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Celebrating The History Of Railroading
In California's San Joaquin Valley
Railfan Trip To Tracy, January 1958
Photograph courtesy of Frank Maffei
more than one-hundred years, Tracy, California,
served as one of the major centers of rail transportation in the western
United States. Beginning in the 1860s, transcontinental passenger and
freight trains heading to and from the San Francisco Bay Area passed
through the busy Tracy railyard.
to Southern Pacific
records, Tracy's freight yard set records for traffic
handled through its connections with Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco (via Niles Canyon), Martinez (via
the Mococo Line that parallels the Byron Highway), Los Banos (via the
Westside Branch) and Stockton, Fresno and Sacramento (via the Lathrop
branch), and on to Los Angeles, Portland, Ogden and points east.
the 1970s, passenger trains — including the San Joaquin Daylight
and the overnight Owl — made daily stops at the busy Tracy depot.
Sugar beets, tomatoes, asparagus, dry beans and other produce were loaded
on trains in Tracy, and the city once boasted one of the largest
petroleum storage facilities on the West Coast, which also served
as a fueling station for oil-fired steam locomotives.
designation and development of the "Bowtie" area (in the vacant
former railyards near the new Tracy Transit Station at Sixth and Central) as the
Railroad Historical District, along with the creation of the San
Joaquin Valley Railroad Museum, affords the opportunity to attract countless
railroad enthusiasts of all ages to the city for a variety of activities
throughout the year, and would serve as a vital cog in the revitalization
of the downtown area.
In 2014, through the combined efforts of the City of
Tracy, the Tracy
City Center Association (TCCA), the
Tracy Chamber of
Tracy Historical Museum and the Railtown Tracy Project team, the
city received its official designation as Train Town USA
from the Union Pacific
Railroad, as part of the company's program to recognize points along
its routes that contributed to its growth and development over the past
thanks to Frank Maffei for his generous permission to publish his classic
photograph of the January 1958 railfan trip to Tracy.
"A TREASURE TROVE OF TRACY TRAINS"
A COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN & AROUND
Creating and growing an active and passionate local railroad
historical society interested in developing a railroad-themed
historical district with vintage locomotives, passenger cars and
freight cars, as well as related facilities for maintenance and
A downtown museum and visitor center with exhibits tracing the history of
railroading in Tracy and the Central Valley. A scale model railroad
display mirroring rail activity in the area, along with
railroad-related activities for kids of all ages, will also be a component
of the visitor center.
Weekend rail excursions from downtown Tracy on the former Southern
Pacific right-of-way to Midway (via the Altamont branch) or the
"Brewery" and "Holly Sugar" spurs in town — and
perhaps along the Mococo line (to Brentwood),
the Westside branch (via the California Northern to Los Banos) or the
Banta-Lathrop line (via the Union Pacific) — using borrowed or
leased power (perhaps from the California Northern, the California
State Railroad Museum or other tourist railroads). Click
here for a map of potential excursion routes.
An annual downtown Tracy Trainfest, attracting train enthusiasts
from throughout the western United States, with vintage railroad equipment
An annual railroad movie festival at the Grand Theatre Center For The
Arts, along with a railroad-themed art and photography competition.
The potential of attracting railroad-themed businesses to the
downtown area, including hobby shops, restaurants, antique stores, and
other related enterprises. In addition, the boost in traffic through the
Railroad Historical District, particularly on weekends, will increase the
number of potential customers for existing restaurants, cafes, stores and
The restoration of "Tracy's Locomotive," the venerable
#1293 Southern Pacific S-14 Class 0-6-0 switch engine now on display at
Dr. Powers Park near Tracy Boulevard, for use as the signature motive
power of the tourist railroad or the focal point of a museum display.
Organizing and launching a San Joaquin Valley
Model Engineers club to design, construct and operate a model railroad
layout based upon the Southern Pacific's Tracy facility in the mid-1950s.
The layout would serve as a starting point for other Railtown Tracy
projects, and would be an important local historical resource.
Rebuild the historic Altamont line through Ellis, Midway, Cayley and into the old town of Altamont, if possible.
(The line, which basically parallels Schulte Road, currently
ends alongside Patterson Pass Road at the Alameda-San Joaquin
County line, about eight miles from downtown Tracy.) This line follows the
original path of the transcontinental railroad from points east
into the Bay Area, and dates back to the 1860s.
The development of youth programs to allow local students learn
more about the history of Tracy and the San Joaquin Valley, and how
railroads spurred growth here and throughout the west. Also, merit
badge programs in railroading and model railroading may be offered for
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RAILTOWN TRACY INFORMATIONAL FLYER