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Nostalgia & History > Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955

Date: 04/06/21 01:19
Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: Evan_Werkema

Photobob posted some nice diesel-era photos recently showing SP's Visitacion Tower in Brisbane, CA after it had been closed and boarded up.  The tower once stood right about here:  https://goo.gl/maps/xDAfwrN4srz5fpqk8

E.K. Muller spent June 9, 1955 shooting just about every train that ran on the peninsula to and from San Francisco, including westbound commute train 127 with 4-8-2 #4370 on the point passing the still-open Visitacion Tower in the view below courtesy the Western Railway Museum Archives.  The second view is a blowup of just the tower.  From the looks of it, the tower had once controlled its domain via "armstrong" pipelines, but by 1955 had been modernized and the pipeline removed.  The tower's stucco cladding was also a fairly recent development - this old thread shows the tower with its earlier wood siding:


Page 2 of the 1941 employee timetable provided by timz at the following link on The Dome O' Foam shows Visitacion Tower at milepost 6.9 (Bayshore was 5.2).  Page 18 says the tower's limits "...extend from signal 935 feet east of tower on eastward main track to signal bridge 780 feet west of tower."


The 1954 ETT on the same site indicates that trains originating and terminating at Bayshore would register at Visitacion.  By 1960, the location had been striken from the timetable and trains registered at Bayshore proper instead.

Page 23: http://wx4.org/to/foam/sp/maps/zukasETT/1954-04-25Coast165-TimZukas.pdf
Page 20: http://wx4.org/to/foam/sp/maps/zukasETT/1960-04-24SP_Coast179-TimZukas.pdf

Date: 04/06/21 01:31
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: BoilingMan

Gotta love the tower operator's Hudson!

Date: 04/06/21 06:17
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: 3rdswitch

Amazing shots of yesteryear. At first glance, looks like Wishram, WA, definately NOT San Francisco.

Date: 04/06/21 07:13
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: kurtarmbruster

Nice! One of Kerouac's haunts during his stint as an SP brakeman.

Date: 04/06/21 10:00
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: photobob

Thanks for posting these, I was all of eleven when these were taken but my Dad would take me down to the tower to watch trains. A little before my camera days but the memories are still there.

Robert Morris
Dunsmuir, CA
Robert Morris Photography

Date: 04/06/21 10:35
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: phthithu

Great post Evan. It almost looks like the foundation for the tower could still be there.

Here's a short video using trackmaps:San Francisco Railroads doing the measurement using the distance Evan provided and comparing the 1965, 1974, and modern day views. In the 1965 view you can easily see the trackwork and how the yard leads connected to the main lines. 
trackmaps for Google Earth collection:
Oakland to Richmond 1965: https://drive.google.com/uc?id=11xdeQRdHQwl_1fIRfyyhMW3CeegJbYNI&export=download
Marin Railroads: https://drive.google.com/uc?id=1BsMS0vj-UQz2_aVFol4rXBRbESCpacFg&export=download
San Francisco Railroads: https://drive.google.com/uc?id=1sRqRawRTmI-YK1tqfcL7uitHwFen_2ph&export=download


You must be a registered subscriber to watch videos. Join Today!

Date: 04/06/21 20:03
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: timz

Wasn't Visitacion Point the thing SP cut thru,
about where the tower was?

Date: 04/06/21 20:41
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: dmaffei

Visitation tower. 
Great image with the operators car and the small out building. Never seen a shot in service like this. Just boarded up. A great scene 
Thanks for posting these Evan 

Date: 04/06/21 22:50
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: TCnR

Did a quick Google search, apparently the point of land east of the tower is/was called Visitation Point. I think it's been changed by numerous construction projects though.

Coast Survey Office - US Coast Survey 1869 Map

Linked to :

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/21 22:51 by TCnR.

Date: 04/06/21 23:29
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: Evan_Werkema

The remains of Visitacion Point are what Muller was standing on when he photographed the westbound Lark on June 9, 1955 in the previously-posted view below.  Visitacion Tower is just visible in the distance on the left edge of the frame.  Visitacion Point remained a point into the bay until the freeway was built and a sizable chunk of bay was filled in the processes, see the topo maps below from 1950 and 1956.  At the same time, SP moved its main line a bit further geographic east through a new cut in the tip of Sierra Point under the freeway, bypassing Tunnel 5.

Date: 04/06/21 23:34
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: phthithu

We covered this earlier and I remember Evan posted that great shot he posted above. Here's a look at the bluff in 1948 and today. In the 1948 view, because Google Earth uses a modern day 3D elevation model for their terrain layer, you don't see any 3D shape for the part of the Visitacion Pt. bluff east of the SP tracks. But you can clearly see the face of the cut. I outlined the base of the cut with a green path. 

Good to know that tank farm is on bedrock and not fill! 

Date: 04/07/21 09:57
Re: Muller: SP's Visitacion Tower in 1955
Author: TCnR

That photo with SP 6003 is pretty wild, passed there so many times and had no clue of what once was.
Great stuff.

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