Roseville train yard looking east circa 1908.
This overview of a large piece of Roseville's history, the railroad, was written by Leonard "Duke" Davis who authored a more extensive version in his 1964 book "From Trail To Rail."
In 1864, a track-laying crew from the Central Pacific Railroad came eastward across the plain from Sacramento, building the western half of the nation's first transcontinental railroad. They crossed a small rail line (the California Central Railroad) that linked the young towns of Lincoln and Folsom, and gave the spot the imaginative name of Junction.
Over the next forty years, Junction evolved into Roseville, a trading center for area farmers. It was greatly overshadowed by neighboring Rocklin, where the Southern Pacific Railroad maintained it's Roundhouse facilities.
Then, in 1906, feeling the need to expand, the Southern Pacific Railroad moved its facilities to Roseville where it remains (and is still the largest rail yard on the west coast). The city incorporated April 15, 1909. The new town built sewer lines and organized its fire department. During the three year period between 1911 and 1914, the citizens of Roseville erected more than 100 structures including the Carnegie Library which now houses the museum.
In 1913, the Pacific Fruit Express, the largest ice manufacturing plant in the world was constructed in Roseville to chill fruits and vegetables being shipped from California to other parts of the country. In 1914, the Roseville Telephone Company was formed.
By 1929, the railroad employed up to 1,225 people in it's Roseville yard assembling trains, repairing engines, and handling freight. Then came the Great Depression. It hit Placer County as hard as the rest of the country, but more than 2,000 of Roseville's unemployed found jobs in the Federal Works Progress Administration (W.P.A), paving streets, pouring sidewalks, and building storm sewers. Many sidewalks in older sections of Roseville still have "W.P.A." embossed in the concrete.
The rail yards of Roseville became busier than ever with the onset of World War II. Then the post-war building boom brought continued prosperity, including upgrades to the city owned electric system and construction of a new city hospital. The years 1948 through 1950 saw the construction of a new city hospital and the Washington Street underpass to carry traffic under Vernon Street and the Southern Pacific rail yard tracks.
The pattern of life changed in the fifties. The railroad found stiff competition from the airlines and the development of the national interstate highway system brought competition from interstate truckers. In the late fifties, Interstate 80 came through Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis and Auburn, linking South Placer County with the rest of Northern California. Folsom Dam was completed in 1955, creating a reservoir about eight miles east of Roseville that provided the city with a dependable domestic water supply as well as an excellent recreational amenity.