Tuesday, November 29, 2011

San Jose Wants a Union Station

Like I said, the railroad- and fruit industry-related history on-line gets skewed heavily towards team bowling scores and lawsuits. Luckily, transportation law--whether Interstate Commerce Commission or California Railroad Commission--is filled with lots of fun details for the model railroader.

For example, City of San Jose vs. Southern Pacific in 1918 documents the fights going on around the time that the Western Pacific started building south. WP's proposed line looped down the east side of San Jose, across the south side well past where the canneries stopped and the open fields began, and then looped up through Willow Glen and the west side of town to a new freight depot just off the Alameda. San Jose, instead, fought for a union passenger and freight station to limit the trouble from the WP tracks.

The full article has a bunch of nice tidbits about railroad history in San Jose. Southern Pacific lost its franchise to run down the middle of Fourth Street in 1918. They'd started talking with the City in 1906 about getting the mainline tracks off of the downtown streets as early as 1906, and bought the land for the bypass through Willow Glen in 1913 for a bit less than a million dollars. It took the railroad (and the city, and the neighbors) until 1935 to actually agree on the details of the re-routing and build the tracks.

There's also all sorts of numbers and building costs, details of the routing, and hints at streets that changed names. Polhemus is what we now call Taylor Street, and Senter St. is a phantom street that's now fully occupied by the tracks approaching Diridon station. There's also reference to whether the WP's plan to build an independent and parallel track from Fremont to Milpitas was justified, or whether they could run on the SP's track to avoid the cost and duplication of effort. The California Railroad Commission is obviously worrying about whether the extra line is justified and worth building, but they're leaving that question to the "Director General of Railroads" because the case is taking place during the World War I government control of the U.S. railroads.

It's also interesting to see that the California Railroad Commission made sure to accent the e in San Jose in every use. I don't know if they did that because of the legal name of My Fair City, or if it's an affection because of the popularity of the Missions and Spanish/Mexican California in those days, but it's an amusing detail that must have made the typesetter curse.

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