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, 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.
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.
The Carbona water tank, circa 2003
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.
The Carbona Curve, circa 1914
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.
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.
Above: The Carbona Curve, 2015
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.