Author: TracyRail (page 1 of 2)

Eastbound OAMJM At Tracy, 1981

Fresh into our yardmaster’s office today is this big win off of eBay, showing Southern Pacific Railroad SD-9 4426 and partner(s?) leading a string of cars under the old Eleventh Street overpass in 1981, headed out of town toward Banta and Mossdale.

This view can no longer be replicated for several reasons, not the least of which is the tear-down and rebuild of the old overpass.

The train is identified as the OAMJM, a symbol your correspondent cannot decipher, even after consulting several old timetables. Any ideas?

Built in 1956 by GM’s Electro-Motive Division, this powerhouse began its life as SP’s 5468, then was renumbered in 1965 as 3942. A 1977 rebuild came with one final set of Espee digits as 4426, and she nearly made a full thirty years of service on the Friendly before she was tossed aside in July 1995.

Picked up by the Nevada Northern as their 204, the venerable beast continues in service, according to their website, where she “now runs excursions and provides engineer rentals.”

SP 4426 as NN 204 (Photo)

Southern Pacific 4426 in Nevada Northern livery as their 204

Nevada Northern photo courtesy of the Nevada Northern Railway, Ely, Nevada.

Southern Pacific Railway Yards, Tracy

The backside of this picture postcard has “Monday, Oct 25, 1948” penciled in script, so we’re guessing that this view of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s yard is from the mid to late 1940s.

The caption under the photo on the postcard reads “Southern Pacific Railway Yards and Shops, Tracy, California.”

If you’re looking at this photograph today, imagine yourself on the roof of the Tracy Transit Center, facing toward the new-fangled overpass that just opened, taking 11th Street over the Union Pacific tracks. From your perch, if it was 1948, you’d see the two big water tanks by the “second” roundhouse on the right. Just right of center, the “first” roundhouse is just beyond the left-most water tower.

In the foreground is a string of heavyweight passenger cars, which may (or may not) be painted in SP Daylight colors, and may (or may not) be headed to Lathrop as part of the Sacramento Daylight.

The curve of track at far right is the fabled “Brewery Spur,” which remains in place today and curls along the backside of Tracy, crossing Schulte Road behind Fry Memorial Chapel on its way to butt-ending near Valpico Road.

The card was manufactured by Wayne Paper and Printing of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Here’s an “opposite” view of the same scene, taken from the turntable, between the two roundhouses, probably from the early 1950s:

SP Tracy Turntable (Photo, Circa Early 1950s)

A view of the SP’s Tracy turntable, looking between the old roundhouses.

Photos from the Railtown Tracy Collection, courtesy of David Jackson.

Jack Godwin, Carbona Station Agent

Jack Godwin served as station agent at the Western Pacific Railroad’s Carbona depot from 1954 until his death in 1974. Ten years after he arrived, wife and children in tow, the WP renamed the stop “Tracy” on their timetables, as well as on the station’s roof-top nameboard.

The Ted Benson photo featured above shows Jack in a classic railroader’s pose, fingers on the telegrapher’s key, carrying on a conversation with his colleagues down the line in well-timed dots and dashes.

A Western Pacific freight train heads west past the Tracy depot. The bikes leaning against the depot wall belong to station agent Godwin's kids.

A Western Pacific freight train heads west past the Tracy depot. The bikes leaning against the depot wall belong to station agent Godwin’s kids.

Jack’s daughter, Bonnie Godwin Parker, spent a good portion of her childhood at Carbona depot, along with her mother, sister and two brothers. Bonnie takes the story from here, in her own words:

We came to Carbona in 1954 from Wells, Nevada (Population: 500). We moved there via the California Zephyr. The prior agent was single so the place was a mess when we arrived. We stayed at the Mission Motel in Tracy for almost three weeks while my parents got the depot livable.

My parents loved California. No snow, and things grew there. My Dad even watered the weeds just to watch them grow.

It was pretty neat living in a train depot. My grandfather lived in the Southern Pacific depot in Fallon, Nevada, so being in depots just seemed natural to us.

When we were kids and the trains would come to switch out the gravel pits, we would get to ride in the engine and ring the bell and blow the horn. We all learned to drive by sitting on my Dad’s lap and steering while he wrote down the numbers on the cars.

