SP San Jose Depot Trackage:
East End

Last Revision: 9/26/14 Note: This page made its debut on Wx4 in December, 2003, and has received periodic additions / revisions since then. In 2012, we added San Jose's Cahill Street Depot, An Operations Bottleneck & Southern Pacific's Proposed Remedy of 1965, a page discussing a previously unknown (to us) 1965 proposal within the company to extensively rearrange the Cahill trackage. The page contains blueprints and a Wx4 analysis of SP's route structure in the San Jose area. Ultimately, the 1965 plan was dropped, and the tracks were subsequently re-configured as discussed here.

Pre 1971 East End

In 1971 the Southern Pacific extensively re-configured its east end trackage when the Park Avenue underpass was widened to four lanes. The photo at left shows the original layout. Click on it to get a detailed graphic for the following discussion.

In the photo, the Coast Daylight is heading into Depot 5 from the westbound main. The eastbound main, the adjacent track to the left, merged with the westbound at The Power Switch (shown on the extreme right of the SPINS map below as a circled 'P/S' ), about 1/2 mile south of San Carlos overpass, from which this photo was taken. It was called "The" Power Switch, because it was the only switch controlled by San Jose Telegraph's poor-man's CTC machine. Everything else at the depot was hand throws. The east end switches were lined by the Park Avenue Herder, who is visible "rolling" the train in the shadow next to the dome car. His shanty is to the left of the base of the tall power line tower at upper right. The concrete wall in front of the shanty is the Park Avenue underpass.

Angling-in from the left is the Vasona Branch. The 1971 re-alignment did away with the crossovers that allowed branch trains to run through Depot One. (Another re-arrangement in 1992 restored the ability to make this move.) The Freight Lead, the left-most track next to the water tower, was used by most freight trains (except Milpitas Line trains) to bypass the depot. (In 1992 it became Depot #12, the Caltrain "Roundhouse" main servicing track until the opening of CEMOF.) Reduced clearances of the depot's umbrella sheds confined SP freight trains to the freight lead, field tracks 6 to 11, and Depot 1. Occasionally a switch engine would sneak through the depot proper with a short cut of low cars, but a couple of mistaken attempts by eastbound piggyback trains in the 1980's resulted in rather abrupt and unsightly re-contouring of the sheds' west ends.

When I first hired-out as a switchman, the question arose about which depot track(s) should be considered the main track in application of the rules. The timetable showed no main track. After much arcane discussion, the local officers decided that Depot 5 "probably" was the main track. An awful lot of railroading still seems to operate under the "probably" scenario.

Just west of the Vasona Branch's signal is a runaround track used primarily for switching the Spud House (left of runaround) and the now long-gone Del Monte cannery warehouse (left of water tower). The Spud House is still there, but as an office building. The warehouse next to it sits atop the present location of the expanded underpass down ramp. The folks at the Spud House had good hearts - tramps regularly showed-up there to have their shopping bags filled with french fries. The place smelled like McDonald's.

Just above the herder's shanty you'll see the eastbound Del Monte. This is a typical weekend consist. That this was a weekend is also evidenced by the full storage tracks. On weeknights, Del Monte cannery tracks 802-804 were used for overnight car storage, but this typically wasn't done on the weekends.

Note also the track immediately in front of the herder shanty, which was used to store mail/express cars (in earlier years), private cars and as a place to park the switch engine during "spot time". Shortly before I hired out, brakeman Scotty Hunt, allegedly drunk and off duty, heisted the depot goat and ran it east until it rear-ended Tommy Moran's caboose on a freight train near Lick! Even more incredible, the union managed to get him his job back after a lengthy "fire" (suspension, which I'm sure that the company hoped would be a dismissal). When I first heard the story, I knew that I had a job for life. Many years later, random drug and alcohol testing kept employees sober enough of the time to largely put an end to such stuff, thank goodness.


(Above) the westbound Coast Daylight pulls into the depot in June, 1968. That it was summertime is evidenced by the full diner and dome cars. Still, the 12-car train was powered solely by SDP-45 3206 - and on time! (Click on the photo for a Wx4 HumongOfoto®) For a look at the head end with the # 3206 passing Orchard Supply Hardware on the south side of the overpass, see the Daylight Gallery.

New 9-2014: For use as a quick quick preview to highlight the differences between the pre-1971 depot trackage (above) and the post-1971 arrangement (page bottom), Ken Rattenne has generously allowed Wx4 to use the photo below that he recorded on May 29, 1976. This was the Saturday before Memorial Day, which accounts for the quantity ofidle equipment. That's the Starlight on track #5, and my beloved SW1500 #2689 on the pocket track. I cut my switchman teeth on the 2689. Thanks Ken!


