I came across this photo several years ago and was intrigued by scene. Recently, I found John West’s website featuring his photography. The website is called “Life Wasted Chasing Trains” http://www.lifewastedchasingtrains.com/main.php?g2_itemId=4254
The Southern Pacific operated a number of branchlines in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys in California. Many of the branches like the line to Friant and the one to Calistoga in the Napa Valley have been covered fairly well in books and magazine articles. The Knights Landing branch had a noteworthy event in its history. An excursion was run on May 4, 1958 from Oakland to Knights Landing and beyond. The first leg was pulled by a 4-8-4 to Davis and the last operating “Valley Mallet” M-6 1744 pulled the rest of the way.
The branch saw little traffic as reflected in the tall grass along the line. The excursion was the last one run on the SP. There were some upset official at 65 Market Street in San Francisco (SP HQ) over pictures taken at the photo run-by at the river bridge. The mogul couldn’t back the train up to do a run-by so the riders had to walk across the trestle to re-board the train for the rest of the trip. Fortunately, no one fell into the river but the railroad could see big liability problems from steam excursions like this one.
The little mogul was a bit of a boomer operating out of Fresno, Bakersfield and the Imperial Valley. The locomotives exists today in Colorado on a tourist line. It went from the SP to the Heber line in Utah and later rebuilt for use in NOLA. Joe Dale Morris headed up the rebuilt and made the loco shine.
The branch probably used a ten-wheeler or consolidation to work the line the steam era. The area served was noted for the many rice fields with dryers and elevators served by rail. The branch left the SP main at Woodland and headed out to Knights Landing and eventually to Marysville. The were a couple of branches connected with the Knights Landing line.
The line was abandoned in 1985.