What are these extra lanes for? Commuter hour train layups?

Curtis E Green's picture

I've noticed a third or center lane several places like between Castro valley and west dublin at the top of the hill and just after BayFair head south.. Are these extra lanes for emergencies? The one
near west dublin even has platforms it seems.

Layups for early morning commutes?

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They are pocket tracks, which can be used to store "game trains" for events, or for turning back trains without blocking others. Lets say you have an event at Oakland Coliseum. Depending on crowds, there can be trains at either or both the L15 and A57 pocket tracks (Castro Valley and Bayfair, respectively). Once the event ends, it makes it easy to get the trains there when the most people need them.

They can be also used for things like turning/troubleshooting a train with a mechanical problem (door open) while minimizing delays.

There are pocket tracks between Castro Valley and West Dublin , one near Bayfair and one near Lafayette. In addition, there are spur tracks located near Daly City (M87 spur), Fruitvale (A15 spur), and MacArthur (K23 spur, if I remember correctly). The spur tracks are used to store maintenance vehicles.

The commute trains generally start out at a yard and turn back early (usually Montgomery, 24th or North Concord, depending on time of day) to pick up another load of people.

Curtis E Green's picture

Thanks BARTGeek! What does the operator do when waiting for the event to end? It seems like the Operator is just waiting in the middle of nowhere! Bring a good book I guess?

So most the extra lanes we see all around the system are for repairs and maintence? Seems like a lot of extra miles of the stuff near south Hayward and Colma. It boggles the mind to think that for a few hours a night all these trains have to go somewhere out of service. Seems like even with all the yards an impressive feat of coordination.

Yes the seats may be dirty and the police may be a tad aggressive, but I tip my hat to the person who thought that all out.

Are you an operator BARTGeek or just a
Metrophile like myself?

The "game trains" are usually fresh from the yard so the time out on mainline is minimized. Most of the time it's about 30 mins of sitting before they roll the train in service.

Near South Hayward is the Hayward yard and Hayward test track, and there are 3 tracks near Daly City for the purpose of sweeping/turning trains at Daly City without blocking trains going further down the peninsula. There is also the Daly City yard, so you might be seeing that also.

It really is amazing how well the system works considering how it is maintained. With the last trains starting their runs at midnight, it can be almost 2 AM by the time the last train is in the yard. On the average day, that's only ~2.5 hours of work near the beginning and ends of a line and around 4 hours towards the middle of the system. This really doesn't give a lot of time to work, considering they have to move on-rail equipment from one place to another and back in that time.

I'm not employed by BART, I just picked up on a lot of the procedures and lingo over the last year or so. It's amazing how much you can learn with a scanner and some googling and emailing. I could go on all day about this stuff, so if you have questions feel free to ask.

Curtis E Green's picture

Wow. I'm impressed BARTGeek.

So I see two areas that could be the Castro Valley game train you speak of. One is directly east of the cv station terminating under the center st overpass, the other is at the top of the grade leading to w dublin by Shaefer ranch road. Is shaefer just an emergency exit?

What is the difference between a pocket and a spur? Please do go on forever! Fascinating stuff! What scanner set up do you have? Suggestions for a starter?

My father is a retired CTA operator, geeking out on bart is how I've been keeping his mind sharp.

I don't know off the tip of my head what those two different tracks are used for, all that I can tell you is they are used very rarely. I'm not familiar with the tracks out there.

Sorry for typos and bad formatting as I'm writing this on my phone, but I can give a basic explanation of how some of this works.

There really isn't a big difference between pocket/spur, just that pockets are generally for revenue vehicles and spurs are generally used for nonrevenue vehicles.

I have the Uniden BC346XT with the stock antenna, which works decently if you are within a few blocks of the tracks. Otherwise you will want a roof mounted antenna to attach to it to. The scanner itself I got off eBay for ~$150. You can also find a stream online, just google bart radio stream.

If you think of each main section of track as a "line" you can visualize what some of the radio lingo actually means. The system is divided up into "lines" by the area the track is in. The "M line" is all tracks from West Oakland to Daly City, "W line" is Colma to Millbrae, "A/L line" is Lake Merritt to Fremont and Dublin, "C line" is Rockridge to Bay Pt, "K line" is everything between MacArthur, Lake Meritt, and West Oakland, and "R line" is Ashby to Richmond. If you look at the ends of the platforms at these stations you see signs saying "entering the XX talk group" as a reminder for the TO to switch their radio to the correct line. Stations have codes, with all numbers starting at the Oakland Wye and getting bigger from there. 12th st is "K10", Rockridge is "C10", Fremont is "A90", etc. Only exception to this rule is Embarcadero (M16, between M10 West Oak and M20 Montgomery since Embarcadero was an infill station). The tracks have numbers also. Example: A1 track leads away from Oakland Wye to Fremont, and the A2 track goes from Fremont towards Oakland Wye. This is also how platforms are numbered at stations.

With all of this said, if you look out the window near switches (interlockings) you will see a sign. The sign is neon green or white, depending on the direction you are looking at it from. It says the interlocking name (similar to stations, for example R25 is between Berkeley, R20 and North Berkeley, R30), as well as the "gate" which is used to describe a route though an interlocking, or to limit a train's movement via run instructions. Example: "central indicates a route K35 Alfa to Foxtrot (A to F)", or "train 123 in road manual run the A1 track to A75 gate Bravo (B), and hold". Really quite amazing how well this was thought out.

If you (or anyone else reading this) do end up listening to a stream or though a scanner, this might be helpful:

Train numbering:
100 series: Fremont-Daly City
200 series: Fremont-Richmond
300 series: Bay Point-SFO
400 series: Richmond-Millbrae
500 series: Dublin-Daly City
900 series: Out of service

If a train is going out of service at the end of the line but is still in service for now, they add 400 to the trains callsign (377 becomes 777, 447 becomes 847, etc)

Curtis E Green's picture

OK i think i get it.

Me and pops are now making bets with each other at layups seeing who can guess what train is doing what. For example at Millbrae end of line some wait to go back in service others pulled out without passengers. still confused how commuter hour trains are laid up and brought out. They lay some in the station and some in a "pocket?" at the end of line.. What is the proper name for this area? Layup?

Seems Dublin sometimes has a full house and sometimes empty. I would love to figure that out, I'm clueless and losing my shirt to the old man.

Couple questions:
Your scanner works close range to tracks or the platform?
Do you observe the yards with yr scanner or just listen and piece it all together?
Is there a track number for end of line? Say, dublin layup or baypoint layup? Millbrae layup? or are these considered part of the station?

if call sign 377 becomes 777, it's completing it's route and terminating at it's home yard? Do cars get frequently switched train to train? Do cars/trains stay in one "home" yard? Do trains keep callsigns or how are they assigned? Lead vehicle serial?

is there a pattern to how they stage trains in yards? They seem to all have a 4 track staging area for this am I right/wrong?

idk if this is all offtopic for this forum feel free to email me Mr.CurtisE.Green@gmail.com

Sent you an email.