Last January, the Bay Area's Freedom Train to honor the civil rights legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made its final trip after more than 30 years. The traditional train ride from San Jose to San Francisco featured singing and speeches and gave the community a chance to honor King's work.
The Freedom Train, which was coordinated by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley was started by King's late widow Coretta Scott King to commemorate the 54 miles marched by her husband and other civil rights activists from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965, was the last of its kind in the nation.
In response to residents' desires to continue the service, the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation (NorCalMLK) and Caltrain came together to create a new and free commemorative service to "carry on the spirit of the late Corretta Scott King," according to a Caltrain announcement.
The new "Celebration Train" will make its debut ride up the Peninsula on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18. The train will provide free service to those attending the MLK2016 celebration event in San Francisco. There will be onboard activities during the ride, according to Caltrain.
"The concept of the MLK special train service is the same (as the Freedom Train)," Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew said. "The difference between the Celebration Train and the Freedom Train are the host organizations."
The new Celebration Train, which is being sponsored by Pacific Gas & Electric, is being hosted by NorCalMLK and Caltrain is partnering with the organization to provide the special service, Bartholomew said.
"At the request of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, Caltrain agreed not to use the Freedom Train branding because it was bestowed upon them by the late Coretta Scott King, and we respect that," she added. "As a new partnership with the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation ... we all thought it best to rebrand and use the new name."
The train will depart from the San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station at 9:45 a.m. It will make stops in Palo Alto at 10:05 a.m. and San Mateo at 10:22 a.m. before arriving in San Francisco by 10:55 a.m. There is no special southbound service, but Celebration Train tickets will be accepted on southbound trains departing San Francisco after 1 p.m. that day, according to Caltrain.
For ticket registration, visit eventbrite.com.
The theme of the MLK2016 event in San Francisco is The Reality of the Dream and "focuses on the progress made with the civil rights movement, examination of the present reality and the commitment to a brighter future," according to the NorCalMLK website.
There will be a march and parade as well as all-day festivities at Yerba Buena Gardens. For more information, visit sfmlkday.org. All of the day's events are free and open to the public.