My Dad was a telegrapher/agent. He would transcribe incoming telegraphs, type them up and then attach them to the hoops, and then he would stand out as the train went by and one went to the engine and one to the caboose.

mail-hoops

As you can see there are two different kinds here. The first (with loop) had the disadvantage of going with the train. With the second one (Y-shaped) just the message and string went and the loop stayed with the depot. This was before radios, etc. He would also send outgoing messages via the telegraph.

As I stated above, his father lived in the Southern Pacific Depot in Fallon; his cousin was the agent for Southern Pacific at Hazen, Nevada. They lived in a railroad house across from the depot, and his brother worked for the Southern Pacific as Crew Dispatcher.

When people would come to our home and a train would go by, they would panic because it shook the depot — some went by at 70 MPH just a few feet from our living room, and then we had tracks that ran right in front of our house where they would set out cars at some times.

Jack Godwin Way (Street Sign Photo)

Jack Godwin Way street sign, at the corner of Depot Master Drive in Tracy, near the old Carbona station.

Jack Godwin had begun working for the WP in June 1942, assigned initially to their Elburz, Nevada, outpost and later to other stations along the way in rural Nevada and Utah. He was felled by a heart attack in 1974 that took his life at only 51 years of age, having worked on the railroad for 32 of those years. The Western Pacific’s old Carbona/Tracy depot survived another decade before it, too, was felled.

These days, nearby in the Linne Estates housing subdivision just off the tracks east of the Carbona Curve, you’ll find Jack Godwin Way and Jack Godwin Court. They’re located off Depot Master Drive, a block down from Zephyr Drive.

Not coincidentally, the railroading that was in Jack’s blood was passed down to yet another generation, as two of his sons, Dave and Mike, continued their family’s heritage by also working, respectively, for the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific.

The San Joaquin Daylight, May 1968

Southern Pacific Timetable 10

From the Southern Pacific’s official Timetable #10, issued on May 12, 1968, showing a portion of the schedule for the San Joaquin Daylight for the segment during which it traversed the so-called “Mococo Line” (from MOuntain COpper COmpany) from Martinez to Tracy and back again.

At this time, the San Joaquin Daylight would depart each morning at 8:58 AM, seven days a week, from the station in Martinez, taking about 48 minutes to travel the 48 rail miles to the Tracy depot.

In the afternoon, the San Joaquin Daylight would reverse direction, departing from downtown Tracy at 3:20 PM and pulling in at Martinez at 4:08 PM.

 

San Joaquin Daylight Ad - Circa 1940s

ABOVE: Riding from Fresno to San Francisco or Los Angeles in the early 1940s? There’s no better (or more affordable) way to go than a seat aboard the recently-launched streamlined San Joaquin Daylight. (Southern Pacific Archives)

The Southern Pacific Employees Clubhouse (1913)

Here’s a tinted picture postcard of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s “Employee Club,” located for many years along an extension of C Street in the downtown Tracy railyard.

SP Clubhouse Sign

The sign above the Club’s front door…

The clubhouse served as a rest stop for SP train crews between trips — a place to grab forty winks, a bite to eat, or shoot some pool (or some bull) before hitting the high iron again.

The club lacked air conditioning in the early portion of the 20th Century, so a screened-in “porch” upstairs allowed off-duty workers to sleep beneath the stars and escape the oppressive heat of summertime evenings in the San Joaquin Valley.

The distinctive structure remained in place until the early 1960s, when it — and most of the other structures around it, including the adjacent passenger depot and yard tower — were brought down.

Barely visible on the porch (at left in the photo) are two fellows relaxing between shifts on the SP:

SP Clubhouse (Guys On The Porch, Photo Detail)

Below: what is believed to be an even earlier postcard view of the Southern Pacific “Railway Club,” as it is designated on the front-porch sign. That it’s an earlier photo is based on the absence of the fancier SP Employees Club logo/sign and the lack of mature decorative vegetation in the front yard.

SP Tracy Railway Club (Photo)

 

All photos from the Railtown Tracy Collection.

 

Tracy Yard Improvement Program Near Completion

SP Tracy Yard Opens (Elroy Pope Photo, May 1961)Back in May 1961, the Southern Pacific Railroad began moving the first of hundreds of railcars to the “other side” of the Eleventh Street overpass in Tracy, marking the shut-down of operations in the city’s downtown area — ending nearly a hundred years in the sprawling facility that included a passenger depot, two roundhouses, numerous water tanks and freight docks in the “Bowtie.”

