The Tidewater Southern Railway originated in 1910 as an electric interurban running south from Stockton, California through the fertile Central Valley. Its zigzag route eventually connected several valley agricultural towns, including Escalon, Manteca, Turlock, Hilmar, and its central base of Modesto.
Purchased by the Western Pacific in 1917, the Tidewater became a feeder for this small transcontinental, whose own mainline had only been completed 8 years earlier. Together with the far better known Sacramento Northern, the road formed an important part of the WP's presence in California.
Though interurban service ended in the 1930's, the wire remained over TS lines in Modesto until 1948. When built, the railroad's mainline ran right in the middle of Ninth Street, Modesto's major north-south thruway. City leaders decreed that no steam locomotive could operate on Ninth Street, forcing the railroad to maintain its eletrification.
The 1940's and 50's were boom years for the railroad, leading the an expansion of the motive power roster and the addition of a fleet of freight cars. Steam left in 1955, after owner WP's dieselized, and diesels arrived from General Electric and, later, Alco. As big brother Sacramento Northern began losing lines and identity, the Tidewater became a major conveyor of food stuffs and produce, tapping the Valley's production for the WP.
The road finally lost its outward identity in the 1970's, then its corporate seperateness with the Western Pacific's merger into the Union Pacific in late 1982. By early 2000, the mainline had been severed in Modesto, ending service on Ninth Street, and the road operated as two halves.
Today, as through most of its history, the Tidewater's lines carry mostly food products, funneling them to a larger railroad for carriage to the rest of the nation. Its final chapter has yet to be written...