The tour started near the Montclair recreation center, and was very well organized even though we had a large group. After check in, we headed through the park and saw the first signs of past transit. Along Mountain Boulevard, there are two large concrete walls. Many residents don't realize those are left from the days when the Sacramento Northern Railway ran behind the village. There have been plans floated about to paint murals on the walls facing the street, with one perhaps showing the railroad in action.
Daniel Levy. Originally, the Sacramento Northern was primarily for passengers, but later carried mostly freight. Conspiracy theorists will be pleased to note there really was a conspiracy by GM, Firestone, Standard Oil and other companies that helped lead to the demise of electric streetcars and interurban railways around the U.S. But the Sacramento Northern also faced increasing competition from shorter, less steep railroad routes. Passenger service on this part of the route ended in 1941, the final electric train on the SN was in 1965, and the last vestiges of the SN were folded into the Union Pacific in 1983.
Further up the trail, we learned about the freeway that was never built. CalTrans bought up land in Shepherd Canyon with the plan of building highway 77. It was to be an extension of Park Blvd., and would run up the canyon and connect highway 13 with Contra Costa county (much as highway 24 does just two miles north). Fortunately, community activists argued against the plan, and the area was preserved. In 1972, assembly member Ken Meade officially protected the area with AB561. After the downfall of the freeway plan, the Shepherd Canyon Corridor Plan was shaped by volunteers, and now guides the preservation of the canyon.
From there we headed down the canyon to the playing fields in Shepherd Canyon Park, saw where Shepherd Creek comes to the surface, walked past fire station 24, back up to the railroad trail and back to the village where we began. It was a great tour, and although I knew some of the history, the work done south of Shepherd Canyon Road was all new to me.
A note on the spelling. The street and most maps refer to "Shepherd Canyon", yet the creek is sometimes referred to as "Shephard Creek". No one seems quite sure where the discrepancy came in, but the area was named for a farmer, William Joseph Shepherd, who came from England in 1869.
- Daniel Levy's Sacramento Northern page
- Shepherd Canyon Homeowners Association
- Friends of the Montclair RR Trail
- Western Railroad Museum
- Sacramento Northern on Wikipedia
- a brief history of the Sacramento Northern
Lots more photos from the tour here:
|Shepherd Canyon walking tour|