Books: Southern Pacific's Western Division

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Signature Press - Southern Pacific's Western Division

by John R. Signor
The Oakland Pier, hub of the Western Division, was among the most recognizable Southern Pacific locations, and activities across the Division were directed from headquarters at the Pier. This book by noted SP historian John Signor describes the construction, history, and operation of this vital part of the SP.

With lines connecting Oakland with Sacramento by way of both the Carquinez Strait via Martinez, and Altamont Pass via Tracy, and lines radiating to the Napa Valley, San Jose, and Fresno, as well as branch lines like the Kentucky House, Winters, and San Ramon branches, this was a highly varied and extremely busy division.

Passenger trains arrived from and departed to such varied destinations as Portland, Chicago, and Los Angeles and beyond, all with ferryboat connections to San Francisco. The freight business was intense, with profuse local industry both shipping and receiving enormous numbers of carloads. Local passenger trains, and local freight switching, handled a great volume of business.

From its beginnings in 1869, through the Oakland "waterfront wars" at the turn of the century, the struggle in the Suisun Sinks, activities of the vast West Oakland yard and terminal facilities, as well as passenger operations on the Oakland Mole (as the Pier was often called), and construction of the magnificent Carquinez Straits bridge, to the final demolition of the Pier facilities in 1960 and to the recent revival of the Western Division with the schedules of Amtrak California, this book covers it all.

This volume joins a distinguished series of works by Southern Pacific authority John Signor, addressing specific geographical segments of the railroad. As with all his SP historical works, the coverage is thorough and detailed, with many specifics drawn from operating personnel. At the same time, the outstanding Signor maps we have come to expect, and voluminous photographic illustration from Southern Pacific files as well as from many amateur photographers, enrich the story.

With 711 photographs, 84 in color, 23 maps (most by Signor), 39 timetable pages, a station list, and bibliography, this is an extensive and complete presentation. Fans of Signor's works, along with those interested in Southern Pacific and in Western railroading history, will be sure to enjoy it.

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