Southern Pacific Railroad History - San Jose Railroad history - Railroad employee timetables - Railroad humor

NEW 7-12-2019: Our lists of offerings and new arrivals have moved to

The Wx4 Card Catalogue

We're hoping that it makes navigation of the site a bit easier.

Also, we are still on track to actually turn out
"The Dome 2019" in 2019! If so, this represents a great improvement in timing over "The Dome 2012", which came out in 2016.

About - Willys Jeep Wagons - Help - More Help


Site Conventions:

  • Wx4 Staff - me, E.O., for the most part
  • We - royal we, aka "I"
  • HumongOfoto┬« - a really, really big photo
Dear Windows users,
This site is composed on a Mac, and works pretty well on Safari, as well as the Apple versions of Firefox and Chrome. Ever since our Windows machine threw a connecting rod, we have no idea what Wx4 looks like through the Microsoft lens. Hence we have settled on a remedial policy of 'ignorance is bliss'.
- Staff

almost done:

  • Early 20th Century Lower East Bay & Dumbarton Bridge SP local passenger trains
  • SP's San Bruno Triangle & Origins of
    the Bayshore Cutoff, 1888-1928


  • SP's Maritime Motor Car
  • The long awaited story of a SP temperance movie
  • SF&A/CP/S&C/SP/A&BV 4-4-0 loco J.G. Kellogg
  • SPC/SP's Agnew/Lick Mills Branch

aways down the line:

  • New Almaden branches - extensive coverage
  • Expanded station-by-station coverage of the S. F. Peninsula, incl. places that you have never heard of

First off, an apology to all of you for so long ignoring our "meat and potatoes": San Jose, San Francisco and the intervening Peninsula. Once our backlog of projects is taken care of, we have a mountain of info and photos for these sections.

New timetable PDF pages:

SP steam diagrams, photos & reminiscences:

Circa 1929 -1980 SP photos and personal stories by the late 52 year veteran Bayshore machinist Fred Boland, as well as a 140 item collection of SP steam loco appliance diagrams that he rescued from the dumpster in the 1950's, are located within the Southern Pacific Railroaders Pages. Our thanks to good friend Walter Boland, Fred's son, for his extensive efforts to provide this material.

Machinist Walter Boland, retirement day 1980

And speaking of SP employees, we now have a fairly extensive, ever-growing collection of CA/OR employee time books, and seniority rosters, many through the much appreciated courtesy of John Signor, and lately Bob Melbo, who was an Oregon Division assistant superintendent back in the mid-1980's when I was a lowly Dunsmuir firemen. Hint: We're always looking for more to reproduce.

Coast & Western Divs. engineering drawings:

Another large Wx4 offering is Southern Pacific Coast & Western Divisions circa 1940's & 50's engineering drawings showing trackage - new, old, proposed - at various locations: more than 100! Page has link to Robert Bowdidge's complementary collection of same.

Wreck of the New Almaden Mixed:

The first substantive effort in the Past Less Traveled series is this minutely - detailed look at a 1902 head-collision between a SP standard gauge light engine and the SPC's narrow gauge New Almaden mixed at Moulton, a little-known spur between Campbell and San Jose: photos, maps, diagrams and an autobiography of the spur's eccentric namesake, S.A. Moulton, who may have been responsible for onset of SPC's 14-year-long journey to standard gauge. (click on image)

Jawbone Dispatching Comes to Tucumcari

... is our venerable (2006) article detailing Wx4 staff experiences during the changeover from train order dispatching to Direct Traffic Control (radio) dispatching on the Carrizozo District of the Tucson Division (former EP&SW). This was SP's first experiment with using radios to control movement. It was so successful that train orders were largely dead dodos nationally by the end of the decade. (click on image)

Complementing the above is A Train Order Primer, which will educate you to near-professional understanding, if you can wrap your head around it all. (Check out the heavily "annotated" SP rule book that I used during my new hire brakeman class, as well as my conductor's promotion class a couple of years later - It might make you feel better about yourself.) After that, read Direct Traffic Control Explained to understand how your pet chihuahua could master radio dispatching in about 20 minutes.