"Deck" # 3672 hauls the eastbound "Beets" off of the Freight Lead and past Park Avenue, circa late 1930's. (unknown photographer, Wx4 Collection)


Stuck by the varnish: As noted in the Dome's San Jose's Cahill Street Depot, An Operations Bottleneck, freight crews often faced a challenge in finding a hole between the frequent passenger trains to duck through. Forget Fleet hours! Another, but minor, logjam occurred in mid-morning when #98, the eastbound Coast Daylight, and #141 the Del Monte called upon San Jose within not much more than a half-hour. The main problem in this instance was the roughly 3 1/2 miles of single track between the Power Switch east of the depot tracks, and the double track at Lick. Thus, in the photos at left we see graphic evidence of how this played out on the Freight Lead couple of June, 1968 mornings.

The top two pictures show X6579E, including GP9's 3514 & 3659 and F9 607 cooling its jets at the east end of the Freight Lead next to the Spud House. Of particular interest to Wx4 Staff was the 607, for the ranks of SP F-units were then rapidly dwindling, and as has oft been noted by fans, the remaining ones all seemed to have their own individual personalities. Defining features on the 607 included its roof fans. SP's F9's were rebuilt from Phase 1 F3's and variously did, or did not, keep one, or more of their original "muffin pan" fans. The 607's #2 engine cooling fan was one of those (SP also randomly replaced the original fans on F7's with muffins). Also, unlike most (all?) of the other F9's which had 48" dynamic brake cooling fans, the 607 has a 36" fan, a´ la an F7.

As a bonus, here we've included 1600 pixel HumongOfoto® of the lower X6579 shot, PLUS a like-size screensaver. This photo greatly reminds us of our days on the ground as brakemen, typically spent with a going-away view of the power. To us, black and white photos better convey the grit and grime covering the tracks, equipment and our bib overalls. We can almost smell the creosote, diesel exhaust and, of course, the overwhelming odor of french fries cooking nearby.

The lower shot show the X3657E, with 3707 trailing, at the identical spot of the above photos. The large drag pulled by ashcan-equipped Fairbanks-Morse H12-44 will stop next to the Orchard Supply Hardware boxcar, short of Auzerais Avenue, and head east towards Luther Junction and the WP interchange at Alma Street (along the old Fourth Street main line) after the Del Monte arrives and the X3657 departs. These drags sometimes ran near 100 cars, and the FM's sometimes required an impromptu boost from the depot goat to make it through the depot's gentle eastbound grade. The H12's also had a finicky governor, which, if not properly maintained, would sometimes cause the engine to load and unload cyclically when performing heavy work. You can experience a pretty accurate simulation of the sound by having a friend take your lawnmower about a hundred feet away and repeatedly cycle it between idle and full speed about every three seconds.

And finally...#98 departs with FP7 6447, E7B 5900 and an Econo-Baggage on the head end.



Another Wx4 HumongOfoto®: The carmen and switchman's shanty (still, in 2013) lies just east (geographically south) of the depot. Here, on another June, 1968 day, we see the middle herder walking by the shanty and a vintage Pontiac or Olds. Oh yeah! You may be more interested in Fairbanks-Morse #3035 and Alco S-4 #1843. The F-M just came into Track 1 on train #122, and it's engineer is waiting for a carman to complete cutting the steam line before pulling away from the train. The switcher's crew is on-spot, waiting to double-over 122's equipment to the field.

Stuck by the varnish, afternoon edition: On a cool early 1969 evening, H12-44 #2354 - from the first group of F-M H12-44 switchers delivered to SP - waits on the freight lead next to the Spud House for the varnish. The presence of the hopper suggests that the goat may be headed for the rock outfit at Lick.


POST-1971 TRACKAGE

1972 SPINS map: After a false start in 1965, SP finally re-aligned the east end in 1972, in conjunction with the widening of the Park Avenue underpass. Details of both efforts can be found in San Jose's Cahill Street Depot, An Operations Bottleneck & Southern Pacific's Proposed Remedy of 1965 Map items in red, below, were added by Wx4. Our San Jose SPINS Book PDF, available for download here, contains the unaltered original.


The 1971 shoo-fly: Here's the westbound Daylight pulling by the Park Avenue herder's shanty just prior to Amtrak's inception (best guess: February, 1971). Notice that the tracks are to the geographical east of the shanty, and that everything between there and the Spud House (far right) is torn-up. This forgotten photo came as a pleasant surprise to me. For a look at the rear of the train headed into the depot, click here.

1980, mas o menos... Judging by the steam rising from the Spud House, and the inactivity at the Del Monte cannery and the vacant "field" tracks, the 3187 has just cut off from a plug on a winter weekday morning. Note the "Block System Limit" sign. The station tracks and the Freight Lead were dark territory. In 1992, Caltrain constructed a locomotive repair facility which occupied the area between the rear of the Geep and Del Monte. The "roundhouse", a.k.a. San Jose Mechanical, also performed running repairs to cars, but San Francisco Mechanical took care of heavy car repairs. In 2007, Caltrain opened CEMOF at the old SP Lenzen Avenue roundhouse site, and tore-up the depot roundhouse / field tracks in favor of additional arrival / departure tracks. (Wx4 collection Kodachrome; date, photographer unknown)

On to the West End