CA: Last call: Old BART cars being turned into homes, shops, entertainment spots and training facilities

April 10, 2024
The Hayward Fire Department is already using an old BART car as a training facility while three other cars are headed to a Northern California museum.

OAKLAND – Several years ago, Michael Lin started thinking about building a cozy getaway spot in the woods.

He knows a thing or two about building design, after earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture from UC Berkeley.

So, when the San Ramon financial adviser heard that BART was awarding decommissioned legacy train cars to people and organizations with ideas for re-use, he rolled out a proposal to land an old car. And he won.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to build something fun for my family and for this BART train, we’re going for a cozy woodsy cabin crossed with a space-age modern aesthetic,’’ said Lin, one of eight winners.

It appears that Lin is not alone in his desire to get his hands on one of the dingy, obsolete train cars that the transit agency is officially retiring this month — a half century after they first hit the rails.

Legacy cars will also be repurposed as a bike shop, community event space and entertainment venues. The Hayward Fire Department is already using one as a training facility while three other cars are headed to a Northern California museum.

Lin already has designs for the 700-square foot car that will be hauled to the Sierra foothills for a makeover this summer. He plans to upgrade the lighting, remove some safety bars and decorate the inside of the car with BART memorabilia, old train photos and used BART tickets.

“What was once a vehicle meant for rapid transit, is now going to become a place for people to slow down and stay, and I love that idea,’’ he said, adding that he plans to rent out the car as a vacation spot too.

The final run of legacy trains begins at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at Oakland’s MacArthur station.

BART said people can board a legacy train and ride from MacArthur to the Fremont station — the same route BART traveled when it first opened on Sept. 11, 1972. It’s a 45-minute trip along about 24 miles of the original section of tracks. Every rider will need to pay for the ride with a Clipper card.

“These train cars are part of the history of the Bay Area,” said Bob Powers, BART’s general manager in a statement. “While we are excited to modernize the system, we recognize the profound cultural importance of these cars, and we want to celebrate their rich history and give them a proper send off.”

Last September, BART began running only new “fleet of the future” cars for its base schedule. All 55 trains are made up of new cars, with 20 additional cars slated for delivery each month, BART officials said. The new cars are a far cry from the agency’s original models, which featured carpeting and cloth seats that were replaced about a decade ago after endless complaints of smells, grime and germs.

“Our new cars are cleaner, require less maintenance, have better quality surveillance cameras, and offer a better customer experience with automated next-stop displays and announcements,” said Alicia Trost, BART communications officer.

While the legacy cars are retiring from transit service, people will have opportunities to see the historic cars in their new homes.

In June, three legacy cars are headed to the Western Railway Museum in Suisun City; they will be the only legacy fleet cars on display at a museum.

BART officials said the Original Scraper Bike Team in Oakland was awarded a legacy car that will be divided into a bike shop offering free repairs for children and a clubhouse for community events and the organization’s mentorship program.

The Hayward Fire Department positioned a car on an elevated track to train firefighters on rescues and medical emergencies, such as freeing people in cars or under the trains.

“Being able to see in a training environment all of the intricacies of the car gets us familiar with what we will need in real life scenarios,’’ said Capt. Don Nichelson, the fire department’s public information officer.

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