Alameda & San Joaquin Railroad

(This article is a perpetual work in progress.)

If you’ve taken a load of trash to the dumps here in Tracy, you can’t avoid the solid bump of crossing what appears to be an abandoned set of railroad tracks protected by mute crossbuck warning signs a hundred or so feet down MacArthur Drive south of Linne Road.

The tracks are seldom used but are not entirely abandoned these days. Occasionally — very occasionally — the Union Pacific will spot a couple of freight cars loaded with steel coils there, alongside the Calaveras Materials rock grinders and the Teichert Aggregates entry gate on MacArthur.

Old Alameda & San Joaquin rail line (photo)

A coil car parked on the old Alameda & San Joaquin rail line near Carbona (October 2015)

If you pull up along the road there — being careful not to get hit by either garbage trucks or the rare UP switching operation — and have a look down those tracks, you’ll see that they follow almost a straight line out to Corral Hollow in the foothills west of Tracy.

At least, those tracks once followed an almost straight line out to Corral Hollow. These days, they come to an end under leftover gravel from the pits, just beyond the tree that’s left of center in the above photo.

Finding the A&SJ crossing on MacArthur, west of Linne Road

At one time, however, and actually not too long ago, those tracks carried gravel, coal, clay bricks and manganese from the pits and mines that surrounded them, all the way from the old mining towns of Tesla and Carnegie up in Corral Hollow to the railroad junction at Carbona, about eighteen miles away as the crow flies. 

The railroad was known as the Alameda & San Joaquin. Construction began on the line in 1895 at Stockton, while grading work got underway for the A&SJ’s roadbed into Corral Hollow at the opposite end.

From Carbona its rails wound in a gentle counter-clockwise arc through Lyoth, Nilegarden, Mossdale, along the edge of Manteca, then up through Lathrop and French Camp and into Stockton, where the line terminated at Stockton’s deep-water channel, a location perfectly suited for the A&SJ to transfer its cargo — mostly soft Tesla coal in those early days.

Alameda and San Joaquin Railroad Booklet (Image)

Following is the text of “Alameda & San Joaquin Railroad” by Bert Ward and Earle Williams, which was published in the October 1971 edition of The Western Railroader. Bert Ward was a railroad conductor as well as a railfan and photographer of legendary repute; Earle Williams (1898–1983) came to Tracy at the age of twelve and graduated from Tracy High School. You could say that Earle had gravel in his blood – he began working in the aggregates industry when he was 16, and he founded the Kerlinger gravel pit and plant (on Corral Hollow Creek, adjacent to Tracy Airport) in 1946. Mr. Williams was deeply involved in a variety of local history and civic organizations, including the Tracy Chamber of Commerce and the West Side Pioneer Association. He was widely known as the preeminent historian in southern San Joaquin County, and he extensively chronicled Tracy’s earliest days. Williams Middle School on Tennis Lane in Tracy was named in his honor.

In the background of the Western Pacific Railroad of today is a small railroad called the Alameda & San Joaquin Railroad, one of a very few acquired by the Western Pacific during the construction of the last trans-continental link to California.

This little coal railroad was known to its employees as the “Andy & Sam Jackson” and was but 36.6 miles in length from the mines at Tesla to the coal bunker at Stockton.

Coal was its main reason for being, but earth from the mines and nearby pits provided an excellent clay for the making of bricks, pottery and tile pipe, a high grade of silica sand made fine glass and huge gravel beds provided gravel and sand.

The story begins with the discovery of traces of coal on New Year’s Day 1857 by Edward B. Carrell and Captain Jack O’Brien on O’Brien’s sheep ranch at the extreme west end of the gulch of Corral Hollow in Alameda County, adjoining the San Joaquin County line.

The mine location was about 30 miles airline southwest of Stockton and some 12 miles southeast of Livermore. There are three passes through the last ridges of the Diablo Mountains, a spur of the Coast Range, as one descends into the San Joaquin Valley from the West.

The north pass is the Livermore through which the original Western Pacific was built in 1869. The station at the summit was named Altamont at that time. This name is familiarly applied today to this range, and the name of Diablo has almost been lost ln time apart from the mountain of that name to the north. In later years the present Western Pacific, bearing the same name of the unrelated first line which became part of the Southern Pacific, built through the same pass on a gentler grade.

The southern-most exit was the one through Corral Hollow, a link in the old Spanish trail from Rancho San Antonio (Oakland) to San Pedro in the southland.

Patterson Pass was called by the Spaniards “Paso de en Medio” (Middle Pass) because it was between the two other openings in the Diablo range.

 

To be continued…

 

“Days Of First Railroad”

When visiting the Tracy Historical Museum, if you only see what is directly in front of you, you may miss something magnificent farther above eye level.

Among those “somethings” is a rare and wonderful mural by the Oakland-born artist Edith Hamlin (1902–1992), whose other works included murals at Coit Tower and Mission High School in San Francisco, and at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

Muralist Edith Hamlin (Photo)

Edith Hamlin at work on the Mission High School mural, circa 1936.

Shortly after the United States Post Office opened at the corner of 12th and Adam streets here in 1937, Miss Hamlin painted a series of three murals depicting Tracy’s early history.

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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.

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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 recently opened, taking 11th Street over the Union Pacific tracks.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tracy Yard Improvement Program Near Completion (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.”

SP Tracy Yard Opens (Elroy Pope Photo, May 1961)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.

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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, you are on Schulte Road, which dead-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 version of Schulte Road, which bottoms out at Corral Hollow Road, 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?

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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, Kerlinger, 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.

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