Stockton – San Joaquin Street Station, CA (SKN)
The Mission Revival depot was built in 1900 and originally included living quarters for the station agent and his family; a significant rehabilitation was completed in the mid-2000s.
735 South San Joaquin Street
Stockton, CA 95203
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 283,213
- Facility Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Parking Lot Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Mission Revival San Joaquin Street station was built in 1900 for the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railway (SF&SJV) at a cost of $24,470. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF) Railway subsequently acquired the station since it had taken over the SF&SJV in 1899. The ATSF was succeeded by the BNSF, which now owns the station. The ATSF station joined the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific stations in Stockton, and was sited to the east of the port on Mormon Slough. All three of these stations still stand, although the Western Pacific station no longer has tracks or is served by trains.
With 16 rooms and two floors, this building had living quarters for the station agent and his family on the second floor. The depot featured a 2 1/2 story square clock tower and an open-air waiting room. While the tower still stands, the clock is gone; and the north end waiting room was enclosed in 1961 to serve as railroad offices. The south end now holds Amtrak offices.
The depot features a hipped red tile roof that contrasts with the white-painted stucco walls of the building. The eaves are not as wide as in many rail stations of the period. Shelter from the warm sun of the valley was achieved with a single-story centered colonnade under a shed-style roof on the track side, fenced with iron wickets which stay open during station hours. The projecting corners of the colonnade are decorated with substantial square pilasters having their own small hipped red-tiled caps. The central arch of the rear colonnade is symmetrical with the front of the building’s entry porch, having a pierced decorative curvilinear gable between two square capped pillars, over the large circular archway. The windows on the front are large and semicircular, following the colonnade’s repetition of the arches, and protected with iron wickets as well. The clock tower, pierced with decorative multi-paned windows, both round and rectangular, stands over the porch which shelters travelers passing through the front double wooden-panel and glass doors.
The San Joaquin Street station was rehabilitated in 2005: the station has been repainted, inside and out; ticket counters and glass enclosures, break rooms, agent’s office, restrooms and Amtrak Police offices have been renovated; a security camera system added; bus canopies and signage upgraded; roll-up baggage doors added for security; parking lot and platforms upgraded; and new fencing and signage along the tracks added. Improvements were funded through the state of California Division of Rail.
Stockton sits on the eastern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta, one of the few inland river deltas in the world, and one of the most fertile. Beginning in the 1850s, levees were built that eventually allowed farmers to reclaim almost 500,000 acres of this 1,100 square mile area. The San Joaquin River, like the Sacramento River, was and is navigable by ocean-going ships, providing an excellent way for agricultural products to go to market in the San Francisco area and beyond. Stockton sits at the head of one deep, easily navigable slough—the local name for natural and man-made river channels in the delta—off the San Joaquin River, about 75 miles from San Francisco Bay.
Charles M. Weber and his family, German immigrants, founded Stockton in 1849 upon acquiring over 49,000 acres of the Rancho Campo de los Franceses Mexican land grant after their arrival. In its early years, the town had various colorful names, including Tuleburg, Fat City, and Mudville. However, Weber settled on Stockton in honor of Commodore Robert F. Stockton, noted for his capture of California during the Mexican-American War. Thus the city was the first community in California to acquire an official name not of Spanish or Native origins. Weber’s family holdings were sited on Weber Point, including a modest-sized but lavishly-furnished home surrounded by spectacular gardens which provided inspiration to later city planners and visitors to the city. The city was planned and mapped between 1849 and 1851 on a grid overlaying the natural channels. However, the downtown gradually moved east due to a series of devastating floods and fires between 1855 and 1900, which also prompted the truncation of the natural waterways running through the city.
The city was incorporated on July 23, 1850 and received its charter from the state in 1851. By then the California gold rush was in full swing, and Stockton was supplying the mining camps in the Valley via the delta waterways and steamboat. Although the gold rush had ended by 1855, Stockton’s ability to receive and process goods grew apace, largely replacing trade to the mining camps with agricultural products. Between 1870 and 1900 the city’s economy grew into an industrial powerhouse as well. Flour mills, carriage and wagon factories, iron foundries and shipyards surrounded the channel and its tributaries. Dry farming and the wheat bonanza of the 1870s in the San Joaquin Valley were transformed with changes in water laws and the formation of irrigation districts into many specialty crops produced in rows and orchards.
Stockton had been visited by ocean-going trading vessels since 1846, becoming a center of commodity shipping in the 1850s and a regional transportation hub. In 1871, the Stockton Ship Channel Company was organized and the river surveyed for dredging; plans were made in 1906 for dredging a channel to a depth of 15 feet, a requirement that increased to 26 feet as ships grew larger. In 1925, a deep-water bond raised over $1 million for the river improvement project and dredging began in 1931. By 1933, the Port of Stockton opened with rail service directly onto the docks, and with three wharves, three warehouses and a grain terminal.
