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Published March 13th, 2024
The history of trains in Moraga ' an MHS event
"Conductor" Sam Sperry dresses the part for his train presentation Photo Vera Kochan

The Moraga Historical Society, in an effort to keep local history alive, held another of its public presentations at the Hacienda de las Flores. This time the topic was trains.
The March 3 event drew a sellout crowd of enthusiasts looking forward to hearing resident train expert, Sam Sperry, regale everyone with facts and a visual buffet of 53 slides. Sperry even showed up dressed for the part with an authentic train conductor's uniform, which he wears while retelling stories of Moraga's rails every year to the town's third grade classes (something he's done for 10 years).
Sperry's love for trains captured his attention when he was a boy. Growing up in Mackinaw, Illinois, where a depot was located, he would often ride the rails of the Illinois Central Railroad to Peoria, Illinois.
Taking everyone's imaginations back in time to a 1913 Moraga, Sperry began with the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway's route between Oakland and Sacramento with a stop at the Moraga Station, which took the town's commuters to work and pears to market. In 1928, the Western Pacific Railroad acquired OA&E, along with the Northern Railway and formed the 185-mile long Sacramento Northern Railway that added a St. Mary's College Station to the route, which eventually ended at Chico.
Sperry's presentation went beyond Moraga's boundaries to include facts beginning in 1905 and ending in 1957. He presented slides of various maps and photos which included sections of routes such as the San Francisco - Oakland Key System Ferries along with the Oakland segment -- up Shafter Avenue to College Avenue and on to Lake Temescal and the Shepherd Pass Tunnel. According to Sperry, the Shepherd Pass Tunnel route ran under Skyline Boulevard and was 3,200 feet long, passing extremely close to the Hayward Fault.
Nearing its way to Moraga, the route continued through Redwood Canyon as it ran along Pinehurst Road (a popular picnic spot in its day), making a left at Canyon Road and running past Valle Vista's rock quarry with an eventual stop at the Moraga Station (which was directly across from today's Moraga Barn). The train's second stop in town was the St. Mary's College Station, eventually heading on to stops in Lafayette, Saranap, Walnut Creek, and Concord before boarding a train ferry at Mallard Island in order to cross Suisun Bay. The train cars were deposited at Chipps Island where the route continued on to Sacramento and eventually Chico.
The trains which served the entire route ran on an all-electric system. With the advent of the Caldecott Tunnel's opening in 1937, passenger service was terminated in 1941, due to reduced ridership. In early 1957, freight service was also discontinued.
There are reminders and remnants throughout Moraga of the 44 years of crucial service the railroad system provided to our small town. Some are visible, while others you just have to know where to look.

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