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NEW ARRIVALS: see below the Industrial Department
Last arrivals to this page: 10-22-23

Site conventions:
Wx4 "Staff" = me, E.O. Gibson
"Foamer" = you, most likely

Dateline 7-31-23:

When staff introduce the new Dome 2023 last May, we contemplated that most new items would appear on interior pages, rather than traditionally on the front page. Well, it did not work out that way. It's easier to slap stuff on this page and worry about it later.

That said, new items are going to appear less frequently for awhile, so that we can attend to a couple of outside projects. - E.O.

A question for soul searching:

Exactly why do so many railfans treat the railroad industry with such reverence? We've never been able to figure out that one.

for locations of items added to Wx4 2012-2022, go HERE

New Arrivals, 2023

The Ernie Kiesel Collection of Southern Pacific Photographs at History San Jose - Wx4 is proud to host this genealogical treasure of 300+ photos that once lined locomotive engineer change room walls in San Francisco circa 1900-1980. Engineers and their locos are the main subjects, but other crafts and officers are also represented, as are wrecks and other historical moments. Includes a biographical index to known people.
Southern Pacific Railroaders' Pages - We are fond of saying that, "The best part of railroading is the people," and these pages are devoted to them: biographies and stories; photos and videos; time books and rosters. Our pages and the Kiesel Collection nicely compliment each other.
52 Years in the Shops - Speaking of SP rails, during his notably lengthy employ as a machinist at Bayshore beginning in 1929, Fred Boland wrote a fair number of stories about his work - and took a lot of photos, some as early as 1927. Along with these are more than 100 steam loco appliance & etc. blueprints that he rescued from the dumpster after dieselization. Fred's son, Walter, has kindly contributed copies his father's collected works to Wx4.
Historical Maps & Timetables - Effective this edition, we have a new page 12 in our Historical Maps & Timetables section, which we figure puts our overall PDF count at near 6,000. The page features the collection of John Charles, who initially has forwarded 500 of his timetable PDF's to us for posting, with promises of many, many more to come. His page is devoted to Colorado, the lower Plains states, Texas and Louisiana. The SP T&L timetables portion of his page perfectly compliments those on Dave Bernstein's page, which seems appropriate since they worked together as SP Houston dispatchers for several decades.
Earlier this year, Missouri Pacific historian Jerry Michels contributed a large collection of his favorite railroad's timetables that formed our new page 11. Please note that, beyond "horse blanket" style timetables, Wx4 has thousands of other RR (and early bus) PDF's of employee / public timetables, plus rule books, employee time books, and a large assortment of miscellaneous docs, ranging from locomotive service manuals to internal docs to advertising brochures.

Tim Zukas, Jeff Asay, and Sheldon Perry have also lately made significant contributions to these pages.
Taking Stock of William Jennings Holman and His Preposterous Locomotive - Much of what you know about one of the more famous stock schemes of the 19th Century, The Holman Locomotive, and its perpetrator is wrong; is the product of what Wx4 labels as "Internet Cut & Paste History". Our 30,000 word magnus opus sets things straight, by delving into his life as a long time confidence man and inventor who demonstrated remarkable resiliency after repeated failures with a rainbow of improbable schemes. Also, check our our homage to him.
Wreck of the New Almaden Mixed - In 1902, this South Pacific Coast narrow gauge train fell victim to a cornfield meet with a standard gauge SP engine in the fog at Moulton, on the three rail SPC main near Campbell. This lengthy piece thoroughly covers the affair and includes previously unpublished photos. Coincidentally, Moulton was the namesake of the man who had pressured SPC into adding a third rail several years earlier. His biography is also included.
California & Oregon Coast RR, incl. Hobbs, Wall & Co. and other Del Norte County RR's - The lengthy title befits this page, which first appeared in Wx4's earliest days, and and has since benefitted from several contributors. Here you'll find lots of photos and maps of these obscure little railways, as well as rosters that correct errors found in print sources.
Paducah's Boneyard and the Fate of IC's Last E-units - Classic Trains magazine's Spring, 2023 issue features "Firing on the Illinois Central in 1969", an article describing Mike Einhorn's brief, but scrapes-laden career as a student fireman. Mike's experiences went a long way in sideways explanation of conditions and attitudes that caused IC to have so many wrecks, something we discovered 15 years ago while producing our Paducah page. We figured then that IC wrecks turned fully 16% (10) of its E-Units into scrap metal. Otherwise, lots of photos of a wide variety of IC/foreign units.
Southern Pacific Train # 308 w/ Engine #1714 at Willows, CA, 1910-11
Years back we were gifted with a photo showing SP train #308 and crew standing at an unknown location. Of course we wanted to know where and when, so after we placed a plea on Wx4, the late Ed Workman determined the approximate date of the photo, while the late Tony Johnson was able to figured out that the train was the Hamilton [City] Freight and Passenger pausing at Willows. From there, we were able to determine the exact spot on a Sanborn map where the engine was sitting. We sorely miss Ed and Tony.

