The route of the Great Transcontinental Railroad defined by Theodore Judah passed through the area destined to become Rocklin. Small locomotives could move trains from the Sacramento terminus to the foothills, and Rocklin was designated as the location of a roundhouse to service and provide the additional, larger, engines needed to power trains over the Sierra Range. Construction of the railroad reached the area in 1864 and Rocklin was named on Central Pacific Time Card No. 1 dated June 6, 1864 – considered the founding date of a place called Rocklin. The Central Pacific Railroad completed the Rocklin Roundhouse 1867. Located at the intersection of Front Street and Rocklin Road, the facility included a central turntable, 28 engine service stalls, and a large firewood storage area. The roundhouse’s foundation and exterior walls were constructed of rock and masonry; roofing and stalls were constructed of wood. Heavily damaged and rebuilt after an 1873 fire, the Rocklin roundhouse continued to serve the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads for 42 years.
In 1905, railroad management announced a major expansion. Townspeople were elated and Rocklin’s property values soared as news came of a new and larger roundhouse for Rocklin and a new train station. But hopes were crushed in 1906 with the contrary news that instead, Rocklin’s roundhouse soon would be closing in favor of new facilities in Roseville at the junction of Southern Pacific Railroad’s route to the north. The Roseville location offered less expensive land with room for expanded operations, and without the constraints imposed by Rocklin’s granite topography. By April 1908, the railroad had moved all roundhouse operations to Roseville and the Rocklin facility closed permanently. Rocklin held a mock funeral to mark the event.
In its heyday, just prior to the move, Rocklin’s roundhouse employed 300 workers. A report from the time asserts that, from 1906 through 1908, Rocklin’s population declined by 80% as roundhouse workers left rooming houses, and abandoned or moved their homes to Roseville. By 1912 Rocklin’s roundhouse had become a dangerous eyesore and the Rocklin City Council required the railroad to demolish it. In 2014, the City of Rocklin expanded Heritage Park to include the historic roundhouse site, highlighting remains of the foundation, rock wall and outlines of several engine service pits.
The railroad and Rocklin granite: The railroad needed granite for construction; Rocklin needed the railroad for economic transport of granite produced by Rocklin quarries. Central Pacific Railroad’s first paying freight was Rocklin granite - the year 1864. Capitol Quarry, destined to become Rocklin’s largest, was established in 1865 to furnish granite for construction of the California state capitol. Thereafter, Rocklin granite was used for public buildings throughout the west. An extensive rail network, consisting of miles of spur track, was developed to serve the largest of the city’s 61 granite mining sites. In its prime, Rocklin was the Granite Capital of the West.