Rail – Jordan’s first train ride

Our former neighbors’ grandson Jordan turned 6 at the end of December, making him an eligible candidate for his first real train ride. It’s at that age when boys (mostly) can get hooked on trains.


That important mission was carried out this past Sunday when Jordan, his mom Hayley, grandparents Michael and Becki, and I rode Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor from Sacramento to Martinez and back.

Chico is not well-situated for a train joyride that actually originates here. The two trains each day that stop in Chico – the north and southbound Coast Startlight – do so in the middle of the night.

So we drove to Sacramento train station. parked on the street (free street parking on Sundays – saved the cost of parking at the station), and walked the short distance to the station.

We picked up our tickets, hit the next-door Starbucks, and then boarded the waiting train, with time for a quick photo op of Jordan in front of the train’s locomotive.

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The hour long trip each way is a good distance for children of this age – not too short but not too long.

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We disembarked at the Martinez train station which is at the foot of Martinez’ attractive downtown, and walked a few blocks to Main Street for lunch. We got a tasty pizza to go from Pacifica Pizza (Main and Alhambra), then ate it at a plaza two blocks away.

If you make a trip similar to this, here are two other inexpensive restaurants with table seating close by: Luigi’s Deli (corner of Main and Castro) or the Hot Dog Depot (almost next door to the station but closed on Sundays).

You could certainly take the time for a more leisurely lunch, too, as there are many trains per day, each direction, but since we only had an hour and a half between arrival and departure, time was important. One other option is bringing a picnic lunch, the Martinez Waterfront Park is a short distance from the station.

Did we succeed in turning Jordan into a certified railfan? Time will tell about that, but it’s clear that he enjoyed the outing as did we all.

Notes about Martinez:

Martinez is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours between trains. The downtown has narrow walkable streets and pleasant buildings. It also is the county seat for Contra Costa County.


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Martinez has a least two noteworthy pieces of history, one beyond dispute and the other somewhat cloudy.


An athletic figure associated forever with the New York Yankees, Joe DiMaggio, was born and raised in Martinez. He came from a large family, so you’ll see signs of the Dimaggios in Martinez.

Martinez’ lays claim to being the place where the martini was invented. You can google “origin of martini” and find all manner of things, but from Wikipedia is this entry which favors Martinez being the famous cocktail’s birthplace.

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2 Responses to Rail – Jordan’s first train ride

  1. Great to see Jordan and Hayley… I think Jordan will definitely become a railfan and train enthusiast. What a wonderful story to promote one of the original means of transportation in the Modern World.

  2. Boiled down from a 70 page tome of a nomination:

    Made of copper, iron, granite, Indiana limestone, bronze, mahogany, birch, pine, aluminum, steel, cement, ceramic quarry tile, cork, plaster, clear glass, frosted glass, other wood, and reinforced concrete. Built to nuclear bomb shelter grade, as are other buildings on Court Street.

    Historic significance:

    “U.S. Post Offices in California 1900-1941 Thematic Resources (January 11, 1985) as part of the development of Post Offices in California as an example of P.W.A. Moderne architecture, a sub-class of Art Deco.

    On a local level, the Martinez Downtown Post Office is significant in the areas of Art, Economics, and
    Politics/Government. During the Great Depression these themes intertwined inextricably.

    The Great Depression was the result of financial speculation and indulgences by individuals and institutions that exacerbated flaws inherent in the U.S. economy. It was not only a financial crisis, but also a crisis of national and individual values. The Depression occurred because people turned from self-sufficient agrarianism to an industrial-dependent consumerism.

    The New Deal was borne from the idea expressed by Progressives at Centurys turn that a democratic government can be used to advance the well-being of the people. This concept had not been evidenced tangibly in U.S. history and required bold experimentation. Roosevelt felt that direct relief programs (such as our current Welfare system) would cripple the spirit of the nation, making recovery less likely. Many of the New Deal agencies remain today: FDIC, Social Security, SEC, and more.