The June-July 1961 edition of the railroad’s employee magazine, The SP Bulletin, featured a two-page article on the move, including photographs of the new yard being filled on Day One (May 16, 1961) and Tracy yardmaster Elroy Pope controlling operations from his perch in the new tower overlooking the rails, which covered (then and now) the territory from the Eleventh Street overpass all the way to Banta Road.

According to the article,

Opened just before [the] beginning of the busy San Joaquin Valley perishable season, the new yard will hold 760 railroad cars on more than 30,000 feet of track northeast of downtown Tracy. It represents a consolidation of several switching locations in the Tracy area, and is expected to speed up handling of both incoming and outgoing traffic. …

Shifting the yard to its new location required closing of one county road [presumably Chrisman Road] and extension of another [Brichetto Road, extended from F Street in Banta?], but San Joaquin County highway officials cooperated in arranging relocation of little-used road facilities.

The 1961 Southern Pacific yard, now part of the Union Pacific Railroad’s operation here, does still see significant traffic at times, and also serves as headquarters for Harbor Rail Services‘ local freight car repair facility (near the corner of Chrisman and Brichetto roads). The new yard tower, visible just beyond the Eleventh Street overpass, lasted into the 1980s before meeting the same fate as its predecessor, which had been located downtown at Sixth and Central streets before being torn down.

Here’s the original article, part one:

SP Tracy Yard Opens (Page 6)

…And here is part two:

SP Tracy Yard Opens (Page 7)

Renaming One Of Tracy’s Three Schulte Roads

Tracy has three roads named Schulte Road. You know — if you come into town off 580 at Patterson Pass Road, then drive past the big Costco and Safeway warehouses, that’s Schulte Road, which ends at Lammers Road.

But if you turn right onto Lammers, just before the train tracks you can make a left turn onto … Schulte Road.

If you drive to the end of that Schulte Road, which bottoms out at Corral Hollow, you can hook a quick, awkward and sometimes dangerous U-turn around the tracks, then drive a couple of blocks to the next signal light which is, of course … Schulte Road. Why wouldn’t it be?

Tracy’s City Council will be meeting in a general session on Tuesday night (December 1) with this topic on the agenda as Item 1.D:

CITY STAFF REQUESTS CITY COUNCIL TO: (1) RENAME SCHULTE ROAD WEST OF LAMMERS ROAD AS PROMONTORY PARKWAY, AND (2) AUTHORIZE INITIATION OF A PROCESS FOR RENAMING EXISTING SCHULTE ROAD BETWEEN CORRAL HOLLOW ROAD AND LAMMERS ROAD (ALONG UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD TRACKS)

Renaming “Section 1” of Schulte over in the burgeoning warehouse district as “Promontory Parkway” sounds like a terrific choice. The City Council agenda notes “Promontory Summit, Utah, was the location of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States and therefore, of historical significance in railroad history,” and you know that we’re all for anything railroad-related around these pages.

Ellis Map (1951)

The town of Ellis, still on the map in 1951

But what about that lonely, orphaned little segment of Schulte that links Lammers Road to Corral Hollow Road, running along the seldom-used Union Pacific tracks? As part of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s portion of the transcontinental line, those rails once carried numerous trains each and every day to and from the Bay Area by way of Altamont.

Those rails and that section of Schulte Road, however, have an another claim to historical significance: the original town of Ellis, including a depot, engine house, freight warehouse and stock pens, were originally located right there, just a few hundred feet up Schulte from Corral Hollow.

So how about renaming that section of Schulte with something that gives a nod to its place in Tracy history?

Here are a few suggestions:

Ellis Depot Road. There’s already a short Ellis Road in the housing development across the tracks, so adding “Depot” to the new name would be a must, but it strikes the proper chord by putting the location in historical perspective. (Yes, Ellis Station Road would work, too.)

Railroad Avenue. Strangely enough, for a city that was founded strictly because of the railroad, there is no “Railroad Avenue” in Tracy.

Central Pacific Avenue. The town of Ellis, which was torn down in 1878, loaded on railcars and transported three miles or so down the tracks, where it became Tracy, was built by the Central Pacific Railroad, which was the predecessor of the Southern Pacific Railroad which, in turn, got swallowed up whole by today’s Union Pacific Railroad.