NEW on Internet Archive:

Rail Travel News/Newsletter put out 662 issues of its small, but well done newletter between 1970 and 2004. About half of them are now available on Internet Archive, courtesy of the lengthy efforts of its former Editor-at-Large, Paul Rayton, the sole surviving original staffer.

This is an especially important blow-by-blow contribution to a quarter century of passenger train history, which among other things, chronicles Amtrak's creation and ensuing trials and tribulations as they happened.

Click on the image for a link to the collection. Note that Paul has had some problems in getting IE's search engine to list them out in proper order, and some issue PDF's will not download, but he's working on it. - Thanks for your extensive efforts, Paul!


Dateline 7-31-2023: Yep, we've heard the complaints about the paucity of Hornbrook, CA SP maps on Wx4. For example, Arthur Twaddle of Lower Drift, Cornwall, U. K. writes:

Pan vyn'ta mos dhe'th lewya agas diberthys ha post moy mappyow Hornbrook?"

Pretty strong stuff, eh? To avoid a major squabble with the Cornwallians, we have had no recourse other than to post three more maps on our Hornbrook page.


Tim Zukas and Jeff Asay have conributed many more SP and NWP employee timetables, among several other roads, to Wx4's Maps & Timetables pages. Tim has also forwarded better scans of his 1880/90's SP ETT's. Go to HERE and HERE.

On the Miscellaneous Documents page, you'll find several new CP/SP Official List of Officers, Stations, Agents from the 1870's, 80's 90's.

AND, we have a new item on the Pioneer Bus Lines page that has been as nearly in demand as our Hornbrook Maps: a 1941 copy of a public timetable for the Boise-Winnemucca Stages, including connecting SP service! Wow!

(click image for larger rendition) SP of California #1026, Woodbridge, CA? ca1903-04
Unknown photographer; 4"x5" glass plate negative in Wx4 Collection

(click image for larger rendition) SJ&SN completed its line to Valley Springs in 1885, so this 1884 promotional map which places the railroad within the wider universe, is a bit premature in showing it complete to Valley Springs. You will note that this map once belonged to Ted Wurm, a.k.a. Teodoro Busano. Bancroft Library Map Collection
(click image for larger rendition) This 1897 Puente Brothers map is a bit dated, as it shows Brack's Landing-Woodbridge as "out of service", when in fact the tracks were already gone. Taison, a small collection of businesses and homes about midway beween, was the only real community west of Woodbridge. North of the railroad stood New Hope, founded by a group 20 Mormons who became some of the San Joaquin Valley's wheat farmers.
(click image for larger rendition) The absence of the narrow gauge line between Woodbridge and Brack's Landing in this June, 1896 Post Office map is conspicuous. SP began pulling up the tracks late in July. David Rumsey Map Colection.

Part of Wx4's Past Less Traveled series...

If you have perused a copy of Guy Dunscomb’s A Century of Southern Pacific Steam Locomotives, you may recognize a cropped version of the photo from page 362. It portrays S. P. of California’s well-traveled narrow gauge #1026, which at the time of the 1903-4 photo was performing duties on the former San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada Railroad. Our best guess is that the photo was recorded at Woodbridge, where its shops were located. Diebert and Strapac’s Southern Pacific Steam Locomotive Compendium tells us that Baldwin turned out the loco as Oregonian Railroad #8 in August, 1881. Oregonian was completely standard gauge by 1893, and no record seems to exist of the loco finding employment between then and the time that it became an S. P. of California engine on 12-28-1903. As such, it worked less than a year, as the Southern Pacific standard gauged the railroad the next August. Kyle Wyatt disclosed in Arnold Menke’s Compendium Companion that #1026 spent time in 1904 [and 1905?] on the Carson & Colorado without renumbering. He also stated that C. D. Bunker bought the engine on 8-8-06, and that its boiler turned up as riprap along the river near SP's Sacramento Shops in the late 1990’s, leading one to wonder if SP repossessed the engine. The boiler is preserved at CSRM.

During its short life on SJ&SN, #1026 must have been a celebrity. A from-the-cab shot looking back at its tender and train, as well as a Carter Brother's builder's photo of the railroad's swanky coach Ettie, appear in Bruce MacGregor's Birth of California Narrow Gauge, page 525. Another photo of the loco appeared on the front cover of "Western Railroader" Issue #198 (4-1956). Let us know if you are aware of others.

