Monday, July 9, 2007

ripped from
The most obscure operation of the Oakland & Antioch Railway was the Walwood Branch, running from Meinert Station on Oak Grove Road at Meinert, 2.8 miles south to Walwood Station.
Stations on this branch were Whitman, Gavin, Moore, Walwood and Hillside. The Walwood Branch ran along the west shoulder of Oak Grove and Castle Rock county roads. I recall talking to Mr. Will Frank, who said the name Meinert came from a boy who was killed at that location in a 1908 haying accident. Other names such as Gavin and Whitman were for property owners along the route. I do not know the origin of the names for Moore and Walwood stations.
In 1874 a hotel was built on Mount Diablo called the Mountain House. It was a mile from the summit, and two roads were built to the hotel. One was from Ygnacio Valley, the Pine Canyon Stage Road, and a second road from Danville, now called Dan Cook Trail. These roads joined just a mile below the hotel. They were replaced in 1915 by North Gate and South Gate Roads.
There turned out to be many problems with the idea of transporting sightseers to Mount Diablo. All of the land on the mountain was private, primarily ranches. The ranchers objected to sightseers overrunning their land and, on occasion, starting fires. In 1891, the ranchers petitioned the County Board of Supervisors to close the mountain roads. Gates and fences kept the public out, and the hotel was burned to the ground. It was not until 1915 that a 23-mile toll road was opened to the summit. Mount Diablo State Park was dedicated in 1921.
The original intent of the branch was to run to the base of Mount Diablo where sightseers could transfer to stages for the ride to the top of the mountain. Construction of the branch started in April of 1911, and was originally called the Ignacio Valley Branch, the way Ygnacio was then spelled. A 1914 Contra Costa map shows the rail line from Meinert to North Gate Road, but not the full length to Hillside Station.
Service on the O&A Walwood Branch commenced on June 15, 1911, to Gavin Station and North Gate Road for both freight and passengers. A branch from the branch was built from Gavin to the Spreckles Sugar Company quarry at Moore Station on the west side of Lime Ridge. Limestone was shipped from here to Spreckles' sugar beet refinery south of Salinas in Monterey County. The cars were taken by the O&A to Las Juntas Station where they were transferred to the Southern Pacific's San Ramon Branch.
During the last years of SN passenger operation, former O&A combine 1002 was restored
to something like her original appearance when she worked the Walwood Branch. The Holman
car was stored at Chico when this photo was taken in 1940 during a railfan excursion.
The car was only relettered on one side, as the opposite side was in deplorable condition.
Photo by G. Graham. Collection of Garth G. Groff.
The Spreckles Sugar limestone quarry was responsible for two train wrecks on the O&A. On June 13, 1911, the CONTRA COSTA GAZETTE reported that two trainmen were seriously injured, and a third badly bruised, when a three car train derailed that afternoon. The scene of the wreck was at the foot of the grade on the branch line to the quarry. The grade was rated 6%, but the three railroad men claimed it was over 7%.
"A few minutes before two o'clock this afternoon, the train started from the quarry with the first load of rock to be hauled from that place. The train consisted of one of O&A's fine new passenger coaches, a flat car, and a large steel gondola car. When the descent began, motorman Young applied all of the brake, but even with wheels locked and the rails sanded, the rock car with 55 tons was too great for the passenger car to hold back. The train gradually gained momentum, the men found it was running away, and at this point all three men jumped. "The train rushed down the hill with increasing speed until it reached the curve at the bottom, where it left the rails. [Note the location between Gavin Station and the tank house on the map.] All three cars were smashed, and much repair work would be required before they can return to service."
A picture of the wreck appears in Ira Swett's SACRAMENTO NORTHERN (Interurbans Special 26). The picture shows wrecked O&A car 1001 in the middle of Oak Grove Road, with the tank house in the background and a farm house to the right. The tank house still stands in the same location, but due to widening of Oak Grove Road and flood control work on Pine Creek, the farm house was moved to the left of the tank house.
As fate would have it, a second wreck happened July 6, 1911. Again according to the CONTRA COSTA GAZETTE, "At 3:05 this afternoon, the second wreck on the O&A electric occurred at the same location as the former one about three weeks ago when a train jumped the track and was badly damaged at the foot of the hill leading to Spreckles quarry. At three o'clock motor car #2 [believed to be Central California Traction Express Motor No. 2 which records indicate was leased to the O&A], having completed switching work at the quarry, started down the grade with two empty gondolas. Though the brakes were set hard and the wheels were dragging on the sanded rails, the train increased its speed and the crew realizing that another wreck was impending, jumped for their lives, escaping with a few minor cuts. At the foot of the long grade, the motor car crashed into two empty flat cars. The trucks of the motor car stayed on the rails while the body was hurled into a field. The loss to the company will be considerable, and officials are considering installing a drum and cable to ease the cars down the hill."
Not much is now known about Spreckles' quarry operations, such as was a steam shovel used, or just a horse and scraper? Were rail cars loaded from bunkers? Lime Ridge summit is 800 feet at this point, though much of the quarry operations were near the 400 foot level.
SN motor 1001 was originally a twin to 1002, and also worked the Walwood Branch. This motor
was lengthened from 45 to 56 feet in 1913, and then spent most of its life on the Pittsburg Branch.
Collection of Mark Effle.
The branch was soon extended from North Gate Road along Castle Rock Road for another half mile to Walwood Station, 2.8 miles from Meinert. According to timetables, service commenced on April 1, 1912. After 1914, the branch was again extended further to Hillside Station where another quarry existed. This made the total length of the branch's main track three miles.
Passenger service provided by the O&A consisted of cars operating from Bay Point (Port Chicago) to Lafayette in 1911 and 1912. The train would make side trips from Meinert to Walwood, and the fare anywhere along the branch was ten cents.
Later when the Oakland Anitioch & Eastern took over and service from Oakland to Sacramento commenced in 1913, Concord local trains would make trips over the Walwood branch during their layover time. Train #80 from Meinert to Walwood ran between 12:25 and 12:40 p.m. Train #81 from Walwood to Meinert ranfrom 12:45 to 1:00 p.m. -- 15 minutes to cover 2.8 miles -- no speed record there. Train #82 ran from Meinert to Walwood between 5:45 and 5:58 p.m., and Train #83 returned between 6:10 and 6:23 p.m. On occasion, trains were annulled when no one showed up to ride. Once the trip was cancelled because a car had new paint and the crew was afraid to scratch it on overhanging trees.
Freight hauled on the Walwood Branch included hay, grain, orchard crops, walnuts, livestock, and of course, limestone.
SN combine 1005 with Salt Lake & Utah parlor car 751 played host to hoards of
railfans in January 1957. The cars are approaching what was left of Meinert. The spur
curving to left is the remains of the wye, the last remnant of the Walwood Branch.
Photo by Ken Harrison.
By 1920, the Spreckles quarry had closed and passenger traffic never materialized due to the sparse population of the area at that time. Sightseeing traffic to Mount Diablo never developed. In September 1916 a passenger count showed Train #83 carried 19, while Train #82 had 26. In October, Train #82 carried 53, while Train #83 had only 14. the disparity between inbound and outbound passengers was because students attending Mount Diablo High School walked to Meinert in the morning to catch a mainline train, and returned on the branch train in the afternoon. There were no morning trains for students or shoppers on the branch, and the schedule was not popular with riders.
The Walwood Branch was gone by 1920, before the OA&E was reorganized into the San Francisco-Sacramento Railroad (the Sacramento Short Line). So ended one of the shortest-lived and most obscure country trolley lines in California.

