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On The OTR

The Oakland Terminal Railway has a half-century history of serving customers at and near the Port of Oakland. The OTR has been well documented by Harre Demoro and others so organizational details are to be found elsewhere. The focus of this page is the operation of the 5623 on the OTR so the time frame is by necessity limited to 1993 onward.

The OTR in 1993 is shaped like the letter "U". At the upper right is the interchange with the S.P. at 7th street. This is the old trackage that used to go to the S.P. Mole in the ferry days. Going down the right side of the letter, the railroad parallels Maritime Avenue, pass Sealand and enters the Oakland Army Base about 2/3rds of the way down. Approaching the bottom of the letter, we head east past the Army's Baldwin Yard and then over the "ramp" flyover which gets us across the S.P. On the east side of the S.P. is the Santa Fe's Wood Street yard and a few industries such as Gary Steel and Pacific Pipe. While these are not OTR customers, they are being served by the OTR due to the reconstruction of the S.P.'s desert yard and the elimination of the Santa Fe connection to the Wood Street yard. As of November, 1999, the OTR is still switching these industries for the BNSF although the Wood Street connection is back in. Curving further east and up the left leg of the "U", the OTR passes through Yerba Buena Yard, the site of the Key Systems maintenance facility. From there, the rest of the left side of the "U" is all street running to the U.P. Magnolia interchange. Between Yerba Buena and the U.P., there is but one customer. What used to be Nabisco (Shredded Wheat to you old timers) is now California cereal products. Now, let's make a visit back to a day when the Base was open and the Army had two GP10's and business was busier. Note: The OTR made its last run ever down to California Cereal Products on December 29, 1999. The photos by Evan Werkema and Dan Furtado were taken on that date. The property, known as Yerba Buena Yard through which the OTR gains access to the street trackage, has been sold and the tracks were coming up on January 13th, 2000. From now on, the U.P. will take care of any street switching via the old Magnolia yard. The OTR is no longer shaped like a "U", now it is more like a "J".

Against a backdrop of the Port's container cranes and the Naval Supply's vast complex, Conductor Harry Purcel gathers his train of the private car Tamalpais and 12 DODX carloads of tanks. Today, the Navy is gone and this site will eventually become the Port's new Joint Intermodal Terminal. Don Buchholz photos.

U.S. Army GP10 4614 under the care of engineer Danny Laron couples into the carloads of tanks and takes off down the Army lead to their pier 7 trackage while the 5623 continues on to Baldwin yard where the Tamalpais is stored. Don Buchholz photos.

On a return from the 7th street interchange, 5623 passes the Sealand entrance at the Port Of Oakland.

The OTR trackage on the east side of the bridge curves through Yerba Buena yard and enters Louise street for a 6 block run. The 5623 is seen crossing Hollis Street on the diagonal to enter Poplar on the way to Nabisco and the U.P. interchange. Don Buchholz photo.

In the same locattion as the photo above, Dan Furtado shot the 5623 approaching the intersection. Dan's primary interest is wig wag signals and the signal staff in the photo was once the mount for such a device. For more information on wig wags and a few more of Dan's 5623 photos, take a look at his wig wag site at Dan's Wig Wag Site.

At the intersection 10th and Union streets, the eastbound 5623 and train pass a classic stucco house that certainly predates the 1955 street trackage. The Nabisco plant can be seen in the left background. Don Buchholz photo.

One block railroad north of the old Nabisco plant, Dan Furtado again combines his interest in the 5623 and old signals. The staff on the right, while looking like the one in Dan's photo above, is a left over from Key System days and likely never held anything other than flashing lights.

Rounding the curve west of Nabisco and heading down Union Street. Switching at Magnolia with Amtrak #6 and Treasure Island in the background. Evan Werkema photos.

In a different place and time, when there were two railroads in Oakland and the U.P. crossed the S.P. and Magnolia tower was actually manned, the 5623 caused quite a stir when she appeared on U.P. trackage outside the tower door. She was, of course, doing OTR work but was way out of place and both U.P. and S.P. employees took note. If that looks like a railfan with a video camera on the rear end, it is. Photo contributor and friend Rolland Meyers was having a good day. Don Buchholz photo.

Here, switchwoman Lynn Morningstar is running around her train at Magnolia. The hopper car in the second view carries grain which the Nabisco plant will turn into Shredded wheat. Don Buchholz photos.

Evan Werkema caught the 5623 framed by the tangle of columns built for the new Cypress Freeway interchange. Before 1989, there was nothing but the old bridge, Wood Street Yard and blue sky here.

In the far background of Evan's shot can be seen the S.P. 16th Street tower. Trains pass here no more but the station evokes memories of electric, steam and diesel passenger trains. On the inside of the beautiful old structure, the vandals, marble thieves  and leaky roof  have had their way.
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On the flyover, 5623 is westbound with an empty car soon to be loaded with really nasty stuff called Meta Sodium. Even in it's empty state, the car is handled as hazmat with an idler car between it the 5623. The flyover is unusually wide, the careful observer might observe. And, the observer would be right because it was, in a time long ago, double tracked for the passage of S.P. electric interurban cars. Don Buchholz photo.

Dan Furtado preserved this image of the 5623 shoving 3 cars of steel and a box car of cereal up the east end approach to the flyover. Extra Board engineer Brian Copple has the old girl in run 6 as the 4 percent grade begins to take its toll on the main generator of the 5623. The steel cars are quite heavy, weighing in at a bit over 200,000 pounds each and 6 of them is about the limit for the tractive effort of the 5623, either pushing or pulling over the bridge.

The California Cereal Products plant at 14th and Poplar still gets a couple of cars a month and the street switches get harder to throw all the time. Two of the OTR's MW workers make sure that flanged wheel follows switch point in order to pick up an empty. Photos 1 and 2 are mine and 4 is by Don Buchholz.  Photo 3 by Dan Furtado is the same scene but an earlier day.oto 3

On 12/29/99, the OTR made its last delivery to CCP. Extra board engineer Bryan Copple sadly marks the event with a wave and then he, extra switchman Joe Pattison (on the left) and I are posed on the front deck by photographer Rolland Meyers. This day ends 85 years of rail service by the OTR and its predecessors to the old Nabisco facility.

Occasionally, something fun or interesting turns up. In the first photo, a young railfan and his dad came to visit the 5623 with the fan's Halloween costume. The 5623 costume was his idea and he was justifiably very proud of it. In the other photo, one of the volunteers on the 2467 staged his reenlistment ceremony on the 5623. Smitty was very proud of that day and his commanding officer was, to say the least, amused. My photos.

And then there was the day that the 5623 was covered with happy kids. Actually, we had a visit from Cub Scout Pack 643, Den 2 from Lafayette. They all had a turn at the controls where they played engineer and generally had a great time. Budding railfans, all. The photo was sent to me by one of the parents, glued to a card signed by all who could write. Sometimes, the 5623 is such a great toy.

Now here is a really serious Southern Pacific fan. He showed up one day in order to pose his black widow van along side the 5623. We learned that his wife drives a van painted in the Daylight scheme. My photos.

More photos on the OTR 2000+ page

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