Railways and trains are fascinating at any age and the history in the San Ramon Valley is equally intriguing. Although, little physical evidence remains of the San Ramon Valley Branch Line, you probably have walked, biked or ran on parts of it.
The Oakland Antioch Eastern Railway
Railways of the 20th century included a 1200-volt electric line that ran 92.9 miles from San Francisco to Sacramento including a line that ran through the San Ramon Valley. Construction of the Oakland Antioch line began in 1910 and was completed in Sacramento three years later. In the years that followed, the official corporate names and organization changed until the Western Pacific Railroad purchased the line and merged it into the Sacramento Northern Railway in 1928.
Parlor observation cars ran on three of the fast express trains that provided beautiful panoramic views on the daily round trips.
The Oakland Antioch Eastern Railway would enter the San Ramon Valley at Saranap, a census designated place between Lafayette and Walnut Creek. From Saranap, the train extended south towards The Town of Danville, Alamo, and Diablo Station or northeast towards Avon (an unincorporated portion of Contra Costa County East of Martinez).
San Ramon Valley Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad
Entering service on May 17, 1891, the San Ramon Valley Branch line was completed from Avon to San Ramon. The goal of the branch was to serve the numerous agriculture interests of the San Ramon Valley. In 1909 it was extended to the original Central Pacific transcontinental railroad alignment. Much of the area was developed residentially with single-family homes rather than the expected industrial development, and the line was eventually abandoned in 1978.
In 1914, the Toonerville Trolley linked Alamo and Danville for ten years. Named Toonerville for a then popular carton by Fontaine Fox, the trolley was mostly used by teachers traveling to the new high-school in Danville.
The trolley also provided transportation for workers traveling to the shipyards in Bay Point during the World War I. Workers in Danville and Alamo would transfer in Saranap to complete their travel.
Western Railway Museum
Today, about an hour north of San Ramon, you can see approximately 50 historic railway cars at the Western Railway Museum. In Suisun City, the museum sits on 22 acres with 22 miles of track where one can ride a vintage streetcar for 15 minutes or the Interurban for 50 minutes. There are plenty of picnic sites and a bookstore with a children’s train table setup.
San Ramon Branch Line Today
After its closure in 1978, the tracks were removed and most of the line was converted into the popular Iron Horse Trail. In Walnut Creek, a 1923 truss bridge still stands and serves to support the trail today. The Danville Depot is the only surviving original building and is maintained by the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. The northernmost portion of the branch is still intact but is completely within the Valero Oil Refinery.
Click here to read all of our articles about the history of the San Ramon Valley area.
This article originally appeared on Villa Properties’ blog at http://info.myvillaproperties.com/blog/railways-of-the-valley.