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Late arrival to this page:
6-30-21: Newly Discovered Book Source; free PDF's of OSU out-of-print publications
7-1-21: Jan., 1917 Hawaii Book of Information for Visitors; Oahu, Maui, Island of Hawaii railroad schedules; 112 pgs.
7-2-21: Embedded Jeff Moore YouTube lecture related to his book Timber Industry Ghosts
7-8-21: IT's BACK! After 6 or 8 years, we have another Wx4 Whatzit? Contest see 8-26-21 for Bay Point, below
2-6-0's and a 2-6-6-0: variously employed, reinvented & rejected - Ocean Shore RR, San Jaun Pacific and Pacific
................. Portland Cement locomotive matters

7-13-21 The Commuter's Dream - Illustrated 1911 news article describing a wistful notion for a BART-like trans-bay tunnel + Wx4 commentry

8-26-21 Post-Flood on SP at Bay Point, Cal., 1911 - As it turned out, there was more than initially met the eye in the latest Whatzit? Contest

As usual, back when we began to put this page together in - when was it? - early 2019, we were overly optimistic that we would turn it out by the end of the year. We were doing pretty well until we ran into an old codger named William Jennings Holman (see right column), who proceeded to wreck our schedule. We figured that we surely could finish dealing with him by the following mid-year. But in an uncharacteristic bit of prescience, we nevertheless tacked a notation onto the front page that completion time was looking more like 2020 or 2021. We made The Dome 2019 2021 well within parameters, considering that The Dome 2006 appeared in 2012. We could not be more pleased with ourselves. - EO

Temporary Wx4 Office Closure

Due to unexpected developments, Wx4 staff will be mostly unable to respond to email for awhile. - EO

Below is a selection from our 400+ new/almost new (including 100 new SP public timetables)
from Page 1 of our Historical Maps & Timetables and other document pages,
Southern Pacific
xxxx1941 Southern Pacific Lines Diagrams of Tenders; 80 pages; Having trouble sorting out a 98-SC-5 from an98-SC-6? No more!
xxxx1967-10-01 Southern Pacific Co. - List of Agencies, Stations, Etc. - entire SP System, including all RR
xxxx1914-01-01 Portland, Eugene & Eastern Ry. Co. Rules & Regulations an especially thorough, 177 page operators' manual for the
xxxxxxxxpredecessor to SP's Portland electric "Red Cars"
xxxx1923-02-26 Wayside Notes Along the Shasta Route - through the Siskiyous...
xxxx1965-01-26 ICC Finance Docket No. 23272 order to continue SP #39-40 for one year (TOFC traffic on train began in 1964)
xxxx1912-03-00 Southern Pacific system public TT - includes the very brief Dumbarton Bridge passenger service
xxxx1928-01-10 Peninsular Ry. San Jose - Los Gatos - Congress Springs public TT
xxxx1922-01 SP Coast Division op employees rosters & 1933 time record of brakeman J.D. Ryder - includes CA union lodge directories
xxxx1890-04-01 Southern Pacific Train Rules - Atlantic System (Standard Code)
xxxx1969-01-01 SP operating rules "The Black Book"
Other Railroads
xxxxHelixtram revised page, with a new full PDF of this transformative invention
xxxxHandling Collisions & Derailments Involving Explosives, Gasoline and Other Dangerous Articles - 1949; AAR Bureau of Explosives
xxxx1888-01 D&RG "Official Local Timetables" for last year of soley narrow gauge system; 60 pages - one of our crown jewels
xxxx1912 D&RG Outdoor Life In the Rockies - 50 pgs. of camping & etc. spots
xxxx1853 American Railway Guide and Pocket Companion - the entire American Railway network, including proposed lines, could fit
xxxxinto one's pocket back then. Wx4 scan. An 1851 version reproduced by Kalmback Publishing is available online via Google.
xxxx1905-10-18 Mexican Central system public TT in English - absolutely gorgeous!
xxxx1927-08-15 Hocking Valley system public TT
xxxx1899-01-01 Oahu Railway & Land Co. public TT #13
xxxx1968 Union Pacific California Division, LA to Salt Lake seniority rosters

Below is a miniature version of the image that appeared on this page for several years The foaming brain filled distilling beaker (Dome) was the direct inspiration for our website name. The train-filled Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome addition came years later. We were too busy giggling to give Buck's structure much thought as we defaced it, and so it sat without comment until we decided it was too weird even for this website.

