Stockton Railroads and Streetcars



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The first truly transcontinental railroad was through Stockton, over Altamont Pass and thence via Niles Canyon to the San Francisco Bay Area, a distance of 140 miles (230 km). That line was constructed by Leland Stanford's Central Pacific Railroad subsidiary the Western Pacific Railroad (of 1862). The route over Altamont Pass was completed in 1869. (This railroad is unrelated to the Western Pacific Railroad (of 1916) that ran to Salt Lake City via the Feather River Canyon.) The other route via Stockton, to Banta, thence to Martinez to Oakland was 151 miles (243 km).

Highways play integral role in S.J. development

If you go to the Amtrak station today south of downtown Stockton at San Joaquin and Taylor streets, you'll notice that not much has changed from these earlier views: the top photo from around 1900 and the bottom photo from 1976. More significant is that rail-passenger service is getting more attention than ever. The Cross town Freeway, looking west from Highway 99, takes motorists to downtown Stockton and Interstate 5. A long time in coming -- 20 years, actually -- it has relieved a lot of east/west surface-street traffic, primarily Charter Way, and taken its place quickly as a vital link in San Joaquin County's network of highways.

Record photographer Andrew Chesley remembers the celebration when the last leg of Interstate 5 was finished. It was an exciting event, he said. Completion of the last segment just north of Stockton meant that people could drive on the new interstate from the Mexican border to Canada, he said. Were not talking ancient history here. That event occurred in 1979 said Chesley, the San Joaquin Council of Governments deputy director. The highway system that now makes San Joaquin County an ideal place for major distribution warehouses and other such businesses isnt that old. Longtime south-county residents say they remember how difficult it was just to go to Stockton.

A trip to the Bay Area was a long adventure. And before the highways and the automobile became the way to go, rail ruled. Until Interstate 5 was finished, Highway 99 was the only major north/south route through the Central Valley. But Highway 99, the nearly 500-mile-long route from Red Bluff to beyond Bakersfield, was rife with roads intersecting it. Because there were no bypasses, a long drive meant having to pause at stop signs and signal lights in every little town along the way. That made for nightmarish long drives, old-timers say. Within the county, people relied on other, even slower routes.

Interstate 5 replaced the old Highway 50, Lathrop Councilman Mac Freeman said. That ran through French Camp on El Dorado Street, said Freeman, who recalled the trip from Lathrop to downtown Stockton taking 30 minutes or longer. When I-5 opened it was really weird. There were very few cars, Freeman said. Few people used it because there were no gas stations or other services for long stretches of the highway, he said.

Tracy native Betty Galli remembers drives to the Bay Area on either of two routes: one through Castro Valley that was almost like driving on city streets and the more scenic drive through Dublin, Danville and Walnut Creek and the Caldecott Tunnel into Oakland and Berkeley. That was a beautiful drive, Galli said of the second route. In Tracy, 11th Street through downtown was called the Lincoln Highway and was the main route through town until the late 1950s when Interstate 205 opened up, Galli said.

Trips to or through Manteca led local residents to seek alternate routes because Yosemite Avenue was always clogged until the Highway 120 Bypass was opened in 1980. Highway officials currently are widening to four lanes the 5.3-mile bypass that connects Interstate 5 to Highway 99. It is heavily used by commuters during the week and by motorists to and from the mountains at all times.

The Crosstown Freeway through Stockton, which opened in 1993, had been planned for about 20 years. It has lessened the burden on Charter Way and other east/west streets that run through the city, officials say. Before the highways, however, trains were the main mode of transportation.