World War II brought a new phase of development to the port, as it and 257 acres were leased by the U.S. Army and new wharves built to accommodate 13 vessels. Rough and Ready Island, just to the southwest across the river from the city and adjacent to the original port district, was then developed in the 1940s as a Naval Supply Annex. While the Naval Annex has been turned to commercial uses, the port evolved in the 1950s to accommodate dry bulk shipping—one of the first on the West Coast to do so—along with warehousing and distribution of manufactured goods. In 2000, the port acquired Rough and Ready Island and it now is home to many large industries, having a significant impact upon the California economy.
Rail likewise impacted trade at Stockton, having connections to the wharves and then the port. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF) entered southern California in the 1880s and presented itself as Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad’s main rival. In the 1890s, the SF&SJV began working a route up through the San Joaquin Valley in competition to SP’s monopoly there—much unloved by Valley farmers—and came through Stockton in 1898. Acquired by ATSF in 1899, the SF&SJV at last provided ATSF a route from San Francisco through to Los Angeles, the states two major population centers. Today, the Stockton Terminal & Eastern Railroad provides rail freight service in the greater Stockton area, and makes freight connections with BNSF Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad, and the Central California Traction Company.
The San Joaquin of today operates over rail lines that once hosted several competing trains each day. The two primary trains originating in the Central Valley were the Golden Gate, originally operated by ATSF, and the San Joaquin Daylight operated by Southern Pacific Railroad (succeeded by Union Pacific). The ATSF passenger service ceased operations in 1968, and the SP operations in 1971, when Amtrak took over passenger rail service in the U.S.
Part of the Stockton’s industrial fame came from an invention critical to both the delta farmers and the rest of the world, from the Holt Manufacturing Company of Stockton. The company was formed in 1892 by the brothers Charles and Benjamin Holt, who had come west from New Hampshire in the 1860s to San Francisco to manufacture wagon wheels and later steam-powered harvesters. Of the two, Benjamin was the more mechanically apt. After visiting England in 1903, where people had been trying to create tracked moving machines for some time, he returned to Stockton, having paid $60,000 for the right to produce vehicles under an English patent, and exercised his skills in design and invention. On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1904, he successfully tested a machine which could plow the soggy delta land of Roberts Island. The company photographer was reported to have observed the tractor and said that it crawled like a caterpillar—and Holt seized upon the metaphor. The Caterpillar tractor thus made cultivation of farmland possible on an industrial scale.
Pliny Holt, Benjamin’s nephew, who took over the Aurora Engine Company in Stockton, soon supplied the Caterpillar tractors with gasoline engines, which had a much more efficient power-to-weight ratio and required fewer people to maintain. By 1915, the Holt Company employed 1,000 workers in its Stockton plant, and nearly 2,000 Caterpillar crawlers had been sold in more than 20 countries. Holt tractors were widely used to haul artillery and supplies during World War I, as they could haul long trains of freight over unimproved dirt tracks behind the front and take supplies and ammunition over steep and twisting mountain roads far more quickly than any other means. Holt tractors were also the inspiration for the British tank, which profoundly altered ground warfare tactics. Just before the end of the war, British General Ernest Dunlop Swinton traveled to Stockton to publicly honor Benjamin Holt and his company and relayed England’s gratitude to the developer of the track.
In May of 1925, several years after Benjamin Holt’s death, the company merged with its main competitor, C.L. Best, to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company. As of 2008, Caterpillar, Inc. was the 133rd largest company in the world, and is still headquartered in Stockton.
Stockton’s golden era occurred between 1900 and 1945 as the city grew into an industrial metropolis, and the downtown reinvented itself from bucolic village to a big city renowned for its Main Street, which became a significant entertainment and recreation destination in the San Joaquin Valley. The city still possesses a number of impressive commercial and governmental buildings from that era. It has also been home to the University of the Pacific since 1924, after that institution moved from San Jose. Pacific’s longtime emphasis has been on music education, but now supports engineering, pharmacy, and business schools as well as highly-regarded dental and law schools. This private school’s ivy-league ambiance, complete with old brick buildings and wide shady lawns, have made it a movie location in many a feature film—such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The University of the Pacific is also home to the Brubeck Institute, named for jazz piano legend and alum, Dave Brubeck. The Brubeck Institute Jazz Quartet is composed of Pacific students and tours widely.
With nine theater and ballet companies, the Haggin Museum collection of exhibits relating to California and local history and nature, as well as numerous other artistic venues, visitors can find much to enjoy in the local culture. The city also hosts over 30 festivals throughout the year, from those celebrating the city’s history as a center of Filipino culture in the U.S. to the Brubeck Festival and the three-day Asparagus Festival, not to mention Cambodian, Chinese, and Hmong New Years.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station. The San Joaquin service is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California, Department of Transportation, and is managed by the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Short Term Parking Spaces
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift