What became of Junction City?

By: Leonard “Duke” Davis Special to The Press-Tribune
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For more than 500 years the rolling hills and grasslands of what is today southwestern Placer County were home to the Maidu Indians. Then, in 1849, gold was discovered, and the tranquil landscape would change forever. In 1864, track-laying crews form the Central Pacific Railroad pushed eastward from Sacramento across the plains on their way to building what would become the Western half of the nation’s first intercontinental railroad. Rail lines intersect At the site of today’s Roseville city boundaries, the rails of the Central Pacific intersected with those of the California Central, a small line, which then linked the young towns of Folsom and Lincoln. The place where the two lines joined was listed on the railroad maps simply as “Junction.” It was around the area of the junction that a small freight and passenger center called Roseville would develop. Roseville was but one of many ubiquitous shipping points that would pop up along the railroad rights-of-way as a new type of community was introduced to California – the “railroad town.” For the next 42 years, Roseville would remain a small railroad shipping point of about 250-300 inhabitants catering to the needs of area farmers and ranchers. The village – it could hardly be classified as a town – centered around the depot and a sprinkling of small business houses, which lined the two principal streets, Atlantic and Pacific. This quiet, almost pastoral setting was abruptly changed in a two-year period between 1906 and 1908 when the railroad roundhouse and repair facilities were moved to Roseville from nearby Rocklin, which had heretofore been the area’s major railroad service center. Almost overnight, or so it seemed, the quiet little village of friends and neighbors evolved into a bustling town of 2,000 to 3,000 people. New subdivisions were laid out to accommodate throngs of newcomers, many of whom moved here from Rocklin. The business section, previously limited to Atlantic and Pacific streets, now expanded along Lincoln, Main, Church and later Vernon streets. A Chamber of Commerce was quickly organized to provide badly needed municipal services such as water, electricity, police and fire protection. Finally, in April of 1909, the town incorporated and began a steady march of progress until it became Placer County’s largest and most important city. Railroad expansion also continued at an accelerated pace. In 1909 the first units of the vast Pacific Fruit Express ice plant were completed, which by the 1920 was noted as the world’s largest artificial ice plant. Southern Pacific also continued to expand, and by the 1920s it boasted the largest freight marshaling yards west of the Mississippi River. Rail yard busier during war The busy rail yards became even busier during WWII when thousands of troop and munitions trains made their way through the maze tracks in Roseville on their way to the battlegrounds of the Pacific. Roseville continued as an unchallenged railroad center into the post-war years, but by the 1950s it faced stiff competition from airlines and interstate truckers. Introduction of jet aircraft and the completion of Interstate 80 through Roseville in 1956 saw the once-booming passenger train service decline abruptly in favor of air, bus and automobile service. By 1972, the local depot was closed. It was razed the following year, and was the massive P.F.E. ice plant (974), which was rendered obsolete by the introduction of self-refrigerating cars, known as “reefers.” Completion of the Folsom Dam in 1955 saw the gradual shift in the town’s business and commercial center from “downtown” Roseville to what became known as the “East” in the near future. The city of Roseville faced the challenges of a rapidly growing population head on. Expanded water, electrical, sewage, police, and fire protection services more than kept pace with growing demand, as did expanded park, recreational, and educational services. In 1964 Roseville was the proud recipient of Look Magazine’s prestigious All America City awards. Since that momentous year, the city – it is certainly no longer merely a town – has continued to grow outward in all directions, with a current population of 102,000. There’s now an expansive industrial zone north of Roseville, adjacent to Highway 65, along with numerous corporate headquarters along bustling Douglas Boulevard and the Johnson Ranch area. These businesses have brought new dimensions to Roseville, which is no longer just another railroad town. The railroad, though it remains as is has for over a century, a major factor in Roseville’s economy, is still one of the principal railroad centers of the West. Reintroduction of passenger traffic in 1987 and the completion of a new and intermodal depot facility shows every indication of restoring Roseville to its time-honored position as a major railroad passenger center. Meanwhile, under a succession of dedicated, city councils, Roseville continues to provide the kind of service demanded by growing and discriminating population. A fine educational system, two library locations, extensive parks, greenbelt areas, walking and bicycle trails and out-standing municipal services are but a few of the many services which have made and continued to make Roseville an envied place to call home. For a more complete history of Roseville, visit the Roseville Historical Society.