Category: Western Pacific Railroad

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 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.

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