Should you be curious about the line, PacificNG.org has a very thorough writeup on its history. The essentials are that it began building eastward from Brack's Landing towards Woodbridge, Lodi, Lockeford and Valley Springs in early 1882, a task that was completed in 1885. Founder Jacob Brack's namesake landing, located on the Mokelume River's Beaver Slough, only did a so-so business as a rail-water transfer point in early years because the agricultural products that were its mainstay consisted almost exclusively of wheat, which was a boom business for only about six weeks out of the year. Most freight (and passengers) wound up transferring to SP at Lodi, SP's Northern Railway took over the struggling company in 1888 and began diverting much of Brack's Landing business to Stockton. In 1893, SP formally declared its intentions to standard gauge and abandon the now largely moribund portion from Brack's Landing to Woodbridge, but Brack was opposed and still held $22,000 in railroad bonds. He claimed that such a move would make his bonds worthless, because they described a railroad running to his landing. In response, SP simply waited until the bonds expired, then began tearing out the Brack's Landing line in July, 1896 (not 1897 as is usually claimed). Why SP waited until 1904 to widen the gauge is unclear.

(click image for larger rendition) This 1891 SP employee timetable from Tim Zukas's Historical Maps & Timetables page, shows the former SF&SN as the Lodi Branch. Note that regular service west of Woodbridge is non extant, a condition that seems to have predated the onset of SP's tenure. Few SF&SN timetables are known to exist, and the railroad never appeared in the Official Guide.

New 6-30-23: Smokey, the Dog Formed by a Committee

(click on image for a PDF of this and the below images) Courtesy of somebody who probably does not want to be associated with Wx4 Staff comentary

.The flip side of the flip side
As audience-inappropriate "Get off the track, Smokey" was, Norfolk Southern included a dead-on-target pair of safety messages on the flip side. (larger image in PDF). Trashy double entandres have always been popular fare on our railways, although these days, Staff wishes that women employees would tone them down a little. Yes, this poster ostensibly admonishing employes to maintain good work habits probably gained considerable notice down at the roundhouse, but only because its creators knew that if you removed the "Just Married" placard from the radiator, the scene conveys a whole different safety message, and a pretty effective one at that.

Staff wonders what is in the old head's grip,
Railroaders are often described as a giant family, and in some respects this is true. Wx4 Staff, on the other hand, regards the railroad business as more of an insular cult, run by executives who labor in furtive denial that mainstream America has seen considerable social progress since the smokestack age of the 19th Century of which they so struggle to emulate. In other words, the industry tenaciously clings to the sensibilities of the distant past. Also, railroaders don't get out much, which may be a good thing for the rest of humanity.

We could now commence with a full-blown essay supporting this thesis via an invocation of haughty concepts supported by quotes from Plutarch ("What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."), Friedrich Nietzsche (re the workplace: "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.") and Maynard G. Krebs ("WORK?!!!?"), but instead we are going to employ a sure-fire method more suited to a foamer website: show and tell.

Witness this ARA Safety Section Committee on Education poster. Perhaps a bar graph featuring maimed children might have been mainstream stuff in the Middle Ages, but by the time of its publication in 1934... well, we doubt that it would score many points at a PTA meeting. On the other hand, this would be nothing compared to the ensuing riot of PTA mothers following their discovery of on image, featuring Smokey's last moments, juxtapositioned on a third grade classroom wall between finger paintings of kitties.

Aside from all of that, and correct us if we are getting this wrong, doesn't it appear that little Billy has just tossed a ball for Smokey to fetch smack in the face of a speeding locomotive - this following his loss of a leg during a prior playdate-gone-grisly down in the yards? How could the committee's collaborative efforts be so clueless that they would arrive at such a patently stupid role model? Wx4 can only give its stock answer to one of railroading's imponderables:

By and large, railroaders are intelligent people, who all too frequently come together to do stupid things.

And what about poor Smokey? If Samuel Clemens had lived long enough to encounter this, he likely would have remarked that Smokey was a cat formed by a committee. We would opine that being a railroad industry committee creation can be a humiliating thing, even for a fictional character, especially when the quality of work evidently is the railroad equivalent to an automotive industry "Friday car".

Finally, you may have noticed that this poster is actually a 1992 reproduction done by Norfolk Southern. This leaves us sorta non-plussed regarding their thinking (or lack thereof), but it does confirm our premise that railroaders don't get out much.

New 7-2-23

Dateline July 4, 2022:

Running Three Hours Late,
Coast Starlight Frogs
Mt. Shasta, CA Fun Run

- Wx4 photo

NEW 7-2-23: As if making a large collection of SP SPINS books available online (see below) was not enough, CA State RR Museum Library has lately added another indispensible research tool to Internet Archive, a complete set of 1913-1996 Southern Pacific Bulletins! It also has released a guide to them in PDF form. Thank you folks!

lingering questions from last years' edition
correspondence: wx4org@yahoo.com

Last year we asked if the fellow in this postcard photo was Herb Arey, and if somebody could identify the location. Not long ago, Mike Yoakum postulated that the location is Albany, Oregon and forwarded the valuation map below as evidence. We think he nailed it. He also speculates that the fellow could well be Herb Arey, since Albany was within his seniority district, and we add that he surely looks like Herb.


handwriting on back of postcard

We are still waiting for illumination on these:

Here's a puzzler: You'll recognize the loco. It is SP's sole extant Atlantic, now on display at Los Angeles' Griffith Park. But I'll you don't recognize the train, or location. Nope, this isn't an L.A. suburban local, or a local train out in the San Joaquin Valley. Admittedly it took staff quite awhile before figuring out what and where.

