Belt Line Railroad Served City’s North Shore

File photo &nbsp&nbsp In 1911, Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia built Alameda Belt Line’s Locomotive No. 3 for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.

Belt Line Railroad Served City’s North Shore

Workers are currently removing railroad tracks on Clement Avenue that began carrying trains more than 100 years ago.

In 1918, the City of Alameda invested some of the profits from its Municipal Lighting Plant in a railroad. The line traveled 1.16 miles along Clement Avenue from Pearl Street to Grand Street. It served the industrial zone the city had recently created on its north shore along the Oakland Estuary.

The railroad’s customers included the Dow Pump & Diesel Engine Company at Oak Street and the newly minted Barnes & Tibbitts Shipyard that stretched along Clement from Chestnut Street to Grand Street.

In 1924 the City Council voted to extend the railroad to Sherman Street in order to serve the California Packing Corporation’s Del Monte warehouse and the Alaska Packers Association. On December 15 of that same year, the city sold its railroad to the Western Pacific Railroad (WP) and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) for $30,000.

Less than a month later on Jan. 12, 1925, the Alameda Belt Line (ABL) was incorporated by the two companies to take over about 1.2 miles (1.9 km) of trackage constructed by the City of Alameda on Clement Avenue in 1918.

ABL acquired the 22-acre belt line on Feb. 17, 1926. WP and ATSF jointly owned the belt line. Due to mergers, it was later jointly owned and operated by the Burglington Northern and Sante Fe Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.
The new owners incorporated ABL. By the end of 1928, ABL had added 5.6 miles of tracks, including those in the railroad yard, today’s Jean Sweeney Open Space Park.

ABL served Alameda’s north shore for 70 years, closing in 1998. The Union Pacific Railroad ran its trains along Clement Avenue for two more years to accommodate Pennzoil-Quaker State.

In 2003, Jean Sweeney discovered a contract that required the railroad to sell the ABL property back to the city for 1924 prices, plus improvements. After winning a court fight, the city purchased the property that includes the rail yard — today’s Jean Sweeney Park — for $966,207.