Category: History (Page 1 of 2)

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.

At the same time, the SP chose to reduce and relocate its facilities in downtown Tracy, moving its storage yard farther east of town – on the far side of the Eleventh Street overpass, spanning the area east nearly to Banta. (The relocated yard opened in 1961.)

With the relocation, down came the roundhouses and up grew a simple “shed” near the SP’s new depot at the foot of Sixth Street near MacArthur, providing just enough space to service one or two diesel locomotives at a time. A refueling dock and sanding station – essential to provide additional traction for heavy trains heading over the Altamont – were also constructed.

The diesel facility remained in use into the 1990s, after which it was shut down. Subsequently, its windows were covered with plywood sheets, its huge doors were sealed shut, and the rails leading up to it were torn out.

Tracy Engine Shed (Photo Circa 1966)

Activity at the Southern Pacific diesel shed, circa 1966. The sanding tower, or at least part of it, may be seen at far left
(Courtesy of Robert J. Zenk)

Southern Pacific Diesel Shed at Tracy (Photo)

A pair of high-nosed Southern Pacific SDs block the view of the diesel shed in this 1984 photo.
(Robert Newbegin Collection)

Southern Pacific Tracy Engine Shed (2013 Photo)

The Southern Pacific engine facility at Tracy, with its windows covered and doors sealed.
(David Jackson Photo, 2013)

UPRR 6th Street Yard (Photo)

On the chilly morning of December 23, 2017 – Christmas Eve eve – a brace of Union Pacific (left and center tracks) and California Northern (on the right track) locomotives slumber between the UP’s 6th Street yard office and the old diesel shed, while construction cranes loom over the newly-built 11th Street overpass.
(David Jackson photo)

Southern Pacific Diesel Engine Facility (Photo)

The former Southern Pacific diesel locomotive facility in November 2021, with nearly all vestiges of its previous configuration removed. The four concrete blocks (right of center) appear to be the base of the old sanding tower.
(David Jackson Photo)

Special thanks to Robert J. Zenk for generously providing the photos of the Southern Pacific’s Tracy Yard at the top of this page (1979, in black and white) and below (1966, in color).

Tracy Engine Shed (Photo)

 

Railtown Tracy (Home Page Link)

“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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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

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.

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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.

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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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Mileposts: 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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Jimmie Dameron (1933-2015)

The Tracy Press and the Tracy Historical Museum have reported the passing of Jimmie L. Dameron, a retired Southern Pacific Railroad engineer and resident of the city for the past 55 years.

Jimmie Dameron (1933-2015)Mr. Dameron, who was 81 years old, died on October 29, 2015, at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital following a brief illness. He had been scheduled to present a discussion at the museum on October 21 covering his lengthy and colorful career with the SP when he fell ill. (The program has been re-scheduled for November 18, with Stephen Ridolfi replacing Mr. Dameron. Please click here for more information.)

Born in Turlock and raised in Delhi (Merced County), Mr. Dameron and his wife moved to Tracy in 1960 when he began his career as a brakeman with the SP. He later advanced to engineer with the railroad, and served as local chairman for the United Transportation Union.

Upon his retirement from the SP, he became a part-time engineer of the Redwood Valley Railway scale model live-steam train in Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills. Over the years, according to his obituary, he was an ardent devotee of steam locomotives and was a passenger  — and sometimes volunteer assistant engineer — on numerous steam-powered trains while traveling throughout the world. He also visited countless railroad museums over the years.

Read Mr. Dameron’s full obituary on the Tracy Press website.

 

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