San Jose Sentinels V

By Ken Rattenne

San Jose Telegraph
SP 2472 West
The San Jose Telegraph CTC panel, now on display at the Santa Clara CalTrain depot. (Ken Rattenne)
Extra 2472 West has the Gilroy Garlic Festival train in tow as it blasts through San Martin (san mar'-teen), CA on July 30, 1995 while traversing SP's historic Coast Line. In another few miles the steam special will come under the watchfull computer supervision of the Joint Powers Board's dispatching center in downtown San Jose, a realm once controlled by San Jose Telegraph. (Jon Pullman Porter Photo) Above right:

Cahill Street Depot's "Hidden" Tower

There was a third "tower" that served San Jose.

San Jose Telegraph was not really a tower in the strict sense of the word, and in fact was housed in a wing of the Cahill Street depot. The San Jose Telegraph operator was under the direct control of the SP dispatcher in Roseville and manned a CTC Board machine that controlled 4.5 miles of single track mainline between the Cahill Street Depot and Lick Siding on the Coast Line (MP 51.4). With the tower consolidation project under way, San Jose Telegraph's functions were cut over to the SCO, taking almost a year to be fully implemented.

Buying tickets at Cahill Street Depot. The author's mother purchases Amtrak Capitol tickets for a day-trip to Sacramento. (Don Rattenne Photo)

San Jose Telegraph was an interesting operation. Right up through the early 1980s train orders were attached to an order hoop next to the freight main at the west end of the coach yard. Orders were "hooped" by both the headend and rear crews on mainline and local freights right up until the advent of track warrents. But the most colorful operation had to be the delivery of train orders to Amtrak's Coast Starlight.

Each morning, when the southbound Starlight was about five minutes from the depot, the San Jose Telegraph operator would walk out of his office in the depot, hoop in hand, and stand on the platform. After chatting briefly with the Amtrak baggage crew on
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Amtrak's Coast Starlight has Cotton Belt 9404 on the point as the train brakes for its stop in San Jose. Behind the baggage cart is the San Jose Telegraph operator, handing up orders to the Starlight's fireman. Click the photo for an enlarged view.  (Ken Rattenne Photo)
their motorized baggage cart, he would nonchalantly raise his train order hoop just as the approaching diesels ducked under the platform umbrella of depot track 5.

As the headend approached, he'd hold the  hoop up as high as he could, but without straining himself.  As the lead unit trundled by the fireman would lean out his window, intent on nothing but the set of  flimsies fluttering in the wind, and using his arm as a hook would grab the orders.

Of course the train would come to a complete stop only a couple of hundred feet away, just beyond the platform. But by then the San Jose Telegrapher would be well on his way back to his station office. This was a daily occurrence until the closure of that office.

Cahill Street Portrait
A Tower's Heartbeat

This document is Copyright ©2000 by Ken Rattenne and KPR Media Services
and was last updated in July of 2000.