TIMEPOINTS VOL 17 NO 11 November, 1959
THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TRACTION REVIEW
SAN JOSE . . . A CALIFORNIA TRACTION SURVEY (1921) By KENNETH HARRISON
CALIFORNIA, CONTRARY TO popular belief, did have its fair share of electric railways. Large and small were well represented. One of the fair-sized systems was to be found in San Jose, a city that boasted a population in 1921 of nearly forty thousand. San Jose and its immediate northern suburb, Santa Clara, are found about fifty miles south of San Francisco. They are quite flat and in a fine climate. In the twenties, agriculture was the dominant industry in this area. Since the Second World War, however, there has been a rapid change to suburban status, and a corresponding increase in all phases of business and industry, with great burgeoning of population. It is unfortunate to think that even as World War II began, San Jose lacked her former rail transit, as she entered her period of greatest growth. All San Jose streetcar lines had been abandoned on April 11, 1938.
In 1921, service in San Jose was provided by the San Jose Railroads. This company was actually a consolidation of the San Jose and Santa Clara County Railroad, and the First Street System. Upon consolidation, a few portions had been abandoned, notably the line from Linda Vista to Alum Rock. There has been a few further extensions, too--notably the 17th Street Line.
The remaining local service in 1921 was provided by the Peninsular Railway, one of Southern Pacific’s California electric subsidiaries. (San Jose Railroads was also owned by Southern Pacific, but SP endeavored to keep these companies quite well distinguished from each other, even though sometimes exchanging cars temporally between them.) The Peninsular was important for Pacific Electric Railway, since it sent to the PE cars 105-112, which became PE 1050-1057. Although Peninsular operated some local service in San Jose, its major field of operation was interurban--on lines from San Jose to Los Gatos via Campbell and via Meridian and Saratoga, and to Palo Alto via Los Altos. But we hope to cover this operation at length in a later issue.
On May 1, 1921, a fundamental change took place in the operation of the San Jose Railroad streetcar lines. Thus, we may give this date as an essential link in the steps toward modernization which ultimately ended in total bus substitution.
A brief description of San Jose streetcar routings prior to May 1, 1921 follows:
Line 1 - SANTA CLARA AND EAST SAN JOSE LINE
This line was the oldest and longest. It began in Santa Clara at Franklin and Jefferson Sts. And went via Franklin, Grant, and The Alameda, Santa Clara St., Alum Rock Ave. to Linda Vista. Base service was ten minutes to 26th St. (San Jose), with half hourly service continuing to Linda Vista. It was 8.80 miles long.
Line 2 - TENTH AND KEYES LINE
This 2.41 miles-long line originated at Market and Santa Clara Sts., ran east to 10th on Santa Clara, south on 10th to Keyes, and east on Keyes to City Limits. This line had a fifteen minute headway.
Line 3 - SEVENTEEN STREET LINE
From Market and Santa Clara Sts. via Santa Clara and 17th Sts. to Berryessa Rd. This line was 2.56 miles long and had a fifteen minute headway.
Line 4 - HANCHETT PARK LINE
This was a shuttle car service between The Alameda and Race St., through Hanchett Park to Park Ave. and Keyes St. A ten minute headway was kept on this shortest line (0.59 miles).
Line 5 - SANTA CLARA DEPOT LINE
Operated from Santa Clara Depot west on Franklin, south on Lincoln, west on Bellamy St. to Saratoga Rd. (Town Limits). [Portions of track leased from Peninsular Ry.- Ed.] This line was not operated on any regular headway, but rather by infrequent trips from 6:30 am to 7 pm. It was 1.89 miles long.
Line 6 - FIRST STREET AND COTTAGE GROVE LINE
This was the heaviest short-haul line on the system. It ran on First St. from the north to the south City Limits of San Jose. 3.03 miles long, it had a 12 min service.
