Southern Pacific Railroad Steam Locomotive #1215

Locomotive 1215

Southern Pacific Railroad Steam Locomotive #1215

Transportation is a key ingredient in the recipe for success for any developing city. During the 19th century, the railroad was king of transportation. Without direct connection to the increasing complex railroad network, the expansion and development of a city was severely curtailed. With this knowledge in hand, local promoters and businessmen were motivated to connect San José to the developing railroad network. The most important link was the first one that connected San José to San Francisco in 1864, preceding the transcontinental railroad by five years. This provided San José with an international seaport to export their agricultural and industrial products.

After an additional rail line was connected to Sacramento in 1869, the San José community had a direct rail line via the newly built transcontinental railroad, to the east coast. To local producers, these lines provided swift, reliable transportation for their goods to both eastern markets, and via ship, to those overseas. In return, the rail routes made transport of materials, such as coal, iron, and oil into the Santa Clara Valley much cheaper. These factors combined to further the rapid growth of San José’s population.

San José became a thriving food processing, packaging, and transshipment center. The proximity of the area to the fertile valley lands and fruit orchards, and to the diverse employment population of San José and Santa Clara, made the area a natural location for canneries, warehouses, cold storage facilities, and related industrial uses. The Santa Clara Valley became the world’s largest food processing region between 1920 and 1960.

Since the 1950s, the canning and transshipment role of the area has declined in importance. The urbanization of the surrounding orchard lands and the emergence of interstate trucking as the predominant mode of transportation made the area less competitive with the Central Valley and other agricultural regions. Over the last 30 years, all of the canning facilities have closed their doors, including the former Beechnut factory located directly across Senter Road from this display.

Southern Pacific Railroad Steam Locomotive #1215.

Built in 1913 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA, this 75-ton locomotive is typical of the switch engines required to support the numerous food processing industries which once dominated the Santa Clara Valley landscape and economy. Switch engines have no leading or trailing trucks enabling the locomotives to make sharp turns onto side tracks and spurs common with industrial trackage. After these engines moved railcars to a centralized yard, larger locomotives were utilized for moving longer trains over mountain passes and broad distances.

The locomotive is currently owned by the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation.

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