    On August 12, 1935 the Second Deficiency Appropriation Bill was passed in Congress allocating over $58 million dollars for 351 post office and court house buildings through the Secretary of the Treasury for relief of unemployment and passed the same week as the enactment of Social Security and other important legislation and collectively this is known as the beginning of the Second New Deal. The PO and its art work was constructed under this Treasury Department program, not the WPA or PWA.

    The Martinez Herald (20 September 1935) reported that the Court Street location was favored because construction of the federal building there will carry out a civic center plan embracing the hall of records, a proposed Martinez library, and the Memorial Hall. The art program under the Treasury was called “The Section” and unlike WPA art programs, The Section was competetive.

    The New Deal created the largest art program ever sponsored by the government. It was felt by New Dealers that fine arts paralleled a healthy economy, and this relationship was an expression of American culture. It was also feared that an extended Depression would destroy a generation of artists and American culture completely lost as a result.

    Through New Deal programs, artists were for perhaps the first time seen as intrinsically valuable to their communities. These artists accepted the obligation inherent in government-backed art, which was to express the social and political issues of the Depression era and the New Deals attempt to solve them.

    All murals painted under the Section had to be approved by representatives of the local community or sponsoring institution. Because of this, the murals were indicators of popular taste and reassurances of the national self-esteem and identity in the face of the Depressions economic and social hardships and chaos. The murals simultaneously reawakened redemptive myths by representing people manifesting their own destinies in a pre-industrialized agrarian and/or frontier. This was especially poignant because the Depression was a result of reliance on the fairly new industrial complex. As the Country sought to rekindle faith in itself, it looked back to a seemingly more innocent and uncomplicated time in which individuals still commanded their own destinies. A public experience of this representational art was necessary to confirm these ideals in the common peoplethereby strengthening those people and to remind America of its own greatness.

    Maynard Dixon is increasingly recognized as the link between the 19th Century landscape artists and modernism. He is the only Western cubist realist. He saw the close of the frontier, lived among indiginous peoples and portrayed them with nobility in their own environments without moralizing. He was married to the famous Depression photographer, Dorothea Lange and he was good friends with Ansel Adams. He and his second wife, Edith Hamlin, co created our Post Office mural.

    *The Road to Eldorado* a significant pioneer American endeavorthe Gold Rush. In this case it was the great journey to the West and the dream of gold which included ferry boats, horses, the Pony Express, and several ethnic types. The Martinez Post Office Mural expresses a version of the nineteenth-century American ideal of hope and promise.

    The Post Office Heraldic eagle is a symbol of the United States as well as the New Deals attempt to invoke hope and nationalism. Hitler and Rooseveldt came into power within months of each other. The Third Reich also used an eagle as its symbol. In 1933, while FDR resisted conflict, Hitler forced the world into the most devastating war in history. Totalitarian governments of Germany and Russia had swallowed up much of Europe and wanted the rest. There was reason to doubt whether democracy could compete with this new form of government. However, the larger infrastructure projects of the New Deal were proof that a democracy could engage successfully in large-scale planning without dictatorship.

    New Deal programs employed persons of color and religious ethnicity in various types of art including modern. An artist and architect himself, Hitler banned modern art and jailed, tortured, starved, mutilated persons of color, artists, Jews, and homosexuals. New Deal projects aimed to install pride and unity through regional and cultural differences and Hitler aimed to show the majority their value through oppression and abuse of minorities. Heraldic U.S. Eagles are also emblazoned on our post office boxes.

    In 1935, Germanys Nuremberg laws stripped Jews of their jobs, expelled them from professions, and took their property. The New Deal employed minorities in all its programs and employed Jews in many of its agencies despite a pervasive American anti-Semitism in the general public and in old line government

    Henry Morgenthau was the head of the U.S. Treasury Department and one of many Jews who were close advisors to Roosevelt. Even after the New Deal had ceased, Morgenthau, his department, and his War Refuge Board would expose the U.S. State Departments premeditated delay of the rescue of Jews in Europe. Morgenthau and his associates would be instrumental in the saving of 200,000 European Jews. Jews often refer to themselves as “Morgenthau” Jews, just as some are “Schindler” Jews. Morgenthau’s name ranks the highest on the cornerstone of the Martinez Downtown Post Office whose primary symbol is the U.S. Heraldic eagle.

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