Approached by the Santa Fe Railroad to purchase some local land, the town's savvy leaders, O'Hara, Walker and Porter, agreed to sell a portion of the land for tracks, but in return they wanted something of their own: a train depot.
"Oakley grew up around the railroads and the depot that went in right across from Fourth Street allowed Oakley to be a transcontinental stop," said Barbara Mason, Oakley's redevelopment director. "Oakley still remains a very active line; there's even talk of expanding it."
And while the depot disappeared in the early l960s, the Santa Fe Railroad still runs through Oakley today, albeit as a freight-only line.
Local residents and businesses along Main Street are accustomed to hearing the train whistle blow as many as half a dozen times a day, as the orange and black trains make their way through the Delta's towns.
Photo courtesy of the City of Oakley
This photo of a Santa Fe train car was taken in Oakley in the late l800s.
Freight delivery times and dates are dictated by clients, not the railroad, so you can't exactly set your pocket watch by most of the trains roaring through Oakley.
"There's no telling exactly when the trains will come through," said Kent, "as they do not operate on a schedule, so it's difficult to pinpoint when they come through. Amtrak, however, does run on a schedule, and it is my understanding they operate quite a number of trains through the area a day."
Ten, to be exact.
Created in l970 by Congress after private freight and rail companies consistently showed a loss, Amtrak - a blend of the words "America" and "track" - today transports more than 25 million passengers per year.
In 2006, the Antioch/Pittsburg line carried 22,747 passengers, making California the highest Amtrak-usage state in the country.
There's little question that the view from the rails is vastly different than it was 100 years ago, but the genteel charm and sophistication associated with rail travel remains. Douglas Putnam-Pite rode the train for the first time while on his honeymoon. Picking up Amtrak in nearby Martinez and making his way eventually through to Canada, Putnam-Pite agrees it's still a classy way to ride.
"I'm not sure what I expected in terms of comfort and luxury, maybe something like the Orient Express," said Putnam-Pite. "It wasn't quite like that, but it was very relaxing and luxurious, and we actually saw a lot of the country from a vantage point we wouldn't have any other way. It's a great way to travel if you have lots of time."
More than 70 percent of Amtrak travel is done on tracks owned by other railroads. East County residents can pick up the line at the Antioch station and ride just a few miles, or venture on to Yosemite, Disneyland or clear across the country.
"There are over 70 intercity and 100 commuter trains per day in California," said Marc Maglioni, media representative for Amtrak. "Locally, the San Joaquin Route (Oakland/Sacramento-Fresno-Bakersfield) has six daily round trips. California is a happening place; we can't build lines fast enough."
Leave it to the Golden State to be the fastest growing and most widely traveled line in the country. With hundreds of destinations available, customers are riding Amtrak in record numbers, for a variety of reasons.
Just who then is the typical East County Amtrak rider?
"Well, that's the thing," said Maglioni. "There is no one type of passenger. There are those who commute, and those who ride for health reasons, like needing to get to a perhaps further away location for medical care. Then there is the business traveler, the student and the pleasure rider.
"If you stop any one train along any destination in East County - or anywhere in the country, really - you'll pretty much find the same kind of person in each car."
So is train ridership up?
"Absolutely," said Maglioni - and for a number of reasons.
One factor is the high price of gas. A round-trip ticket from Pittsburg to Stockton is around $5, which is cheaper than the cost of gas to make the drive.
Marketing has also played a role in Amtrak's success.
"We have worked hard to change how we market the train," said Maglioni. "It used to be that the approach was more generic, a one-size-fits-all type of experience. But now Amtrak is marketing fares and destinations to appeal to a broader audience, with destination packages to a variety of places."
And Amtrak has become more reliable, allowing passengers to arrive at their destination on-time and relaxed.
"Ridership continues to climb year after year; it's still a very viable way to go," said Maglioni. "There's still something special about riding a train."