Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hello Friends and Solano Ferry Fans ...

From: "Thomas Rubarth"

Not many of you know that my brother Bill and I are TV stars. Need proof? ... Huell Howser (California's Gold) has posted a few FREE Podcasts on his Website, and our 2005 Solano Ferry segment is included (were we that bad?)! This show is periodically broadcast on PBS stations all over California but apparently never anywhere else. Normally offered for around $19.95 as a DVD, as a Podcast this show is simply free for those who download it. I am not sure how long Huell plans to keep this particular show as a Podcast so you may want to download this soon. 

This is not exactly a "ferry foamer's" tape, but it is a nicely done "everyman's introduction to the Solano ferry. One cool part of this video (at least for Bill and I) is that the second half of this half-hour taping takes place on the "water side" of the Solano wreck in Antioch, not easily accessible to most since you need a boat to see these views.  

Not familiar with Podcasts? You'll probably need high speed Internet. And you'll also need Apple's "iTunes" software and also "QuickTime Player" on you Mac or Windows computer. Most of you may already have these components on your computer. If not, you can get the latest versions of these for FREE at... 

iTunes Download and Apple's Quicktime.

(Note: you DO NOT need "QuickTime Pro", just the "QuickTime Player" located just "behind" the "Free Download" button.) 

Now go to Huell Howser's California's Gold website ... and click on their Podcast advertisement in the upper right side of the page. You should get a list of about eight free Podcasts from Huell within your iTunes Podcast list. Just press the "Get" button next to the Solano title, then wait for it to download. Once complete, go ahead and play it like a movie on your computer (or video iPod). BTW, you can enlarge the video by going to iTunes "View" menu and selecting larger size options. 

BTW, I'm the handsome one. Enjoy. 

—Thomas Rubarth


Anonymous Anonymous said...

DVD orders, 1-800-266-5727 $22.95

3/17/2007 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'd like to commend you on your excellent website and the vast amount of information found there. I'm a ship's pilot on San Francisco Bay, and routinely pass through Carquinez Straits and past the old route of the Solano. I also routinely pilot vessels to Stockton, and can see her ruins which are located in Antioch. She apparently burned many years ago, and one has to know that she is the Solano to recognize what remains. One of the walking beams is still standing, but the other one has fallen.

I believe the wreck of the Contra Costa is sunk near the present location of the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. I'm not positive of that, but that's what I recall when I was a midshipman there many years ago. I believe her skeleton is still visible on extreme low tides.

Thanks again for your wonderful work on the model and the retention of this important local history.

The railroad bridge which replaced the ferry's is still in operation after 79 years! One would think that it would have been replaced by now, but I'm not aware of any plans to replace it in spite of it's importance as a vital link to the rail system.

—Wallace Slough

9/28/2009 12:27 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Thomas Rubarth"

Thank you! The Solano was quite a ship in her time.

It is possible that the Solano and Contra Costa may have been the "largest verifiable wooden hull" ships ever built (the Contra was longer by 13 feet). I say this because one of the ships that is usually at the top of this list (there are others if you measure "largest" in different ways) is the Wyoming, a 6-masted sailing ship. Here is a dimensional comparison between the Solano and the Wyoming (disregard the Gross Tonnage since we are not sure about those figures)...

If true, it seems odd that the largest wooden ship happened to be designed and built by a railroad and not a traditional ship builder.

It must be neat to be able to ply those waters as often as you do. Here are some pics that may give you a better idea how these ferries looked years ago...

Here is a postcard that shows the hull on the Contra Costa at the naval academy, and below this is a recent aerial of the area. The "V" wave is a marker buoy (hazard?), but the dark muddy area appears to be revealing the Contra Costa's hull. One story says the Contra Costa hull was used as a construction barge during the building of the Golden Gate Bridge but we have not yet seen any pics of such a large barge at the Golden Gate site during its construction.

You are right about the Solano. She burned to the water line on July 4th, 1983. Stray fireworks set it ablaze. Here is how she looked newly scuttled as a breakwater for a marina at Antioch CA (sometime around 1931), and in the years before the blaze...

...and how "Solano Island" looks these days (as you well know).

The Contra was scrapped in Oakland. Here is an aerial view that shows where the Contra was dismantled (see upper left of this 1930's aerial) and also a pic of her being dismantled (we just got this pic the other week).

If you are interested, we have a "not ready for prime time" website with a bunch of slides we may use to give talks on the Solano someday. The Solano is also featured in a Huell Howser California's Gold video. In the video we visit the wreck site by boat. And if we can get the Solano model out to the Bay Area again, my brother gives a great talk using the Solano model to demonstrate the real ferry, as many train and boat enthusiasts in the SE Michigan area can attest to.

Thanks Wallace for your interest in the Solano and Contra Costa. There are a lot of people that just don't care about the past. Yet there are so many cool things "back then" that we now just barely hang on to in memories in photos.

—Thomas Rubarth, Omaha, Nebraska

9/28/2009 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Douglas Designs"
Subject: Port Costa railroad facilities

I've read with interest the story of the research and construction of the beautiful model of the Solano. Very impressive. I would like to model the SP railroad facilities of Port Costa in S scale for a National S Scale meet in Duluth, MN this summer. I've read on your web site that Jim Turner's brother is working on modeling the railroad facilities for your project. Do you have plat maps or plans for the railroad buildings available? I would like to model the roundhouse, depot, freight house and the other buildings. I'll be thankful for whatever help you can offer.

—Douglas Hodgdon

P.S. I did find the Port Costa plat map on your site, but I can't read the building descriptions or dimensions.

10/05/2009 6:18 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "James Schwerdt"

I was certain that I was aware of all the ferries in the bay area. Today we met a fellow fishing at a park near Port Costa who pointed out two boilers rusting away in the waters off from the tracks. He told us that this was the remains of the ferry that served Benicia, Vallejo and Port Costa. That the ferry grounded itself and consequently used as a restaurant / bar for many years. Read the article about the Solano and what happened to that boat. Were there two ferries serving the needs of the area or is this rusting pile the Solano? How fascinating to discover this ferry line that to me was an unknown.

5/07/2011 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Subject: Ferry Anchors

Hello my name is Ronnie Villa. My grandfather R.M.Villa lived in Sacramento for years during which time he would go down to where a ferry had wrecked. He would take a steel rod and poke around in the mud and look for salvage mostly bottles. Well, about 35-40 years ago he found 2 anchors in the mud, it took him and 4 or 5 men to get them out, I now have them in Phoenix AZ where he brought them when he retired. (He is now deceased). These things are huge about 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall and about 200 plus pounds. My question is do you know of a better home for them where they could be displayed for the general public to enjoy? I Googled Sacramento Ferry and found you and am hoping you could point me in the right direction as I am just starting to try to get them home. ...


5/20/2012 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Kevin Gardei"
Subject: Solano

I saw the Huell Howser show on the Solano, and Benicia. I have even gone to the spots he shot his show from. I honestly loved the whole time. I however, went over to the river where i thought the Solano was laid to rest and never could find exactly where she is. I can see in the show a power pole, plus the guide mentioned he sets his boat on the "ramp" next to, but