In the latest Around Town column, learn about the time when Queen Elizabeth II ate lunch at Stanford University during her first, and only, trip to California in 1983, and read about the big unveiling of Caltrain's new electric cars, which are set to hit the tracks for commuters in 2024.
A ROYAL DAY ... March 3, 1983, was no ordinary day at Stanford University. It marked Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the campus for a luncheon. The occasion would be the first and only visit to California by the Queen, who died last month. For Jeanne Kennedy, the wife of Stanford's then-President, Donald Kennedy, the occasion was the culmination of weeks of careful, intense, and at times, politically delicate preparations. The luncheon at the Kennedys' residence, Hoover House, called for difficult decisions. For starters, with only 92 seats for guests, whom would they invite? Trustees, vice presidents, deans, faculty, staff members, students all needed to be included. "The students were the hardest," Kennedy recalled during in a speech to a civic club in 2011. "Many of them wrote and asked to be invited. Others developed campaigns where they bombarded Don and me with cakes, singing telegrams, an English breakfast with the London Times, flowers. One even wrote a poem." In the end, though, students were picked by category and not by "creative attention-getting devices." Kennedy and her team also needed to navigate challenges that included thorough security checks, strict royal protocols (do not touch the monarch) and the need to memorize the names and faces of every guest so that each person could be individually introduced to Britain's royal couple, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Of course, the menu was agonized over, but in the end, the California-inspired offerings, including mousse of smoked Pacific salmon and Sacramento Valley asparagus tied with leeks, were a hit. (Well, aside from the chanterelle mushrooms, which the queen "carefully pushed to the side," Kennedy noted.) All went without a hitch, with the prince stating later that the Stanford luncheon had been the highlight of their California trip.
CALTRAIN GOES ELECTRIC... On Sept. 24, federal and state officials joined Caltrain representatives for the public unveiling of its new electric train cars. Serving as the centerpiece of the Caltrain Electrification Project, these new high-performance trains will offer better service to riders by generating less noise than diesel train engines, which also will benefit residents living near tracks, according to a press release. "The Bay Area is the high-tech capital of the world, and it deserves a transportation system that reflects that," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto). "The tracks that were laid in the time of the steam engine will carry modern, electric trains along the Peninsula, perfectly symbolizing our spirit of innovation and dynamic change." In addition to their technological advances, these new train sets will include seven cars, unlike the current standard of five or six cars per set. Caltrain plans to put these new trains into service in 2024, using the time before they join the fleet to test the trains and the infrastructure they will rely on, according to the press release. The corridor between the San Francisco Caltrain Station and the Tamien Station in San Jose is planned to be electrified as part of the Caltrain Electrification Project. Visual tours of the electric trains are available at caltrain.com and public tours are planned for early 2023.