This is the San Ramon Valley's triweekly mixed train stopped at Walnut Creek circa 1933. A year or two earlier, #444 had replaced #146, when the train was cut back from a daily-except-Sunday schedule. In 1934, all scheduled freight and passenger service on the branch ceased.

Presumably #3025 had no problems keeping the train moving at its specified 18.08 MPH average speed over the district.

Given that a 2-6-0 or even one of the dwindling numbers of 4-4-0's was what one would expect to pull the train, what is the deal here? There are several possibilities that come to mind, but do you have a definitive answer? the photographer's name?

extract from 1933-10-10 SP Present Status Branch Line Train Service - courtesy Jeff Asay. The early years of the Depression saw SP nearly wipe out its remaining mixed trains.

One of our longest standing mysteries regards SP Motor SP-03 in 1946. Wx4 has a small collection of train orders pertaining to its meanderings in the vicinity of Watsonville, Gilroy and Hollister, but darn if we have been able to identify what it is. A weed sprayer, perhaps? Go HERE for the train orders and our past speculation. We would be very surprised if it was a repurposed passenger motor car.

We have been unable to locate SP-03 in the roster DVD that accompanies Kenneth Harrison's (absolutely fantastic) Southern Pacific Maintenance of Way Equipment book. Likewise we are unable to find the circa 1948 detector cars SP 6 4902 and SP 6 1002 seen at right.

Train Master #3034 is entering the 7th St. Diesel Shop in this view that offers an unobscured look at the facilities, including the old freight houses bordering King Street...and the tower, which apparently was a temp. This is the first photo in which we have noticed it.

What is the deal with the tower, anyway? Staff does not remember it.

Also, that may be Fireman J. V. Gondron on the TM's running boards in this July 6, 1969 photo. If so, he had two months and six days seniority under his belt.

and some new ones:

I suppose that if you looked hard enough, you still may find an occasional square SP telegraph pole somewhere, like this one near Klamath Falls photographed a decade ago.

This question is a gimme for some of you, and I used to know the answer, myself: When did SP stop planting square poles? And send us a photo of one that is still standing.

7-16-23: By way of reply, Jerry Harmon has kindly forwarded a collection of 2016 photos he shot of ex SP poles still performing their duties as supports for code lines in California's Butte Valley between Macdoel and Dorris. UP/SP evidently expended a considerable amount of effort to forestall these old soldiers' replacement. What their 2023 status is, we are not sure.

Left, center: Milepost 404.3
Right: Milepost unknown
Photos: Jerry Harmon

We think that this happened in mid-1986, yes? Is Engineer Lee Barnett still with us? Wx4 has more photos of the affair waiting for further details.

Our memory of the wreck is vivid - not so for the date. According to the SP M/W men with whom I worked a few years before, a student foreman (whom I knew) - unaccompanied by a real foreman - was sent to perform work on the left hand track seen here, about midway between San Jose's IBM plant (behind the photo) and Lick. He forgot to put out protective flagmen before his crew jacked up rails in order to replace ties.

The result: Engineer Lee "The Bullet" Barnet came blasting through, causing his lumber train to liberally scatter wood products aver the tracks, Monterey Highway and the adjacent housing track's backyard swimming pools. Rest assured that the roadmaster covered up the particulars. Kodachrome by unknown, Wx4 Collection

Tender Buffers:
Does anyone have drawings for various SP tender buffers? They seem to have disappeared during WW2 - can anyone confirm that? The photo was taken at Oakland, maybe about 1933-35. Note the tramps.

New 7-2-23

When did the Del Monte lose its mail cars? Image courtesy Jeff Moore from Heimerdinger #78 photo section below.

Some of the most frequent requests that we receive is for such-and-such SPINS book. Wx4 has PDF's for San Francisco, SF Peninsula and San Jose, but that's it.

Unbenowst to many SP fans, CA State RR Museum Library slipped in a great wad of them into Internet Archive last fall. These came through the good offices of Jeff Asay, who scanned most of them from his own collection. Unfortunately, IE only offers them via streaming - no PDF's. If you have some sort of PDF editor, you should be able to make PDF's from screen shots, however.

Following is what we believe is a complete list of links to them, grouped by general regions:

How many rules violations can you spot?

Tired of getting hosed by railroad bulls? Sick and tired of being reported as a suspected terrorist by grumpy locomotive engineers? Put your best foot forward with the railraod community with the official Wx4 Railfan I. D. (click on image)

Not available in stores.