Paducah's Boneyard & the Fate of IC's Last E-Units

Illinois Central Gulf had a fair number of E-Units at one time, but eventually managed to wreck 10% of them (by Wx4 count). This well-illustrated article looks at Paducah's back lot on a day in May, 1980, and tries to divine what happened to all the E's populating the place. (click on image)

Man the lifeboats!

Wx4 sails the seas lake between Milwaukee and Ludington on the Chessie car ferry Badger in 1974

The Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension -

a giant branch line! features photos of, among others, the last Little Joe to inhabit Avery, Montana. (click on image)

San Francisco Chronicle, June 1, 1909

(above) Our perspective on things.

(below) Our wider perspective on things:

Pacific Rural Press, June 3,1871

Coos Bay Times, April 14, 1916

Coos Bay Times, May 16, 1914

a 15 year stroll down the tracks O' yore... is an odd domain name for a site billed as the Dome O' Foam, yes? There actually is a logic to it. We originally took to our virtual pencils in Summer, 2002 as a Willys Jeep 4x4 Utility (station) Wagon site, the Wonderful World of Willys Wagons. We cleverly (we maintain, anyway) combined the the four W's in the name with 4WD to get "Dubya by Four", our site's proper pronunciation.

the original Dome O' Foam Worlds Wide Willys Wagons

We soon came to realize that we were barking up the wrong tree: Jeeps are inherently NOT funny, a state of affairs that hit us when we were more-or-less booted off of Yahoo! Groups' Willys Tech for making wisecracks that violated the sanctity of machines that actually rival Fiat's ability to break down overnight while slumbering in your driveway. About the only memorable thing that we did for the Jeeping hobby is to come up with the Willys Joke.

this disturbingly Freudian front page was our bold attempt at graphics in early 2004

Undaunted, in 2003 - 15 years ago - we hop-skiped down a new path - railroads - and soon came to a full comprehension of what we knew all along: the railroad industry is hilarious. The proto Dome O' Foam followed in short order. A fair share of this site dwells upon our own offbeat brand of humor, and yes, we know that many of you find it to be a little unsettling, but as we are fond of saying, "Hey, it's OUR site!"

Since the Dome has survived all of these years with nary a lawsuit, and only a very modest collection of restraining orders, we are consequently thrilled to still be around. Although we know that this cannot last for ever, at least we have already created our permanent legacy in railroading, the Standard Railroad Joke. It's loads better than the Willys Joke.

By way of end note: An Earnest Plea for Lots of Money first appeared on Wx4 in mid-2003. We note that we still have not received a dime from you tightwads!

Prognostication of San Jose's present depot 49 years before the fact:

Evening News, San Jose, December 10, 1886

Changing of the Guard

click on the image for a larger version.

Lenzen Avenue Roundhouse, San Jose, mid-1974: Electro-Motive SW1500 #2689 sitting between the locomotives that it would replace on the Peninsula, Alco RS-32 #4008 and Fairbanks-Morse H12-44 # 2350 (SP's first F-M). The F-M's could be found in Coast Division yards from San Luis Obispo to Mission Bay. The Alcos were decade-long mainstays on Peninsula on local freights such as the Sunnyvale and Millbrae. They were favorites among crews for their quick loading in switching service, something that the older EMD's lacked. The 2689 and mates had a large switch in the cab that, when flipped into switching mode, would cause the unit to "move right now". It is also a sentimental favorite of mine, as I cut my baby teeth as a switchman on it, switching the San Jose depot on midnight shift with my cranky, but good hearted mentor, Engineer Butch Nesbit. The loco was the standard-assigned depot goat from about this time until the early 1980's.

The Same Place Two Decades Apart

click on the images for larger versions.

