Page 5 Street Smart
The Modesto Arch

Modesto's picturesque arch, has an interesting  story behind its name.

UP Tidewater Sub freight trundles south down Ninth in November of 1984.

Spanning "I" Street where it intersects with Ninth, Modesto's Arch is a well-known Central Valley landmark. 

"In 1911, "I" Street was the main gateway to the little City of Modesto. A Mr. Sol P. Elias, who later became mayor, presented the City Council with a petition on behalf of the Modesto Business Men's Association to allow the building of an "ornamental and electric arch." At the same time, a contest was held in hopes of finding a slogan and seal for the city. The winning slogan, submitted by James Hanscom, was "Nobody's Got Modesto's Goat".

"Elias and the Modesto Business Men's Association were outraged over the judges' choice and lobbied for S. R. Harbaugh's runner-up suggestion, "Water Wealth Contentment Health", which won out and was placed on the arch. It still exists today. The height of the arch from the center is 25 feet. Its width is 75 feet and it has 668 lights."

- City Of Modesto

The Modesto Arch continues to be an inspiration to all who drive under those 668 electric lights. Now don't hit that drunk!

- Ken Rattenne

Tidewater Southern 44 tonner 735  hadn't been silver and orange for very long when it was assigned to escort TS 132 and a happy collection of railfans down the middle of Ninth Street in 1951. Click the photo for more... (Will Whitaker Photo Rattenne Collection from the 1983 calendar Tales Of  The Western Pacific)

When City fathers got wind of the Tidewater's plans for discontinuing passenger service between Modesto and Stockton, they also heard rumors that the railroad wanted to  phase out their electric powered locomotives, relying on the company's two steam engines.

Modesto's City Council quickly realized that their Ninth Street trackage would soon feel the weight of  smoky, smelly steam engines and Modesto wanted no part of that. After all, it was one thing to have Southern Pacific's steamers leave their smoky trails one block over but it was quite another to have one of these fiery behemoths share the same street as your Model T with your wife and family inside! 

An ordinance was drafted and passed by the City Council prohibiting steam locomotives from traveling on city streets. (Of course, Ninth Street was the only city street in question.) 

With the banishment of steam locomotives from city streets the Tidewater was forced to keep a short stretch of catenary in place within Modesto's city limits and thus was compelled to keep their pair of steeple cab electric motors to ferry freight trains down Ninth Street. 

Rather than change power for each train, crews would simply couple an electric locomotive to the front then use the electric to haul the train to the "other side" where the electric was removed and the steam engine went back about its business. This lasted until 1946 when the company took delivery of its first diesel-electric locomotive, 44-tonner 135. 

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