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Stories from the valley

How Trains have impacted our valley

Contributed by Steve Beckley

The railroad has always been an important asset for the Sacramento Valley. The Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) tracks ran through my home town of Grimes until they were finally totally abandoned in 1984. One of my fondest memories as a young boy was waiting for and seeing the train each June pulling the railcars of the Foley and Burke Carnival on its way to the county fair in Colusa.

When doing research for this blog, I found that a great deal of information on the history of railroads on the west side of the Sacramento Valley. Some of it was that the Southern Pacific Station currently being restored in Arbuckle is one the oldest in the area built in 1876. Also the Colusa and Lake Railroad provided service from Colusa to Sites in 1890s. An excellent article on the Colusa area railroads is Colusa & Lake Railroad. Whether or not a town was located on a railroad was a key to economic prosperity as the trains not only transported freight but also passengers.

The SP (which merged with the Union Pacific Railroad) and now known as Union Pacific no longer provides service along the Westside of valley. The California Northern Railroad (CFNR)  a short line railroad, operates on the SP tracks, including a section that runs from Davis area to the Corning area. The CFNF is headquartered in Woodland and provides an important service, to agriculture and industrial customers and its trains are a familiar sight as you drive I 5.

Many of the agricultural products grown and processed on the West Side of the Valley are transported by CFNR. Finished tomato products are one of the top commodities, along with vegetable oil, rice and other grains that are given a ride to customers. Fertilizer, construction materials such as lumber and concrete are also transported. Railcars containing these commodities are picked up or dropped off at the Union Pacific in Davis. It is no accident that the areas rice mills and food processing plants are located on the I5 corridor from Woodland to Corning. Access to the highway and rail is very important.

The service that CFNR supplies to the business and residents of the Sacramento Valley is vital to the economic health of the area.