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For this series we will follow Southern Pacific and Santa Fe trackage from Sacramento south (railroad east) to Bakersfield. Most of my train chasing along this stretch was done more by chance than design. I generally wanted to get across the valley as fast as possible and if there happened to be a train going my way I'd give chase. This meant that the majority of the trips followed US 99 as it stayed pretty close to the Southern Pacific. The Santa Fe was harder to follow in the valley.
The Southern Pacific began building south down the San Joaquin Valley toward the Tehachapi Mountains in 1870 and reached Bakersfield in 1874. The San Francisco & San Joaquin Valley Railway began construction at Stockton in 1895 and reached Bakersfield in 1898. The SF&SJV became part of the Santa Fe in December 1898.
The SP installed automatic block signals Lathrop to Fresno, CA in 1912 and installed signals Tracy to Fresno in 1914. I think all of these were US&S style B lower quadrant signals. These were converted to searchlight signals during the 1950s. The first segment of CTC in California for the SP was between El Pinal (near Stockton) and Polk (near Sacramento) on 39.7 miles of single track. CTC went into operation in April 1930. The CTC machine had 35 switch levers and 29 signal levers and was installed in Stockton. At the time, the traffic on the line varied from 9 passenger and 9 freight trains a day in January to 9 passenger and 37 freight trains a day in September. The harvest season was the reason for the wide numbers. Typical empty reefer trains were usually 100 to 125 cars while loaded trains were between 70 and 74 cars. The growth of perishable traffic in the valley was so phenomenal that the SP was considering double tracking the route at a cost of $2.5M. The Bakersfield to Fresno segment received CTC in 1962. The Lathrop to Fresno segment received CTC in 1963.
The Santa Fe began installing signals between Richmond and Fresno (200 miles) in 1917. Signal work was still underway in 1918. The Christie to Fresno segment was finished in 1919. It began signal work between Calwa and Corcoran (44 miles) in 1918, installed signals Bakersfield, CA to Jastro in 1920 and finished the last segment from Calwa to Shirley (21 miles) in 1922. CTC was installed between Bakersfield and Fresno in 1952 and Fresno to Stockton, CA in 1957.
All pictures in this series are on disk 39. You can purchase a disk and printout any of the pictures for your own use to dress up your train room or add color to a house that just cries out for more train pictures.