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Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Signed County Route J7

This past month I was looking for an alternate route from Stockton to Merced than the usual California State Route 99 Freeway and decided to drive the entirety of Signed County Route J7.  I didn't intend to finish this blog on Christmas Day so the somewhat festively themed title is even more fitting (granted Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a Thanksgiving movie).


CR J7 is one of the longer Signed County Routes at approximately 59 miles.  CR J7 begins southward at CA 99 in Stockton located in San Joaquin County and traverses through Stanislaus County before terminating in Merced County at CA 59.  CR J7 is mostly known for following a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line for most of it's length but also features an air museum in addition to a busy traffic corridor (hence the; Planes, Trains and Automobiles).  CR J7 was defined in 1960 according to CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on CR J7

CR J7 southward begins at CA 99 Exit 252A in Stockton at Mariposa Road.



CR J7 quickly crosses over CA 99 on Mariposa Road and exits Stockton headed southeast.





At Austin Road CR J7 on Mariposa Road climbs over the BNSF line on an overpass.







CR J7 has reassurance shields but they are poorly placed.  This shield would seem to indicate that CR J7 exits Mariposa Road onto Santa Ana Avenue which is a dead-end street.


At Jack Tone Road CR J7 intersects CR J5.


At Escalon Bellota Road CR J7 meets CR J6.  Both CR J7 and CR J6 multiplex south towards Escalon on Escalon Bellota Road.  There is some unique CR J6-7 shields to be found starting at the junction for CR J9 at Lone Tree Road.




CR J6-7 meet CA 120 at Yosemite Avenue in downtown Escalon.  CR J6 continues directly south of Escalon to CA 108 whereas CR J7 briefly multiplexes CA 120 to Main Street where it splits.






CR J7 enters the downtown district of Escalon on Main Street.



I stopped at Main Street Park which has a Santa Fe Railroad car on display on an historical placard about Escalon.  Escalon was a rail siding of the San Francisco-San Joaquin Valley Railroad which was built through the area in 1895.  By 1900 the line was sold to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.  In 1995 the Burlington Northern Railroad and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe merged which created the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.





As CR J7 exits Escalon Main Street becomes Santa Fe Road.  Santa Fe Road closely follows the BNSF line located immediately to the west.



CR J7 crosses the Stanislaus River into Stanislaus County.  Santa Fe Road becomes 1st Street in Riverbank.



Signage seems to indicate that CR J7 multiplexes CA 108 east through Riverbank to Claus Road.  Unfortunately there is no reassurance shield for CR J7 at Claus Road.  CAhighways.org has the original definition of CR J7 through Riverbank as CA 108 west, Patterson Road east to Claus Road.





CR J7 exits Riverbank southward on Claus Road and quickly crosses a siding to the BNSF mainline. 



At Sylvan Avenue and Santa Fe Avenue CR J7 on Claus Road crosses the BNSF main line upon entering Modesto.




CR J7 follows Claus Road through Modesto to CA 132 at Yosemite Boulevard.



CR J7 multiplexes CA 132 east out of Modesto over the BNSF main line into Empire.  CR J7 splits away from CA 132 on Santa Fe Avenue along the BNSF mainline.




Immediately south of Empire CR J7 on Santa Fe Avenue crosses the Tuolumne River.





South of the Tuolumne River CR J7 on Santa Fe Avenue crosses through Hughson.



Between Hughson and Denair I was passed by BNSF freight train heading southward.  At Geer Road CR J7 intersects CR J14.





At Keyes Road CR J7 intersects CR J16.  Oddly CR J16 isn't signed from CR J7 on Santa Fe Avenue.


South of CR J16 the route of CR J7 on Santa Fe Avenue crosses through Denair.



South of Denair CR J7 on Santa Fe Avenue has a junction with CR J17 at East Avenue before entering Merced County.  Santa Fe Avenue becomes Santa Fe Drive upon entering Merced County.



CR J7 enters Ballico on Santa Fe Drive.  Traffic is advised that McConnell State Park is 6 miles to the south on Ballico Avenue.



CR J7 on Santa Fe Drive crosses the Merced River into Cressey.





South of Cressey CR J7 enters Winton.  Traffic is advised that CA 99 is located 3 miles to the south on Winton Way.


South of Winton CR J7 enters Atwater where Santa Fe Drive expands to four lanes.  The Castle Air Museum is located on CR J7 as it expands to four-lanes.



Castle Air Museum is located at Merced County Castle Airport which was the site of Castle Air Force Base.  Castle Air Force Base was in operation from 1941 to 1995 and was mostly known for the long standing 93rd Bombardment Wing.


Castle Air Museum opened in 1981 and displays over 60 aircraft in an open air environment.  The star attractions are an Air Force One and one of the 19 remaining SR 71 Blackbirds.  The Blackbird on display at Castle Air Museum was a SR 71A variant and was capable of speeds over 2,100 MPH.  The Castle Air Museum Blackbird was the third I've seen.



South of Castle Air Museum CR J7 follows Santa Fe Drive where it terminates the the western boundary of Merced at CA 59.





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