An Electrifying Milestone

by Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty, in partnership with PGH Wong Engineering and the Peninsula Corridor Electrification project (PCEP) team, successfully operated the Caltrain Electrification project’s electric trains under power from the overhead contact system (OCS) for the first time.

This milestone marks the first undertaking in North America in which diesel trains and their infrastructure components are transitioned to an electrified system. Serving the region since 1863, Caltrain is the oldest continually operating rail system west of the Mississippi and is set to electrify the corridor by 2024.

To electrify the OCS that powers the electric trains, over 3,000 foundations were constructed along the alignment, and a pole with steelwork was erected on top of each foundation to mount the wires for the electricity. Additionally, two traction power substations at either end of the railway, a switching substation in the middle and then seven paralleling substations in between were built and electrified to reach this milestone, followed by stringent testing to safely operate the trains on the test track.

The OCS will serve as the path for the power source, provided by the traction power stations, for the new electric vehicles to carry commuters throughout the area. Continued tests will be conducted on the Santa Clara Drill Track, and test runs will expand to the main track this summer.

Once complete, the project will improve the customer experience by increasing the number of trains, modernizing service and adding new safety elements while also increasing access for priority equity communities. Electrification will also help meet climate action goals by lowering greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, reducing noise and relieving traffic congestion.

Balfour Beatty is providing design-build services for the entire electrification, including the OCS, of the 52-mile Caltrain corridor with commuter rail service through San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties – as well as 17 cities along the railway.

Congratulations to our Caltrain team and the entire PCEP crew on bringing the electrification of the project one step closer to completion.


Video courtesy of Caltrain.