So, when we recently ran across the intelligence that what we had here was a repair and rebuild facility once operated by Dome Railway Services in Wood River Illinois, we were pleasantly surprised Sure enough, they had a shop switcher, EMD SW1 #618, originally turned out for C&NW in 1942. Here it is in its fresh paint out in front of the Dome on May 5, 1979. Later they painted the loco a shade of blue which quickly greyed into shabbiness.

(Michael A. Wise Kodachrome, Wx4 collection)

Later they painted the loco a shade of blue which quickly greyed into shabbiness, as we see below in this c1990 photo.

(photographer unknown, Wx4 Collection)

Apparently there has been at least one model train show held at the place, so many of you readers probably were already aware of DRS long before us. We should have paid better attention.

Inside DRS shops?

The hills of Dome, Arizona, 1959
-photo Wx4 Collection

The gloom of Dome, Alaska
- Ektachrome slide Wx4 Collection

Newly Discovered Books Source: Ohio State U. Knowlege Bank has several free online PDF's of out-of-print books which should be of value to anyone studying SP's 1890-1940 role in California politics and transportation. The first one listed has been a go-to book of mine since I first discovered it ten years ago. - EO

The Passenger Train in the Motor Age: California's Rail and Bus Industries, 1910-1941 by Gregory Lee Thompson, 1993: I disagree with some of the author's conclusions, but nevertheless own two (hard)copies.
Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California by William B. Fredricks, 1992
The Politics of Business in California, 1890-1920 by Mansel G. Blackford, 1977 7
The Lost Dream: Businessmen and City Planning on the Pacific Coast, 1890-1920 by Mansel G. Blackford, 1993

Wx4 staffers have a decided predilection towards exposing railroading's odder moments. (This already is quite evident, yes?) Accordingly, we've decided to devote this Dome edition's feature articles to some out-of -ordinary bits of railroading's past which we trust shall be as entertaining to you as they were for us to prepare. Likewise, the eclectic remainder of the page is largely devoted to fun stuff. We staff have our "Operation Lifesaver" moments, but this is not one of them.

Featured Essays:

We all know of the 1890's multi-story Holman Locomotive because so many people have foisted cut-and-paste histories of it upon the Internet, yet nobody has sought to look into the - as it turns out, fascinating - life of confidence man / screwball scientist William Jennings Holman. We've corrected this with a ~30,000 word biography about his lifetime of dabbling with improbable ventures such as a subaqueous RR tunnel, herding buffalo and a fumbling attempt to take advantage of "narrow gauge fever" - all designed to fleece the unwary. Despite all of his ventures, he died a forgotten man. Even his obit. (left) got his name wrong.

Have you ever heard of Flavel, Oregon? We thought not. A half-century ago SP&S had a unique (we judge) operationing arrangement with a whailing outfit at Flavel, and much further back, the Hill Lines' short-lived Great Northern Pacific Steamship Company ran two ocean liners fed by a full compliment of trains from Flavel's wharf to the Panama Pacific Expo in San francisco. Thanks to Sheldon Perry for providing the inspiration for this article.

Abandonments have always been thorny matters for railroad companies to sort out with government regulators. Here, retired dispatcher Dave Sprau tells how Tonopah & Tidewater managed to schedule a shifty exit from the business using a novel employee timetable.

For the intense Bay Area railfan...

an esoteric railroad tale of Turn of the 20th Century Palo Alto.

This page has been around from Wx4's earliest days, but this update represents a huge expansion. The page is pretty big. The mysteries of both locomotive rosters are now 95% solved, we reckon.

Wye at Ombey (103.7 miles west of Ogden) at the top of Red Dome Pass on the old CP/SP "Old Line" via Promontory - some great "NecroFluggen" by Steve Bush

coincidental pairings of personal history and pollution

July, 1979 - Wx4 Collection

Here we see former Southern Pacific Alco S-6 #1211 - which formerly drove California air quality boards batty - fouling the air in one of the most polluted places on the planet, the Jeffrey mine (the world's largest) at Asbestos, Quebec. As Asbestos & Danville #55, the loco presumably served until the mine was closed in 2012 (I recall a Jeffery Mine Inc. VP's claiming on 60 Minutes that the poor souls in India, who processed the company's product with wearing cheap dust masks and by hand, were less susceptible to the health effects of asbestos than Canadians.).

Asbestos, whose townspeople changed its name to Val-des-Sources about six months ago, is located near a small village that nobody has heard of where my grandfather was born 175 years ago. He eventually fled Quebec for California on misappropriated horseflesh, just ahead of the Mounties. This more-or-less directly led me to hire out with Southern Pacific sometime later, although I never worked on #1211.
- EO

As idyllic as they come:

(above) We recently happened across this delightful photo of rural Fishers hamlet depot, near Victor, New York, in 1913. You can almost hear the frogs croaking and the horseflies buzzing around your head, nearly drounding out the sound of the approacing engine Originally Auburn and Rochester Railroad, later New York Central's secondary main line between Syracuse and Rochester, this line is now a bike path and Fishers reputedly has the second-oldest surviving railroad structure in the U. S., a cobblestone pumphouse built in 1845. - from an old postcard

Harold Lloyd?
Not the best selection for
spokesperson, we'd say...

During the silent film era, many marquee actors did their own stunts. Helen Holmes (Hazards of Helen) spent a lot of time in the hospital as a result. The greatest leading man / stunt person of the times undoubtedly was Harold Lloyd, whose comic genious extended to some very precarious situations - without a net. Thus, we are a bit perplexed about SP-RI's choice of him as a spokesperson. You would think that potential patrons would find the association of the train with a daredevil to be a little unsettling.


Railing against honesty...

1895 - click for enlagement

Statesman Jornal (Salem, OR) 1901-2-24

Professional RR Terms Disambiguated by a "Seasoned Pro"


Operating personnel job descriptions
from the ancient days of "brakemen",
long before "train operations enablers",
or whatever they call themselves now,
came along

some pictorial explainations:

Crew "On Spot", a.k.a. "Gone to Coffee"

"Tying the Air" - example of improper foot placement

Results of slack "Run In"

Results of "BIG Run In"

"Helper Engine"

"Hump Engine"

(above left) This c1910 photo of a signal maintainer performing his rounds topping off battery jars (we're
guessing that the electrolyte is in the box on his velocipede, not in the tin container) at Fargo, CA on he San Joaquin Division stands on its own as fine photography, but those signals represented the major improvement over the way trains were protected a decade before. In the beginning, SP employed both Hall Disk Signals and semaphores, but crews took awhile to adjust to them. One issue was that the company could no longer afford to ignore color blindness. Other types of color signals had work-arounds, but now lives depended upon instant recognition of signal aspects / indications. Thus in early 1897, SP conducted color blindness tests (above) on its entire Pacific Lines, and came out with its first rule book with pages on block and interlocking signals. The learning curve was steep - bare literacy was all that was required of many operating personel - and it took awhile for it all to sink in. As a consequence, incidents similar to the 1902 rear-ender covered in the San Francisco Call (right) were commonplace.

"Safety" indication on CM&StP Hall Disk Signal

SP 1903 rules governing Hall Signals

click on image for full article

Wanted to borrow: a well worn copy of Pacific Lines 1897 Book of Rules to scan for sharing on Wx4 - pristine copies are too risky - E.O.

Antediluvian BART- click on image

2-6-0's and a 2-6-6-0: variously employed, reinvented & rejected

Ocean Shore Railroad Mallets? What?