Route Map of Oakland, Antioch and Eastern Railway

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Also lifted from George Emmanuels' "Ygancio Valley". Just repeating, corner of OAk Grove Road and Meinert Road. Perhaps Oak Grove Road was called Walwood road/ Street/ Boulevard/YourMama whatever. Now the area is inhabited by Ygnacio Valley Park. As well, BART tracks are overhead, promoting the theory that portions of the BART line were areas originally inhabited by older railroad lines.

The story of Meinert is interesting as well, due to a story of a child that was killed in some train accident in that area. I am guessing the child's name was Meinert. As well, if the story is true, because the fact that the station is already named Meinert, then the accident must've happened years before this pic was taken. There are stories of Spreckles Sugar Company quarrying limestone out of Lime ridge for their sugar processing, and the usage by that company of using rail cars to ship the lime stone. Possibly, one of these rail cars tipped, crushing young Meinert.

Hookston Train stop

Hookston Station, the Ygnacio Valley stop on the Southern Pacific, was at the junction of Bancroft Road and Hookston Road. The spur track in the immediate foreground leads to a winery. The only other building there was the saloon (whoo-hoo!) John Corsiglia operated until his death in 1907.
lifted from Ygnacio Valley 1834-1970 by George Emanuels. A bit of history, the winery mentioned is the Hooks Brothers winery. I've been to the site repeated hoping to find an antique bottle of wine, yet none have surface.

Monday, June 25, 2007

An interesting read

From Pay attention to the stops and their names

The Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway

A twelve-hundred-volt electric line between San Francisco, Oakland, Danville, Pittsburg, and Sacramento, while young in history, is furnishing the patrons along its way with every necessary railway service known to the present day.
The road-bed, of first importance, is rock-ballasted from the company's own rock quarry and crusher at Valle Vista. Many of the passenger-coaches are of steel, and all of the new equipment to be purchased in the future will be of steel construction. The coaches have roomy and comfortable seats. Parlor observation-cars are run on three of the fast express trains each way, "The Comet," "The Meteor," and "The Sacramento Valley Limited." The observation-cars on the two latter trains runs through to Chico via the Northern Electric Railway, and make the round trip daily. The entire line is protected by autonomic block signals and traverses a section of country noted for its scenery and beautiful fertile valleys.
Passengers leave San Francisco via the Key Route ferry, Market Street, crossing the bay to the Key Route mole, Oakland, where the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway train is boarded. The train passes through the heart of the city of Oakland over Fortieth Street to the Oakland depot at Fortieth Street and Shafter Avenue, then along Shafter Avenue to the Berkeley Hills, where the train climbs along the sides of these picturesque ridges. Near the top, at Cape Horn, a rift in the mountainous hills shows a grand panoramic view of the city of Oakland, Alameda, and the waters beyond. After this parting view of the city of Oakland, the train passes through steep wooded hills of green foliage until the highest point is reached, where the train enters a tunnel, the eastern end of which opens into Redwood Canon, a natural picnic park about three miles long. Here may be seen almost every kind of California tree and wild plant from the redwoods, standing straight and tall, to the numerous varieties of ferns and wild roses which grow in rank profusion everywhere.
Emerging from Redwood Canon you see the Moraga Valley spread out like a map below. Presently the train is on the floor of this fertile and beautiful valley at Moraga Station, the center of a settlement of commuters.
After leaving Moraga, Country Club, Burton, and Lafayette in their turn, the train enters the San Ramon valley at Saranap, where a branch line extends to the prettily situated towns of Alamo, Danville, and Diablo Station at the foot of Mount Diablo, where an auto stage can be taken to the summit, from which point a wonderful view is had of the surrounding country. By reason of the continuous clear weather around Mount Diablo, one is almost always assured of a good clear view.
