Category: History (Page 2 of 2)

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


Associated Oil Tank Farm – Tracy, California

For decades, oil from Kern County was transported by rail in tank cars (appropriately dubbed “oil cans”) to this Associated Oil storage facility in Tracy, which served as a way station as the oil traveled to Port Costa.

In the aerial photo from 1926 (shown above and below), the tracks heading to the right are part of the Mococo Line, which is now a seldom-used single track that extends up through Byron and Brentwood into Antioch and Pittsburg.

In the distance, just right of center in the photograph is an oil reservoir (also known back then as the “Gravel Pit”), which was located approximately where Alden Park is today.

Tracy Associated Oil Depot (1926 Photo)

A 1926 aerial view of the Associated Oil Tank Farm in Tracy.
Click image for enlarged view.

The Mococo Line was fundamental to the creation of the city of Tracy, which was founded in 1878 when the nearly fifty-mile-long line was opened between Martinez and here.

Originally constructed as the San Pablo & Tulare Railroad, it was built as an extension — a shortcut, as it were — connecting the Central Pacific’s established northern line near San Pablo Bay and its line through the San Joaquin Valley via Stockton and Lathrop over the Eastbay Hills to Oakland. (The SP&T was consolidated into the Southern Pacific Railroad, the successor to the Central Pacific, in 1888.)

All that currently remains of this facility today is a group of hillocks at the corner of Tracy Blvd. and Beechnut Avenue, across from the city’s corporation yard.

Contaminated soil in the area led to a landmark court case, Cose v. Getty Oil Co., over who was responsible for waste from the tanks that had seeped into the soil surrounding the “Gravel Pit.”

Map of Tracy, Calif., showing the location of the oil depot (1955)

ABOVE: An excerpt from a 1955 USGS map of Tracy, showing the Tank Farm area. Note that the current Tracy Boulevard, previously known as Oil Road, did not extend across the tracks here at this time.

Google Earth view of Tracy oil depot site (2013)

ABOVE: A Google Earth aerial view of the Tank Farm area as it appeared in 2013. Tracy Blvd. curves from top to bottom at right, with Alden Park in the lower-left corner.

San Joaquin Daylight at Tracy (1956 Photo)

Southern Pacific Train 51, the westbound San Joaquin Daylight, roars past the Tank Farm (at right) on July 7, 1956, on its way to Martinez and Oakland by way of the Mococo Line, in this photo by E.K. Muller
(Western Railway Museum Archive)

Associated Oil "Tidewater" railroad tank car (Photo, Circa 1940s)

ABOVE: A typical Associated Oil tank car. The San Francisco-based company used “Tidewater” and “Flying A” as brand names.

Special thanks to the Western Railway Museum for permission to include E.K. Muller’s majestic 1956 photograph of the San Joaquin Daylight in Tracy (Negative No. 90126) in this article.

Railroad Crossing Sign (Image)
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