Passenger and Freight Operations 

on the

Eastside Lines

of the

San Joaquin Valley

Copyright 2008, 2011 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.

Cliff Prather and Randy Sunada

Web Page Created December 2, 2008
Last Updated August 27, 2011

All images and other material remain the property of the individual contributors and may not be used without permission.

Southern Pacific and SantaFe Passenger Operations

As late as 1938 there were four passenger trains operating on the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe. Santa Fe trains 25/30 operated between Fresno and Corcoran via Cutler and Visalia while trains 5/12 operated between Cutler and Bakersfield over the Porterville-Orosi district via Exeter and Porterville. The Santa Fe service was provided by gas-electric cars, referred to as "motors" in the public timetables. 

The Southern Pacific ran trains 57/58 between Fresno and Porterville via Goshen Jct., Visalia and Exeter and trains 345/346 between Fresno and Bakersfield over the entire length of the Exeter Branch. Trains 57/58 were known as the Sequoia. Eastbound Train 58 originated in Oakland and operated to Fresno where a transfer to a gas-electric was required. Train 57 operated only to Fresno. Oakland-bound passengers had to wait several hours for the Owl. Trains 345/346 connected at Bakersfield with mainline trains from and to Los Angeles. They were also a gas-electric and carried a through Pullman that operated between Fresno and Los Angeles. 

The Eastside lines passenger service as of July 1938 is depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Eastside Lines Passenger Operations

Both Espee passenger trains and Santa Fe trains 5/12 were discontinued after 1938. Santa Fe trains 25/30 continued to operate until January 1949 after which there was no longer any passenger service on the Eastside lines.

 Southern Pacific Freight Operations

In the late 1980s, until the SP sold the eastside branches, the operation included (1) the Ivanhoe local that worked the Exeter Branch between Fresno and Ivanhoe, (2) the Terra Bella local that worked the Visalia and Exeter Branches between Goshen Jct. and Terra Bella, and (3) the Earlimart local out of Bakersfield that covered the eastern end of the Exeter Branch between Famoso and Ducor and the Richgrove Branch. The Ivanhoe and Terra Bella locals ran tri-weekly and the Earlimart local was a six day a week job.
Note that there were gaps between Ivanhoe and Exeter and between Terra Bella and Ducor. Trainorders were required to use those track segments and it prevented conflicts between trains when the lines were operated by yard limits or "staff"  system. Actually what the SP sometimes called a staff system was really a register station where trains check to see if the line was clear since only one train was allow unless there was a trainorder issue.
In the latter days the Ivanhoe and Terra Bella locals were day jobs. It is assumed that on thoses days when there was heavy rail traffic there were more night time locals to serve the packing houses. It is likely that there were switchers assigned to key points and haulers ran from Fresno to Bakersfield to handle the carloads generated on the branches.

 Santa Fe Freight Operations             

The Santa Fe ran several freights over their Eastside lines. The Santa Fe System Freight Schedule Number 1 for the Valley Division Local Service (Figure 2) showed four freight trains as of August 1, 1966: Trains 55/56, 418/419, 420/421 and 432/433.

Figure 2.
Santa Fe System Freight Schedule Number 1, 8-1-66. See Tables 201, 203, 204 and 207. Cliff Prather Collection

Note that Train #56 operated from Fresno to Bakersfield over the Visalia District but returned to Fresno as Train #55 over the main line via Hanford. It also made a side trip to Orange Cove on the Porterville-Orosi district. Train #420 ran a similar route but turned at Corcoran rather than Bakersfield and became Train #421.  Trains 420/421 were known as the "merchandise switch." Trains 432/433 operating over both the Visalia and Porterville-Orosi districts were known as the "Ultra Turn."

A Santa Fe Freight Operation in 1967

Figure 3. Randy Sunada Collection.

The switchlist in Figure 3 provides a look at a Santa Fe freight train operation on August 16, 1967. Train 56 left Santa Fe's Calwa yard (MP 68.9) in Fresno at 9:30 PM behind AT&SF GP35 1399. The train had 12 cars plus caboose ATSF 1505.

The first activity was at Mattei, a short distance southeast of Fresno at MP 65.2 on the Visalia District. The car delivered was Chateau Martin tank car CMWX 171 (photo below), one of the colorful cars used to transport wine to the East Coast.

CMWX 171 in Southern California. (Ron Morse Photo, James Lancaster collection)

ATSF 520310, a sixty ft Santa Fe box car, was picked up at Mattei. It was probably headed eastward with cartons of bottled wine - maybe jug wine.

The next stop was Parlier, where five cars were delivered - two to Sorenson and three to United. The cars were four mechanical reefers (SFRC 50524, 2510, 50827 and 51273) and one icer (SFRD 16906). No cars were picked up.

Then it was on to Cutler where four more MTCs were delivered - two to L&Z (SFRC 50709 and 50410) and two to Wileman (SFRC 2596 and 2514). There were no pickups at Cutler.

From Cutler the train went over to the Porterville-Orosi District (aka the Minkler Southern) and up to Orange Cove where an MTC (SFRC 51188) and covered hopper (SSW 79134) were delivered. Again, there were no pickups.

After returning to Cutler the train then ran down the Visalia District to Corcoran where three cars were picked up before heading to Bakersfield.

If you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact me at ljames1at (i.e., @) (no spaces).