Walnut Creek, the center of commercial activity of San Ramon Valley, is surrounded by orchards and gardens. Large oaks, characteristic of this section, mark the unusual depth and fertility of the soil. Farther on is Meinert Station, on the edge of Pacheco Valley. The center of the business activity of this valley is Concord, situated at the foot of Mount Diablo, at the junction of Pacheco, San Ramon, and Ygnacio valleys. It is a pretty little town of historical interest in connection with early California. It has paved streets, sewer and water systems, as well as gas and electric light.
Next comes Bay Point, on the shores of Suisun Bay. The train then follows along the bay, passing West Pittsburg, where a branch line connects the thriving industrial city of Pittsburg with the main line, until Mallard Island is reached. Here the Suisun Bay is only 2200 feet wide, and the entire train is ferried across on the steel boat "Ramon," propelled by gasoline engines of unusual power. The "Ramon" is fitted with comforts and conveniences for passengers who wish to get off the train and stretch themselves while crossing the bay. A lunch-room is maintained on the lower deck.
After leaving Chipps Island, on the opposite shore, the train presently crosses Montezuma Slough at Dutton Station, then, passing Molena Station, at the foot of the Montezuma Hills, traverses an extensive territory of large ranches.
After leaving Dixon Junction, where a branch line runs to Dixon, an important town of Solano County, the train proceeds through Maine Prairie, Bunker, Millar, and Saxon, and then crosses the Yolo Basin to Glide Landing. On the bank of the Sacramento River, following this river through the fertile and productive lands of West Sacramento and crossing over the M-Street bridge enters Sacramento at Front and M streets. Passengers may alight from the train at Third and K streets or the terminal depot at Third and I streets.
The beginning of the railroad grew out of the minds of a few enterprising men of Contra Costa County and vicinity. The principal founders were A. W. Maltby, of Concord; Walter Arnstein, of Alamo, now president; Samuel L. Napthaly, of San Francisco, now vice-president; and Harry A. Mitchell, of San Francisco, now secretary and general manager. The gentlemen were familiar with all the fertile valleys of Moraga, San Ramon, Ygnacio, and Pacheco, but deplored the round-about routes that connected these valleys with the bay cities. Hiring expert engineers to make a report of the feasibility of a direct line between San Francisco and the above-mentioned valleys, the present route of the railroad was decided upon after checking up the report of the engineers. As soon as this decision was made the Oakland & Antioch Railway was organized and incorporated in January, 1909. Building was started February 1909, at Bay Point, and the line was put into operation between Bay Point and Walnut Creek in May, 1911. Still building toward Oakland, and extending the service as the track was built, the Oakland & Antioch Railway was completed and service installed between Bay Point and Oakland in April, 1913.
On April 1, 1911, the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway was incorporated to build a line from Bay Point to Sacramento, with a branch line about two miles long from West Pittsburg to Pittsburg. Building commenced in July, 1912, and the line from Bay Point to Pittsburg was completed and put into operation in August, 1913. In the meantime, the Oakland, Antioch, & Eastern Railway leased the Oakland & Antioch Railway and also the San Ramon Valley Railroad, running from Saranap on the main line to Danville. Finally, in September, 1913, the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway was completed to Sacramento and put into service the same month.
Since then the railway has been broadening out in its field of service to its patrons. Trains at convenient hours were put on between San Francisco and Concord for the commuters who live in the pretty towns in Contra Costa County and work in Oakland and San Francisco. Low commutation rates and excursion fares were arranged for. Freight service was looked after closely to develop it to the needs of the communities along the line. This led to putting on a fast fruit and vegetable train during the season to make delivery at Oakland at 4 o'clock in the morning. Through freight connections were secured with the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads, which resulted in reducing the freight rate to eastern points. This encouraged fruit shippers to erect packing-houses adjacent to the large acreages of heavily producing orchards. At the present time a rice experiment farm at Millar Station is the result of the efforts of this company to get the farmers interested in more profitable crops.
The distance from San Francisco to Sacramento is 92.9 miles, with branch lines as follows: Saranap to Diablo, nine miles; Meinert to Walwood, three miles; West Pittsburg to Pittsburg, two miles.