Depot Road. Okay, not frightfully original or interesting, but if there’s a chance that “Ellis Depot Road” could be confused with the existing “Ellis Road,” then here’s a compromise solution. Of course, there is the oddly-named “Depot Master Drive” over off of Linne Road … but that shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Any other ideas? Let us know or, better yet, let the Tracy City Council know.

Click here to read the full agenda for the City Council’s December 1 meeting.

Ellis, California (Plat Map Detail, Circa 1875)

A plat map of the railroad depot at the old town of Ellis (1869-1878), courtesy of Pete Mitracos and the Tracy Historical Museum.

FEATURED IMAGES: At the top of this article, a recent photo of the old Southern Pacific tracks along Schulte Road at the Corral Hollow Road intersection. The Central Pacific Railroad built a depot and coaling station here, but relocated the entire facility to Tracy in 1878, after only a few homes had been built. The smaller inset map of Ellis is an excerpt from a 1951 USGS map, with Lammers Road running top-to-bottom at left, and Corral Hollow Road as its bookend on the right edge of the map.

The Carbona Curve

If you live in Tracy or its outskirts, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the names of the several villages that rest at the city’s edges. You know, places like Tesla, Carbona, Banta, Lyoth, Ludwig and Rhodes.

Wait. You’re not familiar with all those names? Well, sure, Banta is fairly well known — there’s still something there — but what about Carbona?

You may actually drive past the “Carbona Curve” on occasion and not know that it’s there. In fact, if you ride an ACE train through Tracy to or from points east (such as Stockton or Manteca), then you’ve rolled through Carbona. Heading east from the Tracy ACE station on Linne Road, the first big “turn” you make on the way to Manteca is the “Curve,” where a collection of produce packing warehouses sit on one side of the road.

Carbona - Metsker Map (1980)

Carbona, as shown in this detail from a 1980 Metsker Map.

The rails there date back to the late 1800s when a line was built out toward the foothills and Corral Hollow, where low-grade coal was mined way back when at Tesla; in fact, the depot was initially designated as South Tesla Junction. The railroad was originally known as the Alameda & San Joaquin, and it was built specifically to carry coal from the mines back to Carbona (named for carbón, the Spanish word for coal) through Lathrop and into Stockton. The A&SJ only lasted a few years before it was acquired by the Western Pacific Railroad in July 1903.

For many years, the Western Pacific had a depot at the Curve which, for most of its years, had “Carbona” on its rooftop sign. Although the Southern Pacific had many more trains rolling through its lines in and out of Tracy, the WP kept busy at Carbona, especially during the produce season, and it had several passenger trains that passed through here over the years, including the world-famous California Zephyr on its trek from Oakland to Chicago and back again.

Western Pacific Tracy (Carbona) Depot

The Western Pacific’s Tracy depot, late in its life

In May 1964, bowing to the inevitable tide of progress, the WP took down the “Carbona” sign from the roof of the depot and rebranded it as “Tracy.” Subsequently, the old wooden depot was demolished in February 1984. The spot where it once stood is still visible — look for a patch of dirt near the brushy overgrowth of trees along the Curve. A large water tower also stood for decades across Linne Road from the depot; although it remained there into the early 21st Century, it, too, was eventually razed.

Today, following the Union Pacific’s acquisition of the Western Pacific, several freight trains roll through Carbona in either direction each day. Typically, several days a week, the UP switches cars on the spur to businesses in the industrial park behind the Tracy ACE station, as well as dropping off covered hoppers on the Curve itself.

Western Pacific Carbona Water Tank (2003)

The Carbona water tank, circa 2003
(Photographer unknown)

One of the earliest images of the Carbona Curve that we have located was included in the amazing John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library collection. A series of photographs in the Barriger collection, dating back to about 1914, encompasses a virtual black-and-white ride on the Western Pacific from Oakland, over the Altamont into Tracy, and then on to Stockton and beyond.

Western Pacific - Carbona (Barriger Collection)

The Carbona Curve, circa 1914
(Barriger Collection)

In the photo above, with the train heading east on the Western Pacific mainline, you can spot Linne Road to the right, and the spur branching off toward the water tank, visible in the right distance; from there, the spur heads off to Corral Hollow and Tesla. Just right of center, nearly hidden behind the cluster of trees, is the depot. Almost exactly in the center of the photo — appearing as a vertical white line — is a semaphore signal; to its left is a dark vertical post along the track’s curve — the water spout for steam locomotives, fed by the tank across the road.