Currently out of stock. Sorry.

The way I see it, it is better consider what the engineer is thinking when he sees you in the foul: "My engine is going to hit you unless one of us gets off the tracks." This and the image below come from a 1922 "Careful Crossing Campaign" booklet. (courtesy Shasta Division Archives) My only comment about the below is that one morning many years ago, an elderly man turned his car onto the tracks in front of my Commute train, instead of onto the parallel El Camino Real highway at Broadway depot. Luckily, my train was stopped at the station. The very next day, the very same man did exactly the same thing. Luckily, my train was stopped at the station.

New 7-16-22: "Station" or "Depot?" You make the call
Our own attentions are turned towards happy hour
Wx4 staff fully admits that we have, since infancy, used the terms 'station' and 'depot' interchangeably. This, even after retiring from careers in railroading. In our experience, our fellows overwhelmingly did likewise. It was simply one of those bits of nomenclature that rails have no pressing reason to ponder about.

Indeed, in its earlier years, SP did not seem to care much - to the extent that no definitions section appeared at all in the book of rules until 1907. That year employees finally learned just what a station was: A place designated on the timetable by name...and blah blah blah. "Depot", on the other hand, remained forever shunned.

This probably had nothing to do with the item seen here, which appeared in a 1916 edition of the Southern Pacific Bulletin. Instead, we suspect that it was merely another case of a high-on official getting his shorts in a bunch over something that nobody else cared about - think Donald J. Russell and his fixation with hats.

Whomever it was behind this thinly disguised tiraid certainly was in a huff., eh? "Antiquated", and YIKES, "French" were pretty strong stuff for a house organ whose seeming mission was to make SP appear as controversial as melba toast.

Now, on the other hand, if staff was asked to take a stand on the issue, we would prefer to sit… with Manhattan, rather than hat, in hand.

Some Tim Zukas Western Division Photographs

Several years back, Tim's contributions started the ball rolling with Wx4's Historical Maps & Timetables pages. What we did not until recently is how fine a photographer he is. Below is a sample, with more to come. The photos all date circa1972.

(click on the images for larger renditions)

SP#13 / AMK #14 on the double track below Lick (south San Jose; taken from Capitol Expressway overhead)), one mile north of the wreck location seen in the above "Questions" section. During the intervening 15 years between the two shots, these fields also were overcome by suburbia.

This photo is of a rarely photographed spot - at Hanlon siding (unoccupied track in foreground) near 16th Avenue, geographically south of East Oakland Yard. Hanlon's name dated to the 1860's pre-CP San Francisco & Alameda Railroad. Here we see SP#12 / AMK #11 gliding past without incident. Such was not the case for me on a Pool 4 freight train later in the decade.

At full resolution, Train Master #3035 really leaps out at you, yes? Location: the curve at 7th and King Streets, just out of Third & Townsend depot.

Tim's spectacular night shot of "The Homestead" yard in West Oakland shows the place before most of the tracks were removed in favor of container loading and storage.

Looking the other way at King Street curve, we see morning Fleet Train #133 easing past a collection of typical Peninsula power, which apparently is headed to or from Bayshore Roundhouse. The 1905 Baker & Hamilton looms, as always, in the background. The odd light (Colonial Yellow) building behind the train is the engineer's quarters and engine crew calling office, both moved from Mission Bay Roundhouse in 1960.

This is where trainmen and enginemen went to work in Oakland, the former Interurban Electric building at Bay Street. The upper stories functioned as the yard office. That's AMK #11 winding by, and the diesel shop is just out of the photo at left.

AMK #14 / SP #13 sits at Chorro Siding, a little ways uphill from San Luis Obispo, waiting for #11 / #12 in the background. Chorro was a frequent meeting point, even tough the scheduled meet was south of SLO.

We wonder who was the owner of this big Mercury, whose occupants appear ready to climb aboard once the switchmen have cut away. Note that officials are strewn all the way down Oakland's 16th Street station platform towards the former Interurban Electric overhead, and that the Amtrak rear brakeman (an SP employee back then) seems to be pointedly ignoring the kerfuffle that naturally occurs any time a big shot comes down to the tracks to take a ride. Also note that the only guy in the photo performing actual work, the switchman with the lantern, is well supervised.

New 7-2-23
Charley Heimerdinger's Del Monte Train #78 Photos
circa late 1950's

Courtesy of Jeff Moore
SP #5625 at Redwood Jct.
Redwood Tower is behind photo.

Why is #5600 sitting on Palo Alto's center track with its lights out? Breakdown? Single tracking?

SP #5625 at Palo Alto
under normal circumstances.

SP #5624 at Chittenden, the then long gone interchange with San Juan Pacific Railway.

