Monday, October 17, 2005

Early San Francisco Roundhouse

From: "Larry Mullaly"

I am trying to date the the original six-stall roundhouse at the geographic southerly end of the Harrison Street Yards, later expanded to 8 stalls with the addition of what AC Bassett describes as a “new roundhouse” in his 1873 journal. The six-stall structure was used by the SP. The two-stall addition is reported as used by CP engines switching CP freight houses along Townsend Yard.

I am beginning to think that the 6-stall structure may not have been erected by the predecessor San Francisco & San Jose road. An account in the Daily Alta California of June 4, 1865 describes the original SF&SJ engine house at this site as a “frame building two hundred feet in length,” The US Railroad Commissioners report of Feb. 9, 1866 indicates that “the engine house is capable of accommodating seven locomotives.” (one “stall” too many or too few for the SP structure). Finally a bird’s-eye view of the early 1870 shows only two long rectangular structures along the tracks, but no “round” house.

The roundhouse, may therefore by an SP structure. Its appearance suggests as much. Photos taken of the six stall + 2 stall roundhouse in the early 1900’s shows a board and batten design with a flat (sloped) roof resembling that of the original Oakland roundhouse (see Signor’s Western Division, p. 41). The flat-roof design contrasts with the gabled-roof wooden roundhouses that later appear at Tulare, Los Angeles and Yuma later in the 1870s.

Using the original Oakland roundhouse as a dating element, are there other CP wood-frame roundhouses from the early 1870s that were also flat roofed? Other suggestions on how to date this long-gone structure?

Any help will be appreciated.

—Larry Mullaly


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


It probably has no bearing whatsoever, but I will mention that a roundhouse was built at Folsom in 1869. It is difficult to say how the SVRR fit in to the scheme of things under Huntington-Hopkins-Stanford-Crocker. It was never a CP property, eventually becoming part of the SP. Between purchase of control in 1865 and whole ownership in 1877 it was managed rather independently. However, I would think for something like roundhouse design the SVRR would more likely have turned to the CP rather than the SP, simply because they were at Sacramento.

In terms of the roundhouse itself, we have no photos or primary evidence. The newspaper alone tells us of its existence. However, a newspaper reference to an arson attempt and a subsequent report that it was to be moved to Shingle Springs suggests it was frame. But, that tells us nothing of its roof profile. The post 1887 roundhouse at Placerville had a gable roof, and there is the possibility that that structure contained elements of the old Folsom roundhouse. But if it really was moved from Folsom to Shingle Springs to Placerville, there is the possibility that its roof was significantly altered in the process.

—Wendell Huffman

10/17/2005 12:29 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Mullaly, Larry"

This is certainly the right time frame. One thing I notice from some of the reports. A roundhouse seems to be a house on a turntable. Pajaro is reported to have had a one stall house, and Gilroy a two stall house. I believe these were stand-alone structures. Colton, as per 1882 plats, also originally had two separate-unit houses adjacent to one another.


10/17/2005 12:31 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The original Truckee enginehouses (roundhouses) were rectangular two-track affairs radiating around the turntable. The granite roundhouse was built in the 1880s to replace the earlier structures (or perhaps a couple of generations of structures, given Truckee fires).

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum
111 "I" Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

My work address is:
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10/17/2005 3:40 PM  
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