February 18, 1850, the county of San Joaquin was established by the California Legislature. In 1850 President Millard Fillmore put his signature to a bill admitting California into the Union.
The rail line through the present site of Tracy in 1869 came but a few months after the greatest locomotive news of the century-the joining of the Central and Union Pacific Railroads at Promontory Territory of Utah on May 10,1869, which established Transcontinental Rail Service across the U.S.A. The Central Pacific that ran from Sacramento, was built through the present site of Tracy, over Altamont Pass, through Niles Canyon to Niles, and then by ferry to San Francisco.
Nearby Lathrop consisted of a roundhouse, a railroad shop, yards, and hotels for feeding railroad employees. The community became the railroad business center and the headquarters for the Central Pacific Railroad for the San Joaquin Valley. The increasing volume of business being handled by the railroad required a coaling station at the foot of the Altamont Hills just 14 miles west of Lathrop. The new coaling station was named Ellis.
Railroad shops for helper engines were built at Ellis. The "helper engines" were necessary to push the trains heading west over the nearby first grade of the Altamont Pass. Telegraph operators and all other necessary railroad employees and their families lived in Ellis by 1870 and had about 45 buildings.
The year 1870 also was the year in which the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and the Central Pacific came under common control. Not until 1885 when the Central Pacific executed a lease to the Southern Pacific Company were the two lines actually consolidated. The new company was called Southern Pacific.
Construction was started in 1878 by the Southern Pacific on a new rail line from Oakland around the shores of San Francisco Bay, through Port Costa and Martinez, to connect with the Central Pacific East of the Livermore hills. The connection between the two railroads was completed three miles east of Ellis on September 8,1878. The result of this line was the founding of Tracy.
Railroad officials saw no reason for continuing the coaling station at Ellis and the "helper trains" were no longer need. Railroad families, railroad station, and businesses were move 3 miles east to the new railroad station called "Tracy". The name Tracy was chosen by an official of the Southern Pacific, Lathrop J. Tracy was given the distinction of having the town named for him.
The residents of Ellis had realized that their town was doomed and decided that Tracy would soon become a leading center of Tulare Township. Two hotels were also moved to Tracy, the Ludwig Hotel and the Tracy Hotel.
Jim Eagan, a railroader who worked at Ellis putting coal on engines was one of the first Tracy residents. He was placed in charge of the first Southern Pacific Railroad crew.
Meantime, Tracy was growing as a railroad center. The new line through Los Banos was the fastest and least expensive route to Los Angeles. On March 1, 1894, the railroad headquarters at Lathrop was moved to Tracy. All the railroad equipment including engines and buildings, except the eating house, were involved in the transfer. Construction of a roundhouse started in Tracy in 1896. Tracy's beginning is in fact the story of a railroad.
Tracy was incorporated in 1910 and it grew rapidly after the first irrigation district was established in 1915. Although railroad operations began to decline in the 1950s, Tracy continued to prosper as an agricultural area. Today, the City seal reflects this history of railroads and agriculture.
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