Roundhouse

n 1910 a brick roundhouse and 90′ steel turntable were built. They served to stable the steam-powered freight engines used along the California peninsula. Locomotives required constant maintenance and most of this work took place in roundhouses. Engines were serviced and kept warm in such places between runs.  A four story high erecting hall was built for heavy repairs, and a transfer table was installed to move equipment between repair bays and the new tender/ and boiler shop across from it. The facilities grew to include a massive freight yard, scale tracks, shop and store buildings, and an employee hospital. Also, an icing facility for produce-carrying boxcars was built a mile to the south. The roundhouse was a complete industrialized facility and employed hundreds of people on a daily basis. Goods and produce shipped worldwide passed through, shaping many lives and economies until the decline of freight railroads and the closing of the yards in the 1980’s.

Diesel engines require considerably less maintenance than steam engines, and steam-facilities such as roundhouses were largely obsolete by the late 1950s with the end of steam. The railroad still continued to use the Bay Area roundhouse for another 25 years, but the facility began to suffer from neglect and age. Completely abandoned in 1982, the rails were taken up, and most remaining buildings torn down. The erecting building and car shops were already gone, and the transfer pit was only recognizable by a berm of debris.

Despite these losses, several significant buildings have endured. The tender & tank building survived and is currently used by Lazzari Fuel, makers of seasoned cooking charcoal. The icehouse to the south supports a Machinery and Equipment Company, and of course, much of the original roundhouse and turntable pit survives as well. A fire in 2001 took away half the remaining roof of the roundhouse, but the brickwork is mostly intact, the doors that remain hanging at odd angles from their hinges. Yet despite the condition, the city and landowners recognize the significance of the building and its site.

Today, the ruins of the Roundhouse are a haven for local Bay Area graffiti artists and residents of the surrounding area who like to hang out there.  Walking the grounds you can find an armchair, tires, empty bottles of alcohol, and of course many discarded spraypaint cans 🙂

 

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