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In 1869, when the Transcontinental Railroad was finished, it came as far west as Sacramento, said Horace A Spencer, a retired Stockton teacher who has written a photo-filled book titled The Railroads of San Joaquin County. By August of 1869, tracks from Sacramento through Stockton to the Mossdale area south of Lathrop had been laid, Spencer said. By November of that year, tracks from the East Bay connected with the tracks at Mossdale, he said. That kind of put Stockton on the map, Spencer said. But Lathrop also boomed when Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University and one of the Big Four railroad czars, made the small community into a major railroad junction. That happened after Stockton officials rejected Stanfords proposal to build a railroad on El Dorado Street to connect trains to riverboats, Spencer said. Trains were the main movers of people and goods until autos and trucks replaced them. Motor vehicles killed passenger-train service, Spencer said. Spencer, an advocate of public transportation, pointed out the irony in the present scramble in the county and elsewhere to revive old rail lines for commuter use.

Street Cars

Street Cars - Stockton streetcars numbered only two when service started but, as more track was laid, more cars were added. There were eventually at least a dozen cars running in Stockton, powered by mules or, perhaps less often, horses. Open cars were used in summer months, closed cars in winter, as in many of the three hundred or more American cities with comparable systems. The cars had only four wheels and the ride must have been somewhat uncomfortable. Thanks to Kevin Sawver for finding most of these Street Car photos

Horse Drawn

Stockton Street Railroad Company - 1889. Enclosed winter car passing by the Holden Drug store at the corner of Main & El Dorado Streets. The Stockton Street Car Company was established in 1875 using four cars built in San Francisco. Holden Drug survived into the 1960s

Electric

More Electric Street Cars Below

2850 N. California St- Street Car Barns and Offices - Built in 1907 The first Stockton built 10 horsepower electric streetcars were introduced in 1892 to replace horse and mule drawn trolleys used since 1875. The Stockton Electric Railroad Co. built the Streetcar Barns and Office Complex in 1907 and utilized this facility until 1941 after which gasoline powered motor coaches served as the primary mode of public transportation The building was added to the city register by resolution number 85-0307 on May 13, 1985. The building stands today as a grocery store

The first scheduled electric streetcar in Stockton set out at 7:30 AM on July 15. 1892. on the route from Goodwater Grove (Now Oak Park) to Main Street. The riders included part-owners Fyfe and Corcoran. and they were pleased. The new system was very well patronized on that day--many people being forced to stand while others had to wait for the next car. The fare was five cents. After the first day the hours of operation were from 7 AM to 10 PM. and the runs required between fifteen and twenty minutes

Various small purchases were made from 1923 through the early 1930s, but the last major purchase by the Stockton Electric Railroad Company was in 1937. Twenty-two cars, designated as numbers 137 through 158, were purchased from the City of San Jose. They were all Birney safety cars, twenty-nine feet long, and had been manufactured by the Saint Louis Streetcar Company. When streetcar service was discontinued in 1941, none but Birney cars were still being used

Interurbans

Amtrak Depot

Amtrak Depot - 735 South San Joaquin Street in Stockton, a stop for Oakland-Bakersfield Amtrak trains. The depot is a legacy of the San Francisco & San Joaquin Valley Railroad, which set out to build from Stockton to Bakersfield and challenge the Southern Pacific's much-unloved monopoly on the Valley.

Santa Fe Depot

Thanks to Ron Chapman and Kevin Sawver for many of these photos - Bottom right photo, Photographer George Besaw of the Western Card Company, Reedley, California. The building pictured is an excellent example of "Mission Revival" architecture

The concrete interlocking tower at Stockton, CA controlled the crossing of the Santa Fe main line to Richmond, CA with the parallel main lines of the Western Pacific to Oakland and the Southern Pacific from Sacramento to Bakersfield. The building itself was relatively young as towers go. It was completed in 1943, replacing an earlier frame tower which had in turn replaced the original San Francisco & San Joaquin Valley RR tower built in the late 1890's. The final tower was a three story concrete structure, similar in overall dimensions to the concrete interlocking tower standard plans shown on pages 218-221 of Santa Fe System Standards, Volume 2, but varying in door and window placement and in the stairway configuration. East Tower at Amarillo, TX had a similar configuration (see below). For most of its existence, the exterior of Stockton Tower was just bare concrete, but in its final years, it was painted in the attractive white and brown scheme shown. The tower closed in January 1999 as both the BNSF (ex-ATSF) and Union Pacific (ex-SP) lines were converted to Centralized Traffic Control. The former Western Pacific line, also under UP control, was subsequently abandoned through Stockton in favor of the parallel ex-SP line. Stockton Tower was demolished May 26-28, 1999.

