Sad news for railfans and infrastructure history geeks this week: The "West Oakland Diesel Shop" has been torn down.
If you frequent Interstate 880 in Oakland, California, chances are you noticed the structure; it was a conspicuous landmark alongside the highway for anyone traveling to or from the Bay Bridge.
The building looked old, but until recently, we didn't realize how truly historic it was. Portions of the structure dated back to the 1870s, just a few years after the Transcontinental Railroad was completed. Harry Wong compiled a good history of the building:
The Southern Pacific/Central Pacific Car Paint Shop, later the Southern Pacific Diesel Shop, was the oldest extant industrial railroad building in Oakland and a significant reminder of Oakland’s historic role as the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. The southeastern half of the building dates to 1874, just five years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. [...]
By the late 1870s, transcontinental passengers and freight began arriving in Oakland. Due to the great need for extensive railroad facilities here at the western end of the Transcontinental Railroad, the railroad in the 1870s established switching yards, a roundhouse, car repair shops, car building shops, a creosoting plant and shipyards. The Southern Pacific Paint shop, once part of the enormous West Oakland car and repair shops yard, was used to paint and varnish the passenger cars built and maintained by the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. [...]
In 1942, the Southern Pacific Paint Shop was modified to serve the diesel locomotives of the new “City of San Francisco” streamliner and renamed the Streamliner Shop. The original arched doors were modified at this time to accommodate the newer, larger equipment. The Shop was altered again in 1949 and 1956 and a small compressor house added to the north side of the building in 1958. It is equipped with sub-floor inspection pits, elevated service walkways, and a small machine shop.
Historic photos of the West Oakland Diesel Shop are rare, but here's one that shows the structure in use in 1958, with a few stylish Alco PA locomotives out front:
As you can see, the trains changed, but the building itself didn't evolve much between then and September 2010:
And finally, here's how it looked earlier this week, as the buildng was being torn down:
Although Union Pacific demolished the Diesel Shop, the railroad was kind enough to organize a tour of the structure last month, and Telstar Logistics was invited to participate. Here are our pictures of the building... which are, sadly, now all that remains of it: