Tag: tracy historical museum

“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.

The first, entitled “Spaniards (1776-1848),”  and the third, entitled “Days of First Railroad (1878),” are displayed prominently in that same building, which is now our Tracy Historical Museum.

Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the second mural — “Overland Pioneers,” depicting a family traveling by ox-drawn covered wagon — is unknown.

Detail from "Spaniards" (Edith Hamlin, 1938)

Detail from “Spaniards” on display at the Tracy Historical Museum

“Days of First Railroad” bears the date of 1878, purported to be the year that the Central Pacific Railroad consolidated its operations from Lathrop, Bantas, Ellis and Midway at the spot originally known as Tracy Junction.

The locomotive represented in the mural is the fanciful “S.P.R.R. 42,” a brightly-painted 4-4-0 steamer in Southern Pacific Railroad livery that we have yet to find evidence of having existed.

Overland Pioneers Mural (Image)

“Overland Pioneers” being readied for display at the Tracy Post Office

Miss Hamlin originally attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, then matriculated to the Teachers College at Columbia University in Manhattan. Hearing that government-subsidized work for artists was available in San Francisco, Miss Hamlin learned to drive and migrated back west during the height of the Great Depression to join two dozen other artists in the mural project at Coit Tower.

Putting down stakes in San Francisco, she accepted a prized commission to paint the murals at the city’s Mission High School, attracting the assistance of the noted artist Maynard Dixon, who at the time was married to the eminent photographer Dorothea Lange.

(Miss Lange also spent a substantial amount of time in Tracy and its environs during this era, creating an iconic series of photographs while documenting Depression-era migrants … but that’s a tale for another time.)

Edith Hamlin's "Days Of First Railroad" (Detail Image)

Detail view of “Days of First Railroad”
(Click image for enlarged view)

From the evidence available, Mr. Dixon’s marriage to Miss Lange disintegrated, and he and Miss Hamlin were married in 1937 and remained together until his death in 1946 at the age of 71.

Miss Hamlin continued a distinguished career as an artist and curator of her husband’s life works, many of which are preserved at the Maynard and Edith Hamlin Dixon House and Studio, their summer home in Mount Carmel, Utah, where they worked and lived during their brief time together.

The couple’s other home and studio, located in Tucson, Ariz., has also been designated for preservation as part of that city’s heritage.

Edith Hamlin and Maynard Dixon (Photo)

Edith Hamlin and Maynard Dixon

Beyond California, Miss Hamlin worked throughout the southwest, notably in New Mexico and Arizona; she was one of the earliest artists to have discovered the unusual beauty of Taos, N.M., and she created lasting murals for the Arizona Biltmore Hotel dining room in Phoenix; and St. Ambrose Catholic Church and the Old Pueblo Club in Tucson, Arizona.

Miss Hamlin lived out the final years of her life in San Francisco, where she died in 1992.

For more about Edith Ann Hamlin, we invite you to visit:




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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Museum Program: The Life and Times of a Tracy Trainman

Mark your calendars for the next History Seminar on Wednesday, November 18th at the Tracy Historical Museum!

The Life and Times of a Tracy Trainman

Learn about Tracy’s railroad history from someone who lived it.

Robert Firth Railroad PhotographsJoin Stephen Ridolfi for a discussion about his life and times as a Tracy Trainman. Mr. Ridolfi, a lifelong Tracy resident, worked as a Southern Pacific conductor and brakeman out of the Tracy area for 40 years. Mr. Ridolfi will describe the adventures and myth-busting life of a trainman in the San Joaquin Valley.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Tracy Historical Museum
1141 Adams Street, Tracy

Speaker: Stephen Ridolfi

There is no charge to attend this event at the museum.

For more information, please email the Tracy Historical Museum, visit their website or phone 209-832-7278.

Thank you very much for your support of the West Side Pioneer Association and Tracy Historical Museum.

Event information via Larry Gamino, President of the West Side Pioneer Association/Tracy Historical Museum.

INSET PHOTO: Southern Pacific’s Tracy railyard, circa 1954, by Robert D. Firth. (Courtesy of David Firth.)


Stephen Ridolfi - Tracy Museum

Steve Ridolfi gave a lively talk on his life riding the rails with the Southern Pacific, covering everything from getting his start with the railroad — interrupted early on by a stint in Vietnam with the Air Force — to the dangerous conditions encountered (snakes, stray box cars, random derailments and trespassers), to the grind of working 16-hour shifts in conditions that ranged from ice-cold winters to sweltering summertime. Mr. Ridolfi is also a noted portrait and event photographer. His work can be viewed on his website at RidolfisPhotographics.com.


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