Sofia Valenzuela, president of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce, said the city received word from the railroad the week of Dec. 20.
“I thought it was very fitting for Union Pacific Railroad to recognize Tracy,” she said. “It brings the history back to the surface — it is very important to preserve the city’s history.”
She said the city manager’s office would coordinate the delivery of the official proclamation from Union Pacific Railroad later this year.
The Train Town USA campaign was created by Tracy resident David Jackson, who approached the chamber in the summer to submit the application. The railroad accepted applications only from local governments and chambers of commerce.
For Jackson, the Train Town USA designation is part of a plan to create Railtown Tracy — an attraction encompassing a museum, a train festival, weekend rail excursions from downtown Tracy and the moving of Southern Pacific switch engine No. 1293 from Dr. Powers Park to the downtown area.
He explained in the application Tracy’s rich roots with the Southern Pacific Railroad.
“Beginning in the 1860s, transcontinental passenger and freight trains heading to and from the San Francisco Bay Area passed through the sprawling Tracy railyard,” Jackson wrote. “In essence, Tracy grew up around the railroad, with train crews and maintenance workers settling in homes that bordered on the railyard, which in turn led to the establishment of local banks, restaurants, grocers and other supporting businesses.”
Later in the essay, which can be read in its entirety below this story, Jackson introduces his ideas for development of a Downtown Tracy Railroad Historical District and a San Joaquin Valley Railroad Museum.
He isn’t alone in envisioning trains in Tracy’s future as well as its past. Larry Gamino, a third-generation railroad worker and president of the West Side Pioneer Association board of directors, said the Train Town USA designation could fuel efforts to promote Tracy’s railroad heritage.
“I told David, ‘I applaud your efforts.’ A lot of people, especially the newcomers, aren’t aware of Tracy’s history,” Gamino said.
He saw the designation as a first step in generating interest to build a museum.
“It would help people learn the history as a railroad museum,” Gamino said. “I think it renews interest in local railroad history. If he (Jackson) gets the support of the downtown, they will see it as an opportunity to bring a little tourism — a little more walkable, sustainable interest in downtown with a railroad perspective.”
Both Gamino and Jackson would like to see engine No. 1293 moved from Dr. Powers Park, where it has stood since 1959, to a place in the Bowtie as the anchor of a railroad museum.
“My grand vision was to get 2 or 3 acres and get the steam engine down there with the tender,” Gamino said, suggesting that the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Central Avenue would be the ideal location, if the land could be leased from Union Pacific Railroad.
Gamino said he hoped Jackson would keep pushing to showcase Tracy’s railroad legacy.
“We need to go full throttle on the preservation of railroad history before it’s lost and to make Tracy a railroad destination in the future,” Gamino said. “Our birthright is railroad, and we should build on that.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TEXT OF THE ESSAY WRITTEN BY DAVID JACKSON
For 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 sprawling Tracy railyard.According 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.Into 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.In essence, Tracy grew up around the railroad, with train crews and maintenance workers settling in homes that bordered on the railyard, which in turn led to the establishment of local banks, restaurants, grocers and other supporting businesses.Railroading continues to be a key element of Tracy’s present — witness the busy Altamont Corridor Express trains that pick up and drop off passengers here every morning and afternoon – and the city could once again be an important hub for the future high-speed rail project in California.The Train Town USA designation and development of the “Bowtie” area (in the now-vacant former railyard near the new Tracy Transit Station at Sixth and Central) as the Downtown Tracy 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 component in the revitalization of the downtown area.