It’s perhaps the most visible landmark across the flatlands of western San Joaquin County – a cluster of tall, white silos bearing the Holly Sugar brand – which can be seen from miles away, towering above the landscape north of Tracy.
Here’s a preview of our upcoming article on the Holly Sugar refinery in Tracy and how it was served by rail and barge.
A General Electric 25-ton switcher snoozes beneath the silos at Holly Sugar’s Tracy plant.
Prior to the extension of the “Sugar Spur,” beets were transported to the sugar mill via barge via Sugar Cut, a man-made inlet dug from Tom Paine Slough to the refinery.
The sugar refinery at Tracy, circa 1930s.
A train loaded with sugar beets arrives in the Southern Pacific’s yard on the west side of Tracy, having just traversed the Altamont Pass on its way into the Central Valley
A 1973 Southern Pacific “SPINS” map – a handy “aid to navigation” for train crews – showing the track schematic at the Holly Sugar plant.
(Click to enlarge)
Switch 7470 on the Sugar Spur, just inside the gate (March 2008 Photo)
The village of Bethany could, once upon a time, be found along the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Martinez-to-Tracy extension, just a few miles outside the latter city’s limits.
These days, few signs remain of Bethany: an old farm road that ends near the tracks is perhaps the most significant remnant. (A reservoir in the nearby Livermore Hills is named for the town, but is several miles distant.)
The Central Pacific Railroad built a depot at Bethany around 1878 along the extension, which was constructed as the San Pablo & Tulare Railroad; in the early Twentieth Century, this section of tracks appeared on USGS maps – including the one below from 1914 – as the Southern Pacific’s “San Francisco and New Orleans Line.”
Today, it is known to railheads as the “Mococo Line.” It was the construction of this extension that led directly to the birth of Tracy at the end of the 1870s.