Category: Places

The Southern Pacific Employees Clubhouse (1913)

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.

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 before hitting the high iron again.

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)

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.

 

FEATURED PHOTO: A plat map of the railroad depot at the old town of Ellis (1869-1878), courtesy of Pete Mitracos. 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 roof of the depot and renamed it “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.

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