The Octopus Relocates to West San Jose

The story of SP's westside relocation is interesting, a bit amusing and dates to the early days of the Southern Pacific. In 1868, Central Pacific purchased the SF&SJ and a new, unbuilt railroad - the Southern Pacific Railroad - from the group that controlled both. SP was incorporated several years earlier to build south from San Jose to Gilroy. SP planned to lay its first rails down San Jose's Fourth Street, and acquired a fifty year franchise from the city to operate its trains on this route.

When the franchise expired in 1918, the country was at war, and the United States Railway Administration directed SP's fortunes. In light of this, the San Jose City Council patriotically demurred in revoking SP's running rights, but nevertheless did not renew the franchise. In 1925, when the post-war economy was booming and trains routinely clogged downtown, SP request for a formal extension fell on deaf ears. The city initially recommended that the railroad either construct grade separations on Fourth Street, or use the existing Western Pacific tracks through Willow Glen. The next year, the city offered that SP could erect an elevated track over Fourth Street.

SP dismissed the suggested Fourth Street improvements and concentrated on using WP's route through Willow Glen, which was problematic because Willow Glen residents were aghast at the thought of noisy, death-to-laundry steam locomotives powering frequent long trains along the WP tracks through the middle of their clean, cozy suburb. By 1927, Willow Glennites had come to a boil: they incorporated as a city and promptly filed suit to keep the Friendly Southern Pacific on home rails.

In response, SP decided to revert to its original plan for a right-of-way of its own through the newly founded city. By October 1928, The Interstate Commerce Commission had signed-off on the project, and the California State Railroad Commission followed suit on December 5th.

Knowing that a court injunction could hold up progress indefinitely, SP moved quickly, Twelve days after the State's OK, the railroad sent a track gang out in the wee morning hours to lay tracks, and in a few hours the town had a new railroad. The rails were usless, as they began and ended a few feet on either side of the city limits, unconnected to the outside world. But the tracks were there, and SP knew that Willow Glen faced a treasury-busting task to gain their removal.

. by constructing a second parallel track. The Octopus, not the Friendly, was in full flower that day, for during the process a reportedly very perturbed C.B. Nicora watched helplessly as the SP track gang blasted holes in his basement walls and threaded rails under his floors.

Nevertheless, either in anticipation or reaction to further legal sniping, SP decided to compound its advantage. On Saint Valentine's Day 1929, while Al Capone's boys were busy machine gunning Bugsy Moran's gang out in Chicago, SP undertook some (track) gang warefare of its own.