This section tool house at was located across the tracks from the interlocking tower. It was built or moved to this site some time after the third tower was constructed in the 1940's. Its dimensions are similar to the 1931 plan, but it has board-and-batten siding instead of clapboard. This house was torn down in 1997.

Santa Fe Depot - 735 South San Joaquin Street - The classic mission style depot at Stockton, CA was built by the Santa Fe in 1900. The original depot at Fresno was built to the same plans, but was later greatly expanded and modified. Stockton remains more or less as- built, except for a portion of the open archway which was enclosed for office space on the east end. The Oakland-bound San Joaquin trains stop here for the time being, but plans are in the works to replace the century-old station with a new one further east in Stockton which will also be able to serve trains bound for Sacramento on the former Southern Pacific line. You can buy the San Francisco Days Album here  - Santa Fe Depot -

Southern Pacific Depot

The First Southern Pacific Depot - This depot was demolished in the late 1950's. More than 20 years after the current one was built. I think SP used it for storage? It was located in the next block west from the current Cabral Station.

Second Southern Pacific Depot - Now Robert J. Cabral Station at 949 East Channel Street. Rich in railroad history, the City of Stockton is host to three historic train depots, and this iconic former Southern Pacific station is the home to ACE and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. The Robert J. Cabral Station is named after a pioneer who was part of the group who founded the Commission and the ACE service. A tribute to Cabral is placed at the station next to a traditional clock tower – both a beacon and vision for revitalization that is taking place in the downtown neighborhood.

The station is five blocks from the San Joaquin Regional Transit District Downtown Transit Center and ten blocks from the beautiful waterfront area. This station is one of two in Stockton where travelers board and deboard some Amtrak trains. Amtrak passengers should be careful to review their tickets to ensure they are going to the right station.

It is the northern terminus of Altamont Commuter Express trains and a stop for Sacramento-Bakersfield Amtrak trains. This depot was built in 1930 by the Southern Pacific Co. That railroad's corporate ancestor, the Central Pacific Railroad, made Stockton part of the nation's first transcontinental line in 1869 when it built south from its original terminus at Sacramento through Stockton, over the Altamont Pass (called Livermore Pass back then) and on to San Jose and Oakland. Second row right photos courtesy of Floyd Perry Jr. Bottom right photo courtesy of Gary Pardini

Stockton Ace Repair Facility - New locomotive and passenger car maintenance facility for Altamont Commuter Express in Stockton, CA. The $61m project on a 62 acre site is shoehorned between the former SP and WP mainlines just north of El Pinal on Stockton's north side. This new complex is replacing space that ACE has leased from UP at the former WP yard and shops south of downtown .

Additional track capacity will occur outside the immediate shop area as well. The spur that serves the ACE Stockton station platform (former SP depot) will be extended north (approx. one mile) and tie into the Sacramento Sub at El Pinal. This will allow ACE deadhead trains between the shops and station to make these moves without any conflicts to UP freights on the Fresno Subs' two tracks. The California Transportation Commission this past fall allocated $11m for this project.