A row of ancient warehouses and agricultural processing houses, some of them possibly dating back to the 1860's, once lined the north side of San Jose's compact "Old Yard" between the Guadalupe River and First Street. The old Market Street arcade depot sat on the south side, and any morning photo of a passenger train recorded there likely had the "fruit sheds" looming in the background, such as we see here with Commute train #131. The image probably dates to sometime not long before SP closed the depot on the last day of 1935 in favor of what is known today as Diridon Depot. Until 1928, when SP "temporarily" suspended (a move that became permanent) passenger service on the Ocean View Line to allow enlarging of San Francisco's Bernal Cut for roadways , trains #131 and #130 were the sole remaining trains on this former main line. But by the time of this photograph, #131 was the 7:30 am train out of San Jose that arrived in San Francisco 1┬Ż hours later. Light Pacifics, ex- EP&SW heavy Pacifics , and heavy 4-6-0's were by then the regular power on the Commutes.

The second view shows the warehouse area that the equipment in the first shot is hiding. Here we see 0-6-0 # 1297 backing along the sheds at about the same time of day as in the earlier photo. The date is easy to determine - sometime in the 1952-56 period - because this was the second #1297, which was brought west from the Texas & New Orleans in June, 1952 along with (2nd) #1295-96. Number 1297 was the last 0-6-0 acquired by the Pacific Lines. It was vacated at Bayshore in October, 1957 and donated to the City of Ogden, Utah about a year later. The Utah State Railroad Museum eventually acquired ownership, but declared it surplus and sold it in 2002 to the Bolack Electromechanical Museum of Farmington, New Mexico, where it resides today.

both photos: Wx4 Collection

The time is growing short,

...but you would never know it from looking at the scene. This Sunday, September 9, 1956 view from the head brakeman's seat of "Malley" #4168 looks back towards the San Jose Roundhouse and the lineup of locos awaiting the Monday morning Commute "Fleet" - not a diesel in sight! At the end of November, Cab Forwards made their last revenue runs. SP retired the 4168 on the day after Christmas. Then, on January 25, 1957, five days after steam ceased on the Commutes, California Metals of Pittsburg put her to the torch.
click on the image for a larger version;Wx4 Collection

Durango & Silverton RR, Durango, 2011 - a might different from my 1967 visit. - E.O.

Limited or Express?

Evening News, San Jose, 2-15-1900.

Before the Coast Line opened between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited ran from Oakland via the Mocco Line to Lathrop, where it met a Sacramento section, and thence to Fresno and points south and east to New Orleans. An 1898 Official Guide labels the trains as (westbound) Sunset Express and (eastbound) New Orleans Express. A (post-opening) 1901 SP Coast Division employee timetable calls both trains Sunset Express, even though advertisements such as above began calling them Limited back in the Oakland days. By 1904, employeee timetables had adopted the advertised name, but ads continued to use the two names interchangeably for at least several years. The name Express was revived for awhile around 1923 for a pair of sceondary trains accompanying the Limiteds. There also was a hot eastbound freight train that originated (year?) in the San Joaquin Valley dubbed the Sunset Express, a description that was used informally until SP's last days.

From YouTube:

Little Rascals - "Railroadin'" - (With New Soundtrack)

This was Director Hal Roach's second Little Rascals "talkie", released on June 15, 1929, which was filmed primarily in and around Santa Fe's Redondo Junction roundhouse (in 2018 the roundhouse is gone, but the turntable survives). Besides being a crisp copy of a delightful comedy short, it well points out how matter-of-factly society regarded children wandering railroad yards in those times (a Wx4 staff member did same at an SP roundhouse in the mid-1950's at age 5 - with the cab rides, but without the drama). In summary, the safety message intended for the urchins at the Saturday 5 cent kiddie matinees was, at best, mixed.

From YouTube:

Railroad Man - Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen

This ca1969 documentary, does a good job of portraying the "railroad life" of the times, which at its essence was not much difference today, except that it is less dangerous. That this was a rather heavy-handed bit of union self-promotion - "You can't be the president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen by sitting behind a desk in Cleveland" - does not take away from its generally accurate portrayal of railroad employees, their jobs and their ongoing contentious relationship with management. Otherwise, you'll note Santa Fe Warbonnets and Alligators, and a SP Alco S-2 among others in the action shots.