the rest, I think we need 3 or for people to run together as a group on a platform that they will stop the station and NOT build new home and they could have a lot of backing.

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  • FredMarch 30, 2014 - 10:44 am

    They all need to go especially Mraz & Moy, as well as price. Unfortunately someone that is said to be running again is Chuck Timm & that's just going to be more of the SOS. And watch out for the new City Manager, David White. You have to wonder why employees are bailing City Hall in droves.

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  • EnVeeMarch 30, 2014 - 8:05 pm

    Absolute waste of Taxpayers money to have two stations in 5 miles IMHO. The Suisun station is perfect and renovations to it makes sense. The money spent on the other station could have been spent in the bus station instead.

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  • RobertMarch 30, 2014 - 8:55 pm

    Please DR, tell us about the conflict of interest ! Its just like politics not to tell us about who's getting richer from the land around the big builds. Has Spering made a pocket-full from this area, and did he make any money from the other big builds in Suisun?

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  • Clay D YoungbloodMarch 31, 2014 - 6:01 pm

    While working in the San Diego Area for decades, my family came back to Suisun on the Train, many times. I love the train. Me, Cathy and Joseph Youngblood.

    Reply | Report abusive comment

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