Western Pacific at Carbona - Guy Dunscomb

A Western Pacific freight train at Carbona, led by 2-8-2 #322
(Guy Dunscomb Photograph)

In the undated (late 1940s?) photo above by the legendary Guy Dunscomb, a westbound WP freight train waits on the siding by the Carbona depot. The train is led by Western Pacific’s #322, a Class MK-60 2-8-2 built by the American Locomotive Company in 1924. As the WP quickly transitioned to diesel power in the late 1940s, #322 was retired from service in November 1949, and was scrapped in February 1950.

Carbona - East View - 2015-11-19 Edit

Carbona Curve (October 2015)

Above: The Carbona Curve, 2015

SOURCES:

Much of the information, as well as several of the photos shown here, is from Stephen M. Hayes’ Western Pacific Depots and Stations, which includes a photographic trip over the Altamont on the California Zephyr and extensive detail on the WP’s Carbona/Tracy depot (see pages 129-134).

The photograph of the wonderful old water tower at the Carbona Curve was included in an archived post on TrainOrders.com. The photographer was not identified; we’d love to give proper credit, so please let us know if you know who captured the image.

Information on Western Pacific steam locomotive #322 was gleaned from the comprehensive all-time roster of the railroad’s motive power at WPLives.com, an amazing and invaluable resource for Western Pacific historical information.

Carbona Curve 2015 photographs by David Jackson.

COMMENTS:

 

Jimmie Dameron (1933-2015)

The Tracy Press and the Tracy Historical Museum have reported the passing of Jimmie L. Dameron, a retired Southern Pacific Railroad engineer and resident of the city for the past 55 years.

Jimmie Dameron (1933-2015)Mr. Dameron, who was 81 years old, died on October 29, 2015, at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital following a brief illness. He had been scheduled to present a discussion at the museum on October 21 covering his lengthy and colorful career with the SP when he fell ill. (The program has been re-scheduled for November 18, with Stephen Ridolfi replacing Mr. Dameron. Please click here for more information.)

Born in Turlock and raised in Delhi (Merced County), Mr. Dameron and his wife moved to Tracy in 1960 when he began his career as a brakeman with the SP. He later advanced to engineer with the railroad, and served as local chairman for the United Transportation Union.

Upon his retirement from the SP, he became a part-time engineer of the Redwood Valley Railway scale model live-steam train in Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills. Over the years, according to his obituary, he was an ardent devotee of steam locomotives and was a passenger  — and sometimes volunteer assistant engineer — on numerous steam-powered trains while traveling throughout the world. He also visited countless railroad museums over the years.

Read Mr. Dameron’s full obituary on the Tracy Press website.

 

Museum Program: The Life and Times of a Tracy Trainman

Mark your calendars for the next History Seminar on Wednesday, November 18th at the Tracy Historical Museum!

The Life and Times of a Tracy Trainman

Learn about Tracy’s railroad history from someone who lived it.

Robert Firth Railroad PhotographsJoin Stephen Ridolfi for a discussion about his life and times as a Tracy Trainman. Mr. Ridolfi, a lifelong Tracy resident, worked as a Southern Pacific conductor and brakeman out of the Tracy area for 40 years. Mr. Ridolfi will describe the adventures and myth-busting life of a trainman in the San Joaquin Valley.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Tracy Historical Museum
1141 Adams Street, Tracy

Speaker: Stephen Ridolfi

There is no charge to attend this event at the museum.

For more information, please email the Tracy Historical Museum, visit their website or phone 209-832-7278.

Thank you very much for your support of the West Side Pioneer Association and Tracy Historical Museum.

Event information via Larry Gamino, President of the West Side Pioneer Association/Tracy Historical Museum.

INSET PHOTO: Southern Pacific’s Tracy railyard, circa 1954, by Robert D. Firth. (Courtesy of David Firth.)

UPDATE:

Stephen Ridolfi - Tracy Museum

Steve Ridolfi gave a lively talk on his life riding the rails with the Southern Pacific, covering everything from getting his start with the railroad — interrupted early on by a stint in Vietnam with the Air Force — to the dangerous conditions encountered (snakes, stray box cars, random derailments and trespassers), to the grind of working 16-hour shifts in conditions that ranged from ice-cold winters to sweltering summertime. Mr. Ridolfi is also a noted portrait and event photographer. His work can be viewed on his website at RidolfisPhotographics.com.

 

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