Post Pullman Industries served by Santa Fe A personal recollection by former Santa Fe engineer Phil GosneyI began my California railroad career in Richmond, CA in April, 1974 as a locomotive fireman on the former Santa Fe Railway in that city. This was the terminal for the Bay Area operations in Northern California which included Oakland and San Francisco, as well. As part of my promotion to become a Locomotive Engineer, which is still my career 30 years later, I had to operate with many different engineers in the Richmond terminal. This included both yard jobs and "road jobs" which were through freight trains to Fresno, CA at Calwa.
One of my assignments in Yard service was a "Daylight goat", job 103, with Engineer Chester Cox. He was a most polite and rather quiet gentleman. Chester was a man of few words, but he was always most gracious to have a young student along with him. He offered his advice on moving cars about the yard, but this job was different.
The first part of the shift, which began at 0700 was batting out a few cars or switching out a few inbound trains. The best part of this particular switch engine was that it became "a country job". Around 11 am we took a string of a dozen cars, or less, out of the yard and spotted them "in the country" at industries located around the Richmond. area. You did not have the monotony of drilling cars back and forth on the same lead as other yard assignments.
One day Chester was perplexed by his switchmen. We were going to different location today. He lamented he had not been to the "Pullman Plant" in YEARS. We had a box car loaded with tortilla flour and it consigned to "La Tolteca Tortilla" company *. This was the former Pullman Shops in Richmond and we had to go out the former ATSF Oakland Branch about 1. 5 miles to reach this location.
You probably were aware that the ATSF entered this Pullman facility on the NORTH side of the property immediately to the south of the BART tracks. In fact, the BART line, after leaving Richmond, heads south and turns eastward, following the former ATSF right of way. The ATSF got new welded rail in this area as a result of the BART trackage . It was along this east-west alignment that the ATSF entered the former Pullman Shops area. We had a 1220 Class switch engine and the lone ATSF "DF" box car with us. (The ATSF classified these switchers as "SSB-1200".) After we arrived at "La Tolteca" the switchmen pulled us over the switch and had us shove back westward into the plant. The track actually started out going westward, but then became north-south inside the plant. Located inside this facility was a Santa Fe "Section Crew" or track maintenance workers. The trackage had become so rickety from a lack of use that the Section Foreman gave us a "stop sign" by hand signal and I stopped the movement since I was operating the engine for Chester at this point.
The switch crew Foreman and the section foreman began a conference and discussing their options. We could not hear their words and only operated by "hand signs" given by the switchmen. Neither crew wanted to answer to the local officials why the locomotive had become derailed inside this plant. We realized what the planned move would become. Instead of shoving the car down the rickety track, and possibly derailing the engine, the men bleed off the air on the box car. The next thing we saw was "a kick sign". This is where you rev up the engine and the switchmen pulls the pin and uncouples the car. While the engine stopped, the box car continued to roll on its own momentum down the track. Another switchman was riding the hand brake and "tied her down" at desired location of unloading. The car heaved to the left and the right, but fortunately for all, it remained upright and did not derail.
To our knowledge, this was possibly the last time the former Pullman Shop was used for rail operation. Another switch crew had to come out and pick up the car, now an empty, one last time. So to the best of my knowledge and recollection, the last use of this track by the ATSF was the Summer of the year 1974. I hope you have found this recollection of the former Pullman Shops at Richmond informative.
Amtrak Locomotive Engineer on the "California Zephyr" at Oakland, CA
* By 1968 the Southern Pacific tracks into the shops had been removed. The Santa Fe lead had been realigned as an industrial spur. La Tolteca Tortilla was using the former machine shop - wood shop (Building D). Early on the morning of July 9, 1974 a fire broke out and the building was destroyed.
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