By Tasha Bartholomew, @tashbart

As the nation commemorates Black History Month this February, it occurred to me that Caltrain has been a long-time supporter of African Americans and the movement for many years now. For those who don’t know, Caltrain has been operating the annual Celebration Train since the early 90s.

Through a partnership with the NorCal MLK Community Foundation, the Celebration Train celebrates the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through an event that brings Bay Area community members together to honor the iconic civil rights leader. The free special event train, which pays tribute to the 54-mile 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, has been a great way to transport celebrants to San Francisco’s annual MLK Day Jr. march and related events. Activities onboard the Celebration Train have included a Civil Rights trivia, prizes and live music by a local church choir.

Before the event’s name change in 2016, some people might remember the special service train as the Freedom Train. Following King’s succession of marches in 1965, more than two dozen official MLK commemorative Freedom Train services were launched by the late Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband. Caltrain’s MLK train is the only remaining one of its kind in the nation still officially in operation.

In January 2020, the Celebration Train drew nearly 1,000 passengers for the ride from San Jose to San Francisco and has become a critical part of the annual MLK Day Jr. celebrations. 

Each year, thousands of people, of all nationalities, participate in Caltrain’s annual Celebration Train event.

As 2020 drew on and civil unrest began to boil over, Caltrain was able to leverage the Celebration Train messaging to support our passengers with a message of inclusivity that made Caltrain a positive part of the national dialogue about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Unfortunately due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Caltrain was unable to run the Celebration Train this year. However, we are hopeful that this special event train, which means so much to many, will return in January 2022, provided it can be done safely and responsibly.

Tasha Bartholomew is the communications manager for Caltrain. Her department is oversees the annual Celebration Train event.


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