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