WPRRHS 2001 Convention Report - Modesto, California

By Thom Anderson

Approximately 80 people attended the 2001 WPRRHS Convention on April 27-28, 2001. The convention was held at the Holiday Inn/Holidome on Modesto's north side. Over 70 attendees were at the dinner banquet on Saturday. A wide selection of food was available at a buffet and nobody left hungry. Convention Chairman Steve Hayes and his better half Norma did a fine job putting this years convention together. Steve and Norma were assisted by Bob and Lois Mersereau at the registration desk checking in attendees and selling raffle tickets. Vic Neves performed the audio-visual duties. Bob and Dave Pires handled the contest registration. Dave Stanley and Ken Meeker were on hand with WP photos and other collectibles available for sale to those in attendance.

Presentations were on a wide range of subjects. Dave Stanley showed a slide presentation on the Nevada Northern Railway. Virgil Staff presented one of his 16mm movies covering the WP from Salt Lake to the Bay Area titled "WP from East to West", and presented his views on research needs in the future on WP subjects. I did a presentation on WP and SN PS-1 50' double door boxcars. Vic Neves had an encore presentation of his History of the Highline that was shown at Winterail this year, followed by Tom Taylor with some 1960s and 1970s WP slides. Dave Connery talked about railroad research - how, why and where to look. John Zach presented information on freight cars on the Sierra Railroad in the 1950s and the interaction with WP.

Ken Rattenne and Eugene Vicknair each did a slide presentation on the Tidewater Southern (this year's convention theme). Evan Werkema presented a slide show on WP subsidiaries Oakland Terminal and Alameda Belt Line. Steve Hayes presented his HO scale model of the WP Oakland depot and the research he did to build it. Henry Bender presented information on a multitude of depots, and Norman Holmes discussed the first ten years of the FRRS and some fascinating and humorous stories behind some of the acquisitions of equipment at PRM.

Not to slight any of the presenters, but the one I personally found most amazing was by Dan Mosier, who documented the rise and fall of the town of Tesla. Tesla was the westernmost point of the Alameda & San Joaquin Railroad, which some historians believe to be the genesis of the Western Pacific. WP acquired the A&SJ, and the portion between Ortega and Carbona was incorporated into the WP main line. Did you know that in addition to a coal mine at Tesla, there was also a brick factory, gravel pit, a window glass factory and a transfer tower to load coal into barges and railcars along the A&SJ line? All of this was gone by 1920! Several of the principals involved in the A&SJ and these other enterprises were also involved in the early years of the WP.

Mr. Mosier has written a book on this, which includes a number of photographs. I will post the contact information to order a copy next week. I found it amazing that so many photographs along with other information could be found on what ostensibly is a little known operation that has been gone for over 80 years.

The model and photo contest was run a little differently this year. The top three won a certificate good for the registration to the convention next year at Marysville/Yuba City. Steve Hayes took 1st place with his Oakland depot model, Dave Pires was 2nd with his WP flatcar with backhoe load. Tied for 3rd was Jack Palmer for his model of WP NW2 No. 608 and Al Wood for his model of WP caboose No. 426. Congratulations to all.

Next year the convention will be chaired by Tom Lawler in Marysville/Yuba City. A date and location will be announced soon. The theme is on Sacramento Northern. Vic Neves and Barbara Holmes (no, not Norman's wife - this is another person with the same name) have stepped forward to host the 2003 convention "somewhere in the Oakland area" as Barbara said. If you would like to do a presentation or help out at either convention, contact me and I will put you in touch with them. I hope to see you there next time.