Avon to Radum

The San Ramon Valley Branch

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This circa-1990s bridge spans Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek at the site of the former SP right-of-way crossing. The new bridge is just a few hundred feet north of the circa-1923 bridge which has been restored as part of the Iron Horse Trail. Photo by Andrew Laverdiere, April 2004.

The San Ramon Valley Branch of the Southern Pacific entered service in 1891 to serve the abundant agriculture interests of the San Ramon Valley. The line extended from the SP's West Side line at Avon south through Concord, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, and Alamo. In 1909 it was extended to the original Central Pacific transcontinental railroad alignment through the Livermore Valley at Radum. This part of Contra Costa County never realized industrial development to support use of the railroad beyond a secondary branch line, and much of the area was developed into a residential area with single family homes. By the mid-1970s, the southern section of the branch was used for surplus car storage, and the line was abandoned in 1978.

Today (2004), most of the line has been converted to a bike trail, the very popular Iron Horse Trail. Most of the right-of-way can be easily followed south of Concord. The Danville and Walnut Creek depots have been preserved, although both have been moved short distances from their original locations. The line's undercrossing of Interstate 580 in Dublin is now part of a major transit center for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and local bus lines. In Walnut Creek, just south of Ygnacio Valley Road, a through truss bridge of 1923 vintage serves to support the bike trail (see photo at right). At Dublin, spur tracks into the former Santa Rita federal depot still remain (also at right). The northernmost portion of the branch is still intact and visible at Avon, although completely within the confines of a Valero oil refinery.

Thanks to Jack Witthaus and Richard Brennan for contributing information about this route.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: AB 12 Sub 39 Date: 7/13/1976 Section: 1a
Application filed for authority to abandon a line of railroad extending from MP 42.6 near Concord in a southerly direction to the end of the branch at MP 63.5 near Dougherty a distance of 20.9 miles in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, California. (This includes stations of Hookston, Las Juntas, Walnut Creek, Alama and Danville.)
Length: 20.9 miles Citation:  

I witnessed the tearing up of the tracks in Danville when I was in junior high school. It was a sad day. The town has never been the same, its now pure suburbian hell.

Jim Alberti
Billings, MT
1/24/2009

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I was fortunate enough to see one train run on the line, in '76 or '77, as my dad's apartment complex in Walnut Creek backed up to the line. I think it was just an SW-1500 and a few boxcars.

I do have to take issue, however, with Mr. Alberti's savaging of the town of Danville - a very lovely town, if you ask me (and its many thousands of residents). Perhaps a bit materialistic and conformist for disillusioned youth, but to say "the town has never been the same" since some railroad tracks that were hardly ever used were removed is a bit of a stretch, if you ask me.

Steve McLin
Walnut Creek, CA
4/27/2010

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I used to live in the apartments (Amador Lakes) that backed up to the line in Dublin. There was a Kodak plant or warehouse just south of Alcosta Blvd. that saw activity as late as 1985-86, possibly later. I worked in underground construction and we had to be very cognizant of the ROW and call for permission if we were to cross it or encroach in any manner. I have some pix somewhere of whats left of the wye near Radon where SP had to cross WP to access their Sunol-Livermore line. I'll dig 'em up and post them soon...

MC

Mark C
Oroville, CA
7/30/2010

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I was born and raised in Clayton, CA which is a small community approximately 10 miles east of downtown Concord. In the early 1970's there were few stores near Clayton at the time. My family would go to the Concord Shopping center to do banking, and shop. We frequently went to Concord Ice & Fuel which was located next to SP's San Ramon branch behind the Concord Shopping center. We would buy feed and hay for our various animals. Being interested in trains, I would check to see if SP had spotted any cars at Concord Ice & Fuel, the team track, or the beer distributor in that same location. At times I would be lucky enough to catch the local switching cars there. In the 1970's, Concord seemed to be the busiest location on the branch in terms of freight car deliveries. I recall that in Pleasant Hill, SP would spot an occasional box car at California Shingle a Shake. There was a team track in Walnut Creek that would get a car now and then. Beyond that there were few customers until Diamond Lumber in Dublin. I tried to post two photo's showing a hopper load of coal and a box car that contained bagged feed spotted at Concord Ice & Fuel (1976 time frame)but was unable to in this comment section.

Mark Murdock
Rocklin, CA
9/18/2013

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I grew up in Walnut Creek in the 60's and 70's. The tracks went right behind Murwood Elementary School and over the creek trestle. Trains would run several times a week with lumber, roofing material and box cars down to Dublin and back. If we were out at recess the crews waved and blew the horn for us. Usually a single switch engine, several cars and a caboose. Good times!

Kurt
Walnut Creek, CA
11/28/2013

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I lived on Marcia Dr. in 1953 right next to the train bridge. Then the area between the bridge and our home was pasture land with cows on it. I nearly lost my life if it wasn't for a real miracle in the area of the aqueduct. I was only 7 at the time. I will never forget that place and what happened there.

Jon
Loomis, CA
2/15/2014

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I moved to Danville in 1968, and at that time there was one stop sign in the middle of town and the train whistle blew at 1pm, as the train passed the bottom of my street - Hartford Road. I worked for Danville Lumber and Crow Canyon Lumber between 1976 and 1978 as I first hand helped supply the out of control growth that changed the whole fertile San Ramon Valley from a place full of open space, to wall-to-wall homes from the original orchards in southern Danville, all the way to Dublin. All of this, of course, was done because developers were able to convince valley leaders to let them run amok. No doubt those leaders were in on the take.

Obviously Danville was destined to grow a lot, the issue is, why didn't the leaders keep a significant amount of space open. You only have to look over to Marin where the opposite was done. Lots of people have complained over the years at the snails pace of development in Marin that occurred over the same time frame. As a result; however, Marinites still have lots of open space to enjoy.

Norman Paine
Danville, CA
7/11/2014

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