west lafayette

This is near the intersection of St. Mary's and Topple Lane ( a continuation of school st.). Who or what is topple is a question, and why birdhaven? As well I'm not certain as to where the exact stop is, on the north or south side of St. Mary's rd. There's a school on the north, and all that land is developed NOW, but on the south side there is a vacant lot. Then again, judging by the pic, the "station" did not take up that much square footage.

i wish i could put a link for specific map links, such as google maps school st st. mary lafayette california

I'm also guessing it's a line to Moraga

As you can tell, this is all a crap shoot. I'm winging this.


Somehow or another, I became entranced with the old train systems that ran throughout this old county. Maybe I was dreaming of something that ran better than our current but archaic public transit system. The rail system, having roots deep in the past, has tendrils that reach into the present and the future, much like a mint plant, "Don't plant it if you don't REALLY like it". The impact is felt all over, city names, street names. The train system also had an impact in the economic development of the area, as does train systems thoughout, but it helped certain organization flourish, and others die out. Just think about the dying of Route 66 in the greater U.S. Like sand dunes, times flow up and then they sink back down with the breeze.

The Iron Horse trail, after a bottle of brandy, revealed itself to me as the old train line, the Iron Horse being that mean old train that thundered down the tracks of the San Ramon diablo Valley.

I came across an old train system map of Contra Costa including the Oakland, Antioch, Eastern Railway, and another, Southern Pacific I believe. It is my desire to assemble all the photos of the old railway stations and trains, do a before and now series. My greater goal in all of this is to map out the train stops of a line, gather a bunch of friends, a igloo of suds on a warm sunny day, and one of those rental four seater pedal powered quadcycles, and hit each site of an old rail stop and crack a can or bottle. Let the good times roll!

-Dedicated to Harold MacPherson for his love of trains. Physical absence, but never absent from ym heart or thoughts