The Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway
A twelve-hundred-volt electric line between San Francisco, Oakland, Danville, Pittsburg, and Sacramento, while young in history, is furnishing the patrons along its way with every necessary railway service known to the present day.
The road-bed, of first importance, is rock-ballasted from the company's own rock quarry and crusher at Valle Vista. Many of the passenger-coaches are of steel, and all of the new equipment to be purchased in the future will be of steel construction. The coaches have roomy and comfortable seats. Parlor observation-cars are run on three of the fast express trains each way, "The Comet," "The Meteor," and "The Sacramento Valley Limited." The observation-cars on the two latter trains runs through to Chico via the Northern Electric Railway, and make the round trip daily. The entire line is protected by autonomic block signals and traverses a section of country noted for its scenery and beautiful fertile valleys.
Passengers leave San Francisco via the Key Route ferry, Market Street, crossing the bay to the Key Route mole, Oakland, where the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway train is boarded. The train passes through the heart of the city of Oakland over Fortieth Street to the Oakland depot at Fortieth Street and Shafter Avenue, then along Shafter Avenue to the Berkeley Hills, where the train climbs along the sides of these picturesque ridges. Near the top, at Cape Horn, a rift in the mountainous hills shows a grand panoramic view of the city of Oakland, Alameda, and the waters beyond. After this parting view of the city of Oakland, the train passes through steep wooded hills of green foliage until the highest point is reached, where the train enters a tunnel, the eastern end of which opens into Redwood Canon, a natural picnic park about three miles long. Here may be seen almost every kind of California tree and wild plant from the redwoods, standing straight and tall, to the numerous varieties of ferns and wild roses which grow in rank profusion everywhere.
Emerging from Redwood Canon you see the Moraga Valley spread out like a map below. Presently the train is on the floor of this fertile and beautiful valley at Moraga Station, the center of a settlement of commuters.
After leaving Moraga, Country Club, Burton, and Lafayette in their turn, the train enters the San Ramon valley at Saranap, where a branch line extends to the prettily situated towns of Alamo, Danville, and Diablo Station at the foot of Mount Diablo, where an auto stage can be taken to the summit, from which point a wonderful view is had of the surrounding country. By reason of the continuous clear weather around Mount Diablo, one is almost always assured of a good clear view.
Walnut Creek, the center of commercial activity of San Ramon Valley, is surrounded by orchards and gardens. Large oaks, characteristic of this section, mark the unusual depth and fertility of the soil. Farther on is Meinert Station, on the edge of Pacheco Valley. The center of the business activity of this valley is Concord, situated at the foot of Mount Diablo, at the junction of Pacheco, San Ramon, and Ygnacio valleys. It is a pretty little town of historical interest in connection with early California. It has paved streets, sewer and water systems, as well as gas and electric light.
Next comes Bay Point, on the shores of Suisun Bay. The train then follows along the bay, passing West Pittsburg, where a branch line connects the thriving industrial city of Pittsburg with the main line, until Mallard Island is reached. Here the Suisun Bay is only 2200 feet wide, and the entire train is ferried across on the steel boat "Ramon," propelled by gasoline engines of unusual power. The "Ramon" is fitted with comforts and conveniences for passengers who wish to get off the train and stretch themselves while crossing the bay. A lunch-room is maintained on the lower deck.
After leaving Chipps Island, on the opposite shore, the train presently crosses Montezuma Slough at Dutton Station, then, passing Molena Station, at the foot of the Montezuma Hills, traverses an extensive territory of large ranches.
After leaving Dixon Junction, where a branch line runs to Dixon, an important town of Solano County, the train proceeds through Maine Prairie, Bunker, Millar, and Saxon, and then crosses the Yolo Basin to Glide Landing. On the bank of the Sacramento River, following this river through the fertile and productive lands of West Sacramento and crossing over the M-Street bridge enters Sacramento at Front and M streets. Passengers may alight from the train at Third and K streets or the terminal depot at Third and I streets.
The beginning of the railroad grew out of the minds of a few enterprising men of Contra Costa County and vicinity. The principal founders were A. W. Maltby, of Concord; Walter Arnstein, of Alamo, now president; Samuel L. Napthaly, of San Francisco, now vice-president; and Harry A. Mitchell, of San Francisco, now secretary and general manager. The gentlemen were familiar with all the fertile valleys of Moraga, San Ramon, Ygnacio, and Pacheco, but deplored the round-about routes that connected these valleys with the bay cities. Hiring expert engineers to make a report of the feasibility of a direct line between San Francisco and the above-mentioned valleys, the present route of the railroad was decided upon after checking up the report of the engineers. As soon as this decision was made the Oakland & Antioch Railway was organized and incorporated in January, 1909. Building was started February 1909, at Bay Point, and the line was put into operation between Bay Point and Walnut Creek in May, 1911. Still building toward Oakland, and extending the service as the track was built, the Oakland & Antioch Railway was completed and service installed between Bay Point and Oakland in April, 1913.
On April 1, 1911, the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway was incorporated to build a line from Bay Point to Sacramento, with a branch line about two miles long from West Pittsburg to Pittsburg. Building commenced in July, 1912, and the line from Bay Point to Pittsburg was completed and put into operation in August, 1913. In the meantime, the Oakland, Antioch, & Eastern Railway leased the Oakland & Antioch Railway and also the San Ramon Valley Railroad, running from Saranap on the main line to Danville. Finally, in September, 1913, the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway was completed to Sacramento and put into service the same month.
Since then the railway has been broadening out in its field of service to its patrons. Trains at convenient hours were put on between San Francisco and Concord for the commuters who live in the pretty towns in Contra Costa County and work in Oakland and San Francisco. Low commutation rates and excursion fares were arranged for. Freight service was looked after closely to develop it to the needs of the communities along the line. This led to putting on a fast fruit and vegetable train during the season to make delivery at Oakland at 4 o'clock in the morning. Through freight connections were secured with the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads, which resulted in reducing the freight rate to eastern points. This encouraged fruit shippers to erect packing-houses adjacent to the large acreages of heavily producing orchards. At the present time a rice experiment farm at Millar Station is the result of the efforts of this company to get the farmers interested in more profitable crops.
The distance from San Francisco to Sacramento is 92.9 miles, with branch lines as follows: Saranap to Diablo, nine miles; Meinert to Walwood, three miles; West Pittsburg to Pittsburg, two miles.
Cowell Historical Society