Left Photo: Southern Pacific Motorcar - The motorcar ran on gasoline and did not have much power - Right photo; Southern Pacific Turntable
Left photo: Southern Pacific Daylight Train in front of The Taylor Milling Co. Warehouse at 701 W. Weber- Right photo: Southern Pacific "Iron Horse" in Stockton before being replaced by diesels

Stockton Terminal & Eastern

Established in 1908, the Stockton Terminal and Eastern Railroad (reporting mark STE) provides service to several companies around the Stockton, California area. Being located in Stockton places the STE in an ideal situation for the consolidation and distribution of freight. This includes PDM Steel, Lipton, and Salt River Materials Group to name a few. The railroad operates 25 miles of track connecting with the BNSF Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Central California Traction Company.
The STE incorporated October 29, 1908 was commissioned to build a railroad from Stockton to Jenny Lind. The track gave the agricultural industry additional transportation for the crops the valley supplied to the world. In 1910 ST&E purchased a Lancaster engine in built in 1862, nicknamed “Mariposa” from Western Pacific. It served as their only locomotive as Stockton became one of the fastest growing cities during the 20th century. The railroad ran until 1919 when it was purchased by E.F. Davis and others who owned and operated it till 1958, when the present corporation acquired it.

Western Pacific

Western Pacific - former Western Pacific depot at 1025 E. Main St. in Stockton, now a trackless derelict but once a stop for Western Pacific trains such as the WP's flagship California Zephyr, which from 1949 to 1970 traveled between Oakland and Chicago by way of the spectacular Feather River Canyon, north of Oroville. Right photo taken from Weber Avenue, Left photo from Market & Union St.

The Western Pacific Railroad was a regional west coast railroad in North America, that existed from 1910 until the merger and acquisition by the Union Pacific Railroad in the year of 1982. During the late steam era, the Western Pacific also roistered modern semi streamlined 1940's era GS class 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotives, just like the Southern Pacific Railroad did. The Western Pacific locomotives were powerful and efficient machines, that unfortunately came around during World War 2 when the Western Pacific and many other North American railroads were trying to dieselize their locomotive fleets. American wartime restrictions imposed by the government due to shortages, dictated that only steam locomotives would be built new during the war until further notice. The Western Pacific GS-64 class 4-8-4's ended their service lives during the early 1950's in both freight and passenger train service. None have been preserved. Locomotive #484, is shown here at Stockton California way back in 1950.
The Western Pacific California Zephyr. The first WP trains in 1909 were freight. Passenger service began in August of 1910. The depot was closed in 1970 and subsequently was the headquarters for the Stockton Police Department Youth Activities
Western Pacific Turntable td>

Central California Traction

Central California Traction - Tidewater Southern - Ownership of the Sacramento Northern Railroad was changed over to the Western Pacific in 1922 retaining the name Sacramento Northern Railroad. The Sacramento Northern Railway was created in 1925 as a new subsidiary of the WP to handle the growing collection of WP interurban railroad holdings. On November 4, 1925, the SN Railway purchased the SN Railroad. By retaining the SN as a subsidiary, Western Pacific received more income when interchanging freight with the Sacramento Northern due to fees earned from freight interchange between one railroad to another. Western Pacific also owned regional sister electric railroads Tidewater Southern (Stockton to Modesto) and Central California Traction (Stockton to Sacramento). Passenger service ceased in 1941, and the system operated as a short line freight-hauling railroad thereafter. The SN was created out of two established interurban railroads:

The Tidewater Southern Railway corporate office and Stockton depot were located on the ground floor of the Stockton Hotel in downtown Stockton, located in the southwest corner of the hotel, at the intersection of Weber Avenue and El Dorado Street. The Tidewater Southern shared the office space with the Central California Traction (CCT). The T.S. interurban cars would stop in the street across from the office for passenger service or would proceed further west for another block to the Stockton waterfront.

Hotel Stockton, which once doubled as a depot and offices for the Central California Traction Co. and the Tidewater Southern. Both ran electric, interurban trains out of Stockton; the CCT's trains went to Sacramento via Lodi, and the Tidewater's went to Turlock via Escalon and Modesto. Now, the sight of electric trains right outside on Weber Avenue is a distant memory.
SP Railroad Tracks looking toward Alpine Avenue
SP Railroad Tracks at Marshal Avenue - Looking South

Weber Avenue Train

The History of Street Cars in Stockton - San Joaquin Historian

Stockton Street Cars - YouTube

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