Author: TracyRail (page 2 of 2)

Chronicling The Old Southern Pacific Tracy-Altamont Right-of-Way

The original right-of-way leading into Tracy from the Bay Area via the Altamont Pass was built back in 1873 by the Central Pacific as part of the Transcontinental Railroad linking California with the East Coast. Trains traveled in and out of Tracy from the railyards near downtown, along old Schulte Road through the original site of the Ellis coaling station, then curving up toward the foothills to Midway and Cayley, then on to the summit at Altamont.

Today, the old, original right-of-way — with the rails intact — remains in place all the way from downtown Tracy to the intersection of Patterson Pass Road and Midway Road, a few miles past I-580. Beyond that, the old roadbed, shorn of rails and ties, can be traced up through Cayley to the abandoned S.P. tunnel through the Altamont Hills, then as it winds alongside the former Western Pacific tracks (now the mainline for the Union Pacific and ACE commuter trains) into the venerable town of Altamont — once a key stop, where helper engines joined in to assist heavy trains over the summit, as well as a stop for vehicular traffic on the historic Lincoln Highway.

FEATURE PHOTO (top): The historic SP right-of-way comes to an abrupt and ignoble end along Patterson Pass Road at Midway.
INSET: A “training train,” staffed by members of Southern Pacific management being taught to operate equipment in the event of a strike, rumbles along Patterson Pass Road near Midway on the way to Altamont in this classic 1994 photograph. The strike never happened, SP merged with UP, and the line was soon abandoned and removed.

Images of how the old right-of-way looked in the Spring of 2011 appear below.

SPRR Central Avenue West (Tracy CA)

ABOVE: Standing on the former Southern Pacific Railroad  right-of-way near where Central Avenue crosses the tracks. This is the old, original mainline heading west toward Midway, Altamont, then over the hills to Livermore, Pleasanton and the Bay Area via Niles.

SP Curve West At Corral Hollow and Schulte (Photo)

ABOVE: Heading “railroad west” along old Schulte Road, past the original Ellis town site, the rails cross Corral Hollow Road, then take a long, lazy curve toward the foothills after having run in nearly a straight line since leaving downtown Tracy.

Patterson Pass Road near Midway (Photo)

ABOVE: The final stretch, alongside Patterson Pass Road (at right in the photo) and the last curve and slight climb to the grade crossing at Midway.


ACE Train Service To Mountain House?

Denise Ellen Rizzo reported in last week’s edition of the Tracy Press that an effort is being made to convince officials to build an Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train station to better serve residents in the Mountain House area.

A petition has been started on by Robi Thomas, a Mountain House resident, to bring the proposal to ACE officials.

The plan would call for ACE to “add a station near Patterson Pass Road, where Mountain House Parkway meets the train tracks,” according to the petition.

(This may be problematic, as those tracks are part of the old, unusable Southern Pacific mainline over the Altamont; the line is torn up about a mile up the tracks at the Alameda County line, and ACE trains don’t run on those rails.)

The pin on the Google Map above denotes the proposed location for a Mountain House ACE station. The problem? No trains, let alone ACE trains, can run on those tracks.

The pin on the Google Map above denotes the proposed location for a Mountain House ACE station. The problem? No trains, let alone ACE trains, can run on those tracks.

Thomas told the Tracy Press, “I got the impression [that ACE] officials are convinced there are not enough riders from Mountain House. The next step is to show actual riders. The numbers are there.”

View the petition on

Read the full article on the Tracy Press website.


Featured Photo: An Altamont Corridor Express train pulls into the Tracy station, on Tracy Boulevard at Linne Road, on November 4, 2015. Glenn Moore photo (Tracy Press).

Associated Oil Tank Farm – Tracy, California

For decades, oil from Kern County was transported by rail in tank cars (appropriately dubbed “oil cans”) to this Associated Oil storage facility in Tracy, which served as a way station as the oil traveled to Port Costa. The tracks heading to the right are part of the Mococo Line, which is now a seldom-used single track that extends up through Byron and Brentwood into Antioch and Pittsburg. In the distance just right of center in the photograph is an oil reservoir (also known as the “Gravel Pit”), which was located approximately where Alden Park is today.

All that currently remains of this facility today is a group of hillocks at the corner of Tracy Blvd. and Beechnut Avenue, across from the city’s corporation yard.

Contaminated soil in the area led to a landmark court case, Cose v. Getty Oil Co., over who was responsible for waste from the tanks that had seeped into the soil surrounding the “Gravel Pit.”

Map of Tracy, Calif., showing the location of the oil depot (1955)

ABOVE: An excerpt from a 1955 USGS map of Tracy, showing the tank farm area. Note that the current Tracy Boulevard, previously known as Oil Road, did not extend across the tracks here at this time.

Google Earth view of Tracy oil depot site (2013)

ABOVE: A Google Earth aerial view of the Tank Farm area as it appeared in 2013. Tracy Blvd. curves from top to bottom at right, with Alden Park in the lower left corner.

Associated Oil "Tidewater" railroad tank car (Photo, Circa 1940s)

ABOVE: A typical Associated Oil tank car. The San Francisco-based company used “Tidewater” and “Flying A” as brand names.


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