Ocean Shore Railroad's backbone locomotive power was medium size moguls and 2-6-2's, so we can only conclude that the OSRR folks got a little carried away while thumbing through the Baldwin Locomotive Works catalog. We clipped the above image of Ocean Shore Railroad's contemplated mallets from online Baldwin sketch cards located at SMU.Libraries' huge online collection of Baldwin Locomotive Works records. Click on the image for a PDF of both cards. We've also created a PAGE about this, which includes two Jeff Moore contributed photos of OSRR moguls during their subsequent logging careers, but its commentary is a product our somewhat infamous funny bone, so we request that you read the page's disclaimer before proceeding to the body text.

Ocean Shore Mogul Cements its Legacy

The above postcard photo shows the high celebrations that took place at San Juan Batista with the opening of the San Juan Pacific Railway on September 1, 1907, three weeks after it acquired the locomotive from Southern Pacific. During the following month, the company purchased a coach to augment the depicted open-air accommodations and inaugurated passenger service on the length of its line between Chittenden and San Juan Batista. The month after that, the Panic of 1907 stopped construction of the cement plant at San Juan (near San Juan Batista) that was almost the entirety of the reason for the railroad's being. Passenger service ended six months later. In 1910 its track near the Pajaro River washed out in a storm, and its bridge over same collapsed during foul weather in 1911. In the meantime, the San Juan Portland Cement Company never produced a bag of cement.

This was all too much for SJP, which shut down and put itself up for sale in early 1912. Newly formed Old Mission Cement Company soon bought the abandoned cement works and the SJP, which, under the new name California Central Railroad (the third iteration of the California Central name to tha point) operated until 1930, a year after the Old Mission plant quit. In 1937 the tracks were used one last time to haul out the railroad's 2-6-0 #5 to ship off to Pacific Portland Cement in Gerlach, Nevada, where it is seen below. Number 5 had come to California Central in ~1921 (one source says 1927) after its former owner, Ocean Shore Railroad, went bust. Presumably, #208 (where did that number come from?) was set out to pasture then, but it hung around San Juan until it was scrapped in 1935.

During World War II, the cement plant reopened, sans railroad.

All Time Roster: San Juan Pacific Railway / California Central Railroad
  • #208, ex SP #1313; acquired by SJP RY 8-10-1907; to CC RR #208, 5-1912; scrapped 135
  • # 5, ex Ocean Shore RR #5; acquired ca.1921-27; to Pacific Portland Cement #5, 1937; scrapped 1954?

And Speaking of Moguls
Logging railroad aficionados well-attuned to the penny-pinching ways of your typical lumbering outfit will tell you of the ignominious treatment given to steam locomotives by some of the worst of the cheapskates. Shays, in particular, were a favored target for conversion to internal combustion power once their boilers had given out, but the most appalling examples of prototype kit-bashing were reserved for rod locomotives. Note the stripper at right (selected for its offensive nature, despite not being a logging railroad, er, engine). You can't embarrass a steam locomotive more than this.

An exception to the rule certainly is Taylor Sawmill Company's still-somewhat-lovely little 2-6-0 #53, which has received a minimalist external treatment. It really is a somewhat well-thought out conversion in contrast to the "let's see what we can do with a cutting torch" method, wouldn't you say? Note the radiator and headlight behind the screen substituted for the smokebox front. One would guess that the engine is connected to the chain gears via a standard truck transmission, driveshaft and differential / axle, which leads to a wonder if the arrangement was mimicked on the left side. A tender would have made the loco more appealing, but assuming that it was as leaky as #53's flues probably were prior to its metamorphosis, the thought of it hauling around a thousand gallons of gasoline within the grounds of a lumber mill is a bit off-putting. If this actually was a diesel-powered setup, a porous tender might have been beneficial in terms of weed abatement. Come to think of it, #53 looks pretty good as-is.
- Gene Connely photo from the Allen Stanley Collection.

click on thumbnail for a larger image at the Narrow Gauge Discussion Forum

from the Wx4 Collection:
known photographers as listed
San Francisco

We've long had a Sanborn Maps B&W image of SP / SF&SJ's original two co-joined San Francisco roundhouses on Wx4, but now we have a 1905 color image, courtesy of the phenominal David Rumsey Map Collection. These roundhouses were replaced by Mission Bay Roundhouse, BTW.

