Tracing Tracy Territory: Uncovering the fate of the old SP depot
by Sam Matthews / Tracy Press
Mar 05, 2010 | 5251 views | 5 5 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A structure that might have once been the old Southern Pacific Depot was moved to Larch Road in 1961 to become a church. The exterior has been covered with stucco, and some changes have been made to the interior.  Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
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When the new Tracy Transit Station was officially opened a few weeks ago, I was among several people at the dedication who wondered what exactly happened to the old Southern Pacific depot that stood close to where the new building has been constructed.

Carrie King thinks she might have the answer. And it’s right next to her home on Larch Road.

Carrie, a retired teacher and Larch Road resident for more than a half-century, recalls that in 1961, she and her late husband, the Rev. Clem King, moved what she remembers as the main building in the center of the old SP yard out to their property on Larch Road to be made into a church.

“That was in 1961, when the railroad moved its depot to a new location to the east,” she recalled. “The timing was right, and when I saw the picture of the old depot in the paper, it looked like the building we had moved.”

Carrie’s son, Tracy King, showed me through the building, which had been covered with stucco on its exterior and remodeled inside in several places, although the narrow tongue-in-groove wooden boards on the walls were obviously vintage. To me, despite the changes, the size and shape of the building — if not all of the old depot were used for the church — seemed about right, and there weren’t other buildings in the old SP yard area that came that close. The only other building that could be a candidate was the trainmaster’s office, but it appeared smaller in early photos.

I decided to check with Martin Sasser, who before and after World War II had worked in the old SP depot, first as a callboy and later as a crew dispatcher and clerk.

With Martin in tow, I returned to the building that now houses the World Assembly, and Tracy showed us around the building. Martin tried to picture where the agent’s office had been and where the clerks and communications workers had toiled for so many years.

A doorway that could have been the door to the agent’s area had been made into a window, but the location was right where the door had been on the north side of the old SP depot.

Finally, at the end of the building, a smaller room very definitely could have been the crew dispatcher’s area.

“It’s about the right size, and it was at the eastern end of the old depot,” he recalled. “I can’t say for sure, but it’s really possible.”

We may never know for certain if the church building on the north side of Larch Road just east of Corral Hollow Road really was the old SP Depot. But, to me, there are too many positive clues, including the building itself and Carrie’s vivid recollections, to rule out the possibility.

Roger Ebert chimes in

Last week, I reported that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman mentioned Tracy and its “pay for service” fire department advanced life-support charges.

I’m sure the folks at City Hall have had their fill of calls and comments on the issue, but they may be interested know that the topic made its way to Chicago, as well as New York.

In fact, Roger Ebert, the former legendary film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, commented on the topic in his “Roger Ebert’s Journal” column in the Sun-Times last Saturday. Janet Robinson forwarded me a copy of the column.

Ebert, who has been waging a long battle with cancer, noted that Tracy isn’t the only town considering charging for emergency services. “So is Los Angeles.”

Commenting on Tracy’s hiring an out-of-town private firm to bill for the advanced life-support services rendered by the firefighters, Ebert brought the topic home to Chicago. He wrote:

“Hiring private companies to handle city services is a two-edged sword. I believe our Mayor Daley now regrets he signed a 75-year lease with a company to take over the city’s parking meters. … These bandits came in and immediately multiplied parking-meter fees. In the Loop, an hour, which in 2008 cost a quarter, now costs $3.50.”

No worry about that in the ol’ tank town. We did away with parking meters in the downtown many years ago.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail
Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 08, 2010

Thanks for the comment. If you watched the lies that were told to Ann Marie on channel #26 by Leroy Ornellas, and Brent Ive's that Tracy will be a future hub for high speed rail.

How is a train going 250 miles per hour going to stop here in Tracy and in other places as Stockton, Brentwood and so on.

If you recall back in the 40's they use to have a mail bags on a poll when the train picked up the mail, when passing through Tracy. That was only 40 miles per hour. Would the high speed rail, pick up people the same way going 250 miles per hour?

March 08, 2010
I remember playing at the old closed SP station as a kid in 1961. It was a lot of fun. Both my dad, Lincoln Brown & grandfather, Ernie Woolever worked for the SP & used to take us to the old Terminal Grill near the station. Too bad they moved as the new station looks like a crackerbox. Also too bad the SP is gone now & the UP has taken over the remains. No more railroad town for Tracy!
March 07, 2010

No, it's a guessing game because if you recall, the original train station went over to Valpico and Lammers Road.

If you don't believe me you can go down to the Tracy Museum and ask them yourself.
March 07, 2010
Concerned Citizen:

What is this another Sasser presentation.
March 06, 2010

It was on NPR. So, it's no surprise it was in New York and other cities. Maybe we have a mole with connections in DC?

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