Fresno Morning Republican, 7-17-1909

Tense situation at Lodi during the 1894 Pullman Strike remediated by employees in fine fashion. The Evening Mail (Stockton); 7-7-1894

Well, no...South Pacific Coast carried on
without the trestle. Oakland Tribune, 6-16-06
San Jose Evening News, 3-13-1890

Gettin' the tracks off Fourth Street > a long time coming

See further below for more on the "San Jose Line Change"

above: A suburban coach served as a temporary West San Jose Depot while the grounds were torn up.
(Click on the image for a larger version - C.M. Kurtz, SP Lines photo, Shasta Division Archives)

SP contemplated moving its Coast Division main line away from downtown San Jose's Fourth Street from time to time over the course of more than four decades before construction began , even though executives had settled upon a general plan early on: A new depot located at the South Pacific Coast yard would replace the Bassett Street depot, and from there the relocated main line would thread through the vicinity of Willow Glen to a junction with the Fourth Street line...somewhere. The goals: no more fielding of irate letters by people marooned on the wrong side of Fourth Street during rush hour, along with higher speed track not inhibited by sharing the street face to face with pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

This SP photo shows condemned chair car #1939 serving as the temporary West San Jose ticket office and waiting room in the late afternoon of December 26, 1935. Five days later, West San Jose station and the main San Jose station at Bassett Street ceased to exist when the new San Jose station in the background opened for business. Many finishing touches remained to be done at photo time. Note the ladder resting on the side of the station building. Out of sight at photo left, a gas powered road roller was busy compacting the new Calpack macadam platform. A fair amount of ballasting remained unfinished, as well.

(Click on images for larger renditions - Shasta Division Archives)

Above are the 1925 permutations of SP's plans that ultimately were superseded by yet another version by the time that construction began at the end of the decade. In particular, the depot layout (upper right) is much more grandiose than what was actually constructed. The map at left shows three routes that were proposed over the years, but there were others. The final alignment opened in 1935 very generally followed Route #1 south from the new depot for a short distance around Willow Glen, but then struck directly for Route #3 and Lick.

New 10-22-23: The flip side of the new San Jose Station

SP Lines drawing, Shasta Division Archives

Southern Pacific invested a considerable amount of brain power, not to mention expense, on arranging the station area "just so". As we see in this 1928 drawing, the company was originally inclined towards a layout that was a mirror image of the final design, plus a separate express house that did not make the final cut. Thus, when all was done, it was a minor architectural masterpiece...and an operational headache, for it was built on the wrong side of the tracks.

New 10-22-23:
"The San Jose Line Change"

The photo and map at below right appear in in J.R. Signor's Fall, 2023 Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society Trainline article, "The San Jose Line Change".
It is a great read that serves as a nice overview and teaser for a book-length treatment currently being composed by a well known San Jose historian. Stay tuned!

Revised 11-02-23:
San Jose's Towers
...a sad update

Wx4 Staff has been guilty of considerable sloth lately, as evidenced in their quality of work, such little as they have performed. Now, it seems that we have bats in our belfry - as in "interlocking tower" belfry.

We have received a lament from perennial Wx4 friend and contributor Jeff Asay that a certain "rather well-known rail historian and author" is "concurrently tearing his hair out and and wailing to the high heavens" over some blatant innaccuracies put out by Wx4 this month regarding the SP/WP Valbrick and West San Jose towers. Thus we have presently taken some remedial action to correct our egregious errors while we wait for further illucidation.

I want to assure readers that none of this is my fault, but rather that of Staff (see "Site Conventions" this page, top right column for Staff identities). Apparently, the daily floggings are not improving the quality of these miscreants' work, as much as I had hoped they would.

Jeff has helpfully pointed out that correct information, plus photos of both towers, can be found in the book The Iron Feather, by the aforementioned, lately balding author. Although out of print, the book may still be found at several online sites, including CSRM. We are anxious to obtain a copy to learn the truth about these edifaces. Unfortunately, the pack mules that deliver vital neccessities to Wx4's headquarters here in the Hawaii outback have accidentally ingested some bad poi, meaning that there will considerable delay in the book's delivery and subsequent Wx4 corrective action to the below text. Stay tuned

Revised 11-02-23:
San Jose's Towers

Santa Clara Valley had six interlocking towers over the years. First, there were the well known ones at College Park and Santa Clara, with the latter being preceeded by one located timetable east of the latter's depot. At the time of the Forth Street line change at the end of 1935, there were three additional towers. San Jose Tower, West San Jose Tower and Valbrick.