San Francisco: Friday morning, August 11, 1939 at the paved driveway (name?) between 4th and 5th Sts. at SP's "temporary" 3rd & Townsend depot



Howest (S. Burlingame) SP 5678, 10-30-73

EB down #33 track at Brokaw ~9-1963

Caltrain #77, visitor; 7-20-1992; Don Jilson
Millbrae: "The Boondocks" tracks across from the depot
Santa Clara
circa 1958
Menlo Park, 1954
Pushme-Pullyou; 7-20-1992; Don Jilson
Royal Hudson,W of depot, 3-1977; EK Hall

SF-SJ Way freight, circa 1910
circa 1974, Wx4....................College Park............1981, Charles Lamphere

Looking at San Francisco & San Jose RR / first SP depot from under arcade of the Basset St. depot, c.1935

Royal Hudson at SF&SJ depot site, 3-1977

eastbounds at west end of Sunnyvale
San Jose's depots
circa 1973, Wx4
Los Gatos, 11-1950, Peter Hahn
WB departing Santa Cruz c.1910
"Bull Moose" 4-4-2 at Basset St.,
c.1910; our favorite SP loco, BTW

SP's last "High Stepper" Harriman P-1 4-6-2 w/ orig. trailing truck c.1950, Cahill St.
Cahill St. depot, below: left, c.1974, Wx4; right, CT 902, 1986; last engine E.O. ran 23 years later

Watsonville Junction: left - from roundhouse area, c.1960; right - closer to old yard office on; note new tower; 9-24-1955, Harold F. Stewart

SP 21 at Castroville; taken c.1875, as far as we can tell; What do you think?

Jeff Moore, the prolific author of books about the Western timber industry and its associated railroads, recently did a presentation to the Humbolt County Historical Society that expanded upon his commentary about Redwood Country's logging operations and legacy found in his book, Timber Industry Ghosts (Arcadia Publishing, 2019). His lecture is a fine one for getting up to speed on the Northwest California Coast lumbering and contains plenty of locomotive and equipment coverage well suited to the interests of seasoned railroad logging enthusiasts.

Jeff's assistance is noticeable on Wx4 in several places, particulaurly in our newly augmented C&OC / Hobbs, Wall & Co. page.


The other Lark

Yep, our Whatzit? Contest is back, after 6 or 8 years! As before, first prize is a nice selection of virtual Bulgarian peas; third prize is a note from mom; and there is no second prize. Email your answers with a heading of "contest" to:

1st prize
Your answers, maybe right but probably wrong, will be shown below.

Where on Southern Pacific was this c1910 photo taken? A triple helping of virtual peas goes to anyone who knows on what the photographer was standing.

third prize

1 - Be sure to eat your peas, dear! - Mom

2 - "Somewhere in the Western U.S., but not Washington." - Bob Blennings

3 - "Drawbridge" on the South Pacific Coast Railroad.; photographer is standing on a "pillar of salt". - Evan Josa

4 - Undaunted after guessing incorrectly in #3, Evan Josa doggedly came up with the right answer, Bay Point (now Port Chicago), California. He also points out that the identical photo appears in Southern Pacific's Western Division (something that escaped us) and author John Signor indicated that the photo was recorded from the top of the nearby hotel. Enjoy your Bulgarian peas, Evan!

1) Aw Ma, that ain't an answer. - EO

2) Oy. - EO

3) Nice guess! The photo does show salt water in Central California, but the SP Type 22 depot seen here was never found on SPC. Is there such a thing as a pillar of salt, other than Lot's wife? - EO

4) The full image scanned from a postcard in the Wx4 collection can be viewed by clicking on the photo. There is quite a bit going on here, some of which does not not meet the eye, and we estimate that the c.1915 date that John gave in his book is a few years later than actual. In the near term we hope to have an explanitory page on Wx4. Nope, Bay Point & Clayton Railroad is not in the picture. It's somewhere outside of the frame on the left.