Category: History (Page 1 of 2)

The Ballad of Skipper Hudson

From the front page of the September 10, 1944, edition of the Tracy Press:

Skipper Hudson
Laid to Rest

Passes Away Saturday
In Stockton After
Short Illness

Skipper Hudson is dead. The end came early last Saturday morning in a Stockton hospital.

Born in San Francisco in 1859, he lived as an individualist and died the same way, refusing aid from anyone, working for his living until the very end of his life and maintaining the fiery independent spirit after his weary flesh and blood became too weak to carry out the dictates of his mind.

On the evening of March 2 he became ill while sitting in a restaurant. Assisted to his room in the Roberts building by his son, Charles Hudson, and E. C. Wyman, Skipper told his helpers to leave him alone — he would be well and working by morning.

But 85 years had taken their toll. Skipper did not rally. He was taken to a Stockton hospital where he remained only because he did not have the physical strength to get up and leave.

For the past 15 years he had been caretaker of the Roberts building, corner Central and Eighth. He not only looked after the heating plant and the maintenance of the building that houses stores, offices and lodge rooms, but he also kept an eagle eye on the occupants, using fatherly and sometimes stern disciplinary measures whenever the conduct of his charges displeased him.

His parents came from New York. After rounding the Horn, they landed at San Francisco in 1850. As a small boy, Skipper recalled that he took the steamer from San Francisco to Antioch, thence to Banta by overland stage. One uncle, Rufus Saddlemire, had preempted land near the spot of the present highway overpass. Two other uncles had also settled in the vicinity at what is now Tracy.

During these visits Skipper told amazing tales of the hundreds of deer that roamed the high grass on the present site of Tracy. The grass, he said, was as high as a man’s head. He often told how millions of wild ducks and geese blackened out the sun when they rose from the swamps that have since been drained.

He distinctly remembered the building of the old Central Pacific line from Sacramento through Niles in 1868-69. He recalled the hordes of Chinese Coolies who looked like swarms of ants as they pushed the rails down from the Altamont into the valley. The first transcontinental train passed through the site of Tracy in 1869.

C.P. Huntington Steam Locomotive (Photo)

This photo of the venerable C.P. Huntington steam locomotive, now on display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, accompanied Skipper Hudson’s front-page obituary in the Tracy Press. Mr. Hudson is at left in the undated photo.

After graduating from Heald’s Business College, San Francisco, Skipper took up railroading in preference to prospecting for gold or raising livestock. He helped build the Port Costa line which joined the Niles line in 1878. This event was the reason Tracy was founded in that year. The buildings from Ellis were moved here and the roundhouse was moved here from Lathrop.

For a number of years he was brakeman and conductor between Sacramento and Oakland. At one time, George Gaylord, retired Southern Pacific superintendent, worked as a brakeman under Skipper. In later years, when these two met, old days were recalled with the appropriate language of the times.

After taking Mary Yoos as his bride in 1885, he came to Tracy for his permanent residence. He quit railroading to manage the Ludwig ranch on the present site of the Quartermaster Depot. Later he worked on the Sierra Railroad, on the dredging operations when the islands were reclaimed, and then at the creamery that is now the Dairymaid plant. He became caretaker of the Roberts building in 1929.

His name was Charles Hudson. His father, Charles Hudson, died in 1919, and his mother lived until 1923. A brother, Alfred Hudson, died in 1914.

He leaves a son, Charles (Roxy) Hudson, superintendent of utilities for the City of Tracy; three grandchildren, Mrs. Wadenia Burke, Tracy; Floyd E. Hudson, warrant officer at sea with the US Navy, and Herbert Hudson, ensign in the US Navy, Dallas, Texas. The two grandsons were not able to attend the final rites. He was the great grandfather of Doris Marie Hudson, Dallas, and Nancy Carleen Burke, Tracy.

Friends paid final tribute at funeral services held Tuesday afternoon from DeMark Memorial chapel with Rev. James Otter of the Presbyterian church officiating.

Interment was in Tracy cemetery. Pallbearer were E.C. Wyman, Ray Vogt, M. B. Warren, Warren Shaw, Pat Bone and William Krohn.

Charles "Skipper" Hudson Gravestone (Photo)

Skipper Hudson’s gravestone at Tracy Public Cemetery.

Mileposts: Byron Hot Springs (MP 69.9)

Byron Hot Springs, a once elegant and prestigious resort and spa in rural eastern Contra Costa County, a few miles up the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks from Tracy on the Byron Highway to Brentwood and Martinez, now lies in ruins, hidden from view of the thousands of commuters and other travelers that pass it every day of the week.

In earlier times, the hot springs were utilized by the local native population for bathing and for the water’s perceived medicinal qualities. Upon the arrival of European settlers in the area, most notably the infamous John Marsh, the natives were driven away or forced into servitude.

Byron Hot Springs Ad (Image)

The springs were developed into a tourist resort used by the well-to-do from far and wide; it is known that baseball great Joe DiMaggio vacationed regularly at the hotel during the off-season, and numerous stars from vaudeville and the early days of Hollywood movies – including, according to legend, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Mae West, and Clark Gable – also sought respite at the resort.

Continue reading

Cornering The Market: Neighborhood Stores In Tracy

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article is slightly off-topic. There is little, if anything, about trains in this article.

While driving around Tracy, in these days of sprawling supermarkets – Safeway, Raleys, Save-Mart among them – you may not notice the numerous corner markets that dot our town.

Most of these corner markets, several of which aren’t actually on a corner, per se, date back several decades, to a time before the large supermarkets offered one-stop convenience for everything your family needs.

Continue reading

Southern Pacific Diesel Shed, Tracy

For nearly five decades, the Southern Pacific Railroad utilized two massive roundhouses at its railyard near downtown Tracy. The roundhouses were constructed to service and repair steam locomotives at Tracy, which was a major waypoint on the SP during the first half of the Twentieth Century.

SP Tracy Turntable (Photo, Circa Early 1950s)

A view of the SP’s Tracy turntable, looking between the old roundhouses, circa early 1950s.

In the mid-1950s, the Southern Pacific began the complete phase-out of steam locomotives, replacing their entire fleet with more reliable diesel-electric locomotives, which required substantially less maintenance.

Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

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.

SP 4426 At Tracy (Photo)

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.

Continue reading

Jack Godwin, Carbona Station Agent

Edgar M. “Jack” Godwin, Jr., 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.

Continue reading

The San Joaquin Daylight

Showing here (above) is 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, excerpted from the Southern Pacific’s official Timetable #10, issued on May 12, 1968.

San Joaquin Daylight (Photo)

A Southern Pacific promo shot of the steam-powered San Joaquin Daylight near Bakersfield in the 1940s

Following the SP’s practice of designating “east” and “west” on its timetables based on the location of its Market Street corporate headquarters in San Francisco, the “eastward” San Joaquin Daylight (Train 52, originating in Oakland) is actually heading south to Los Angeles, while the “westward” return trip (Train 51, originating in L.A.) is heading north to Oakland.

Continue reading

The Southern Pacific Employees Clubhouse

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.

Continue reading

Tracy Yard Improvement Program Near Completion (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.”

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.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2024 Railtown Tracy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