After the Fourth Street closing, Valbrick interlocking disappeared from SP Coast Division employee timetables effectice with #143, 2-16-1936 - replaced by "stop" signs. San Jose (Fourth St.) Tower showed as manned (presumably to handle work trains ripping out the old main line) in #143 (pg. 19), but was gone from #145 of 1938-04-17. Wx4 has no access to #144. WP stopped manning the West San Jose tower, listed in SP ETT's as "San Jose-Santa Cruz Line-Western Pacific Crossing" in either 1932, or more likely, 1933 (WP Western Div. #20 should have the answer.). This tower continued to be identified as such in SP timetables until the late 1940's. The last WP ETT to list it as a (crew-operated) interlocking was Western Division #47, 04-30-1961. The WP crossing of SP's new West Side main line was protected by a crew-operated automatic interlocking from the beginning.

Further tower illucidation:

New 10-22-23: The all-important San Jose wye

It used to be that nothing larger than a mikadoo or a pacific could turn end-for-end within the Santa Clara Valley, as San Jose Roundhouse's 80 foot (or less, earlier on) turntable was the only thing available. Prior to the time of the West Side relocation, this was not such pressing inconvenience that SP felt compelled to remedy the situation, for The Valley was "hog" country where diminuative engines thrived. Likewise, freight trains off of the Milpitas Line (along with those from/to the Mulford Lines) all yarded at Newhall to exchange between Western and Coast Division crews, meaning that no wye was needed at San Jose Tower to connect them to the Coast Division. The same held true once the new line went into service. The east leg did not host Milpitas freights for its first several decades, until an interdivisional pool union agreement created Oakland-Watsonville Pool 4.

The prospect of the new West Side relocation changed the equation, not for freight trains, but rather for Milpitas Line passenger trains, which needed a direct connection out of the new depot. Thus, the east leg of San Jose wye was born. The Milpitas main track through the middle of College Park Yard functioned as the west leg (as it does today, minus yard). Milpitas passenger service disappeared in 1940, but certainly by then the new wye had found its highest and best use as a turning facility for locos and cuts of cars of unlimited length. Beyond facilitating larger engines, the wye alleviated the turntable bottleneck during Commute hours with its ability to handle coupled groups of engines. At some point (perhaps at the start?), SP installed a second west leg directly between the roundhouse and the east leg, which obviated tying up the main track at College Park.

C.M. Kurtz, SP Lines photo - Shasta Division Archives

The Market St., a.k.a. Basset St., a.a.k.a. San Pedro St. (take your pick) station** was literally in its last days when C.M. Kutz snapped this photo on december 12, 1935, but what really intrigues Wx4 is what was framed by the shed opening: an rare image of San Jose Tower. The (1700 pixel) full photo is here, while a (1700 pixel) larger version of the above cropped image is here.

Sharp eyes will note the express reefers spotted beyond the shed, as well as the high semaphore interlocking signal (above the train rear) guarding the exist from the diminuative yard. Staff was surprised to see one of SP's most modern P-10 heavy Pacifics on the head end of train #137. Heavy power on the Commutes at the time generally came in the form of ex EP&SW P-11 and P-12 Pacifics. Half a dozen years before, the train likely would have been handled by an E-27 4-4-0.

** ("station" , NOT depot in strict SP parlance: see the right hand column box above the Zukas photos towards the top of the page)

The thumbnail map below links to an enlarged, full version of the one appearing in the article, whose purpose seems to be to designate yard limits and union agreement points concerning pay for operating employees. Note that yard limits extended all the way to Los Gatos and New Almaden. This was a recent development on the latter after the long-time weekly mixed train was discontinued in favor of "as-needed" service by yard crews. Also note the short squiggle of Penninsular Ry. tracks leading to Luna Park at top left. The team tracks (just west of the old San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa Road) were served by SP until the 1980's.

Shasta Division Archives

New 10-22-23: Sour grapes, not wine grapes: San Jose parade float, early 1930's
Courtesy Ken Middlebrook, History San Jose

New Almaden, California SP/SPC Yard Link to 3000 pixels wide image fixed 7-15-23

Even collectively, the Southern Pacific New Almaden Branch and the South Pacific Coast narrow gauge Almaden Branch did not amount to much despite very occasional mini booms following their simultaneous construction in 1886. A few months after the SPC branch went standard gauge in September, 1907, business was so scant that daily mixed train service was reduced to weekly and combined with the already once a week mixed train on the SP side. This map shows the gradual reductions of infrastructure that occurred between 1907 and abandonment in 1934. Narrow gauge passenger trains forsook the SPC depot at Harry road (see upper left) no later than 1887, so the presumption is that most or all of the depicted tracks between the junction and SP end of track at Mckeen Road were dual gauge. Wx4 map: CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW

A Michelin Staff Pick:
A whole raft of excellent SP books have come out lately, but the one that hits closest to home with Wx4 Staff is J. R. Signor's Southern Pacific in San Francisco, since we spent the majority of our careers frequenting The City. Our unbiased opinion is that it is Signor's best work yet, and others seem to agree. Case in point: Michelin, which is known for awarding creme de la creme restaurants its coveted three star rating, also has a better known transportation division. Rumor is that it is about to give his book its coveted Three Tire Rating! Congrats, J.R., but what is a guy gonna do with three tires?
A Wx4 Staff Pick:
It is easy to miss smaller publications about SP, so we wish to point out an exceptionally well done booklet by stalwart Wx4 friend Steve Donaldson. His Southern Pacific Comes to Coos Bay covers Willamette Pacific's construction of the Coos Bay Branch, through its later years as an independent railroad. It is an absolute must have for any SP in Oregon fan.

28 pages, illustrated with photos from the late Tom Dill's Collection; $10 plus postage:

Oregon Coast Historical Railway
766 First Street
Coos Bay, OR 97420



  • 6-29-23: Tony the Tiger loses his head in response to a pay cut by Kellogg - Bromley O. Wilf, Swamp on Tyne, Northumberland, U.K.
  • 7-1-23: Why it is important to firmly attach a "do not hump" placard to a shipment - Bob Blue, Gravity Iowa
  • 8-22-23: Inadvertent problem with protective tarp reveals super-secret USAF hypersonic wind tunnel, camoflaged in "Tony the Tiger" crushed velour. - Clarence Clarksdale, Tonopah, Nevada

For no good reason, Staff has largely left train photography to others for many years. Here is a recent exception. For the last year, or so, we have been caught up in researching SP's more ancient history centering around the Coalinga Branch, in the San Joaquin Valley. One cannot dive into the subject too far without understanding the significance of Tulare Lake, once the largest lake west of the Mississippi. It dried up totally in the summer of 1893, and has only made mud puddle size appearances during winters since. Once in a generation, it attempts to regain its one-time glory by busting through its man-made banks into surrounding farmland. This is one of those years, so it sorta behooved us to see the ghost lake with our own eyes. In the process, we witnessed a train at the lake's edge, a more than adequate reward for driving 500 miles. We shot these photos between Corcoran and Wasco, along the Central Valley Highway. Obviously the rising lake gave BNSF some difficulties earlier on. That's the train's DPUs, BTW.

Dateline 6-29-1969: SP Mission Bay warehouses go up in smoke. Once an old SP warehouse reached retirement, its fate inevitably was ultimately sealed by a "torch" whom SP hired to economically dispose of the buildings - if one believes roundhouse gossip that used to circulate within the company. One employee we met even claimed to have known the pyro's identity. Although San Jose's former Central Pacific warehouses burned down about the same time, being faithful ex employees, we ascribe the incidents to resident transients (-; The Pacific Metals building gives us a good point of orientation: A decade before, Mission Bay Roundhouse stood where the large industrial box of a building sits in the foreground. - photo print by unknown: Wx4 Collection

Closely cropped three-quarter shots of trains are all well and good, but we tend to prefer the wider view, the kind that puts the train in context. Here we see #98 passing the Salinas Valley town of San Lucas, pretty much for the length of a heartbeat in late 1966. The red warehouse, depot beyond the trees are long gone. We recently drove through San Lucas, and it is now so changed from the photo that we consulted Google Maps to make sure that the slide was correctly labeled. Like the other valley towns that found themselves bypassed by a realigned Highway 101, the town has crumbled into poverty. - Kodachrome by unknown, Wx4 Collection

David Rector made this gorgeous shot of SP train #33 at Palo Alto in November, 1983. We never met him, but judging by the number of low light photos that he took, he often must have attended the tracks before and after work. Wx4 Collection

A major source of both amusement and puzzlement for us is Google Patents. Although Google has lamentably left the search term "weird" off their keyword list, it does not take much time to find a host of cockeyed ideas. Here's two of our favorites. At left is Freedman's System of Train Manipulation for storing trains in tight places. We understand that California High Speed Rail has embraced the concept. At first glance below, Lee's cab forward locomotive appears to be of ancient design; reusing components from Stephenson's Rocket, but NO! It gained its patent in 1912, well after SP's "back-ups" appeared. Click on the images for PDF's.
New 7-2-23

Even though it sports a brand new paint job featuring orange ends, SP CA-1xx
#690 has managed to retain its old syle cupola in this classic roster shot taken

at Burlingame on 10-31-1958 by Karl Koenig
- Wx4 Collection

Note: link to larger photo fixed 8-1-23
Recently a fellow from SoCal wrote us about the photo at upper right, which appears in our Hump Engines and Humping - further elucidation page. He referred to the photo as of a "slope-back tender", which is clearly wrong for SP parlance; a description more appropriate for use by railroader modelers of those "other", lesser roads (you know which ones we mean). Let us be clear here: SP enginemen referred to so equipped locos as "fantails", a term that sings as it rolls off ones lips - in comparison to the pathetic awkwardness of "slope-back tender". In the larger photo we see an early 20th Century fantail engaged in typical duties of the era, overseen by a yard dog, most certainly named Bob.

More to come