Line 7 - FIRST STREET WILLOW STREET LINE
This line also originated at the north City Limits on First St. and proceeded over the same route as Line 6 to Willow St., thence along Willow and Lincoln to Minnesota Ave. This line also had a twelve minute headway, alternated with Line 6 to provide six minute service on First between Willow and the north City Limits. It was 4.51 miles long.
Line 8 – DELMAS JULIAN LINE
This was a circuitous line which started at Willow and Delmas Sts., ran north on Delmas, east on San Fernando, north on 2nd, east on St. John, north on 6th, east on St. James, north on 11th, and east on Julian to City Limits. 10 min headway; 3.61 miles in long.
Line 9 - SEVENTH STREET LINE
This line started at 1st and St. John Sts. and ran via St. John, 2nd, San Antonio, 3rd, Reed, and 7th to Keyes St. This line had the poorest schedules (30 min) and was 1.82 miles long.
In addition to these rail lines, San Jose Railroads also operated two short bus lines. [forgive us-Ed.] One was on Hobson between 1st and Walnut Sts. and the other a Sunday Holidays only service from the south end of Line 6 to the entrance of Oak Hill Cemetery at Stone Ave.
On May 1, 1921, however, there was a substantial change in the routings that comprised what was known as the Santa Clara St. “System.” (These were the lines that originated and operated on Santa Clara St.) Whereas all service on these lines had been previously provided by two-man cars of the “Sacramento” type, the lines were now converted to one-main operation, with more frequent headways and different routes. These re-routings were as follows:
Line I - LINDA VISTA AND KING ROAD LINE
This new line originated at Santa Clara and Market Sts. and ran east on Santa Clara St. to King Road on a ten minute headway. There was half hourly service on Alum Rock Ave. from King Road to Linda Vista. This line’s length was 4.89 miles.
Line 2 - TENTH STREET LINE
From Franklin and Jefferson Sts. in Santa Clara, this line followed the route of the former Line 1 to Tenth and Santa Clara Sts. (In San Jose), and then on 10th to Keyes and Keyes to the City Limits. There was a 12-15 minute headway; 6.32 miles long.
Line 3 - SEVENTEENTH STREET LINE
The route of this line was similar to that of former Line 3, except that it proceed on Santa Clara St. to 17th and then north on 17th St. to Berryessa Rd. The headway on this line was similar to the 10th St. Line, this giving a 6 to 7.5 minute service between the town of Santa Clara and San Jose. An interesting weekday service was provided on this line: Once each hour, on weekdays only, a car ran through from Santa Clara to Alum Rock over the tracks of the Peninsular Ry. Co. On weekends and holidays, however, the Peninsular Railway provided this service, with a more frequent headway.
The only other change of substance was that the Hanchett Park line was given a ten minute headway. There was no change in the remainder of the operations except for slight lengthening of some evening headways.
There was one other local service provided by street railway in San Jose. This was owned and operated by the Peninsular Railway Co., and a predominately interurban system. It was an incomplete loop, starting at 1st and San Fernando Sts., via San Fernando to 15th, 15th to San Carlos, and San Carlos to 1st. Free interchange of transfers was made, and therefore there was little to distinguish this line, insofar as service was concerned, from San Jose Railroads.
All in all, San Jose Railroads operated some 36.834 miles of track in 1921. While this was not by an sense of the word an immense system, the very nature of the service, and its subsequent redevelopment made it an interesting example of the fair-sized traction system. Along with the Peninsular Railway, and with the addition of large and extensive Southern Pacific facilities, San Jose was at one time an important center of rail interest. Now the growling diesels that haul the SP’s peninsula commuter service are all that remain of this once attractive railroad town.
The largest number of passengers ever carried by the Pacific Electric Railway Company (both rail and bus) in any one year was reached in 1945, when 182,034,470 people were transported.
More than a hundred million passengers had been carried on PE in 1921, 1923-1930, and 1942-1951.
Only 32,883,503 passengers were carried on PE in 1908. From this small number, the total steadily rose until the 1920s (peak year, 1924, with over 115 million). During the depths of the depression (1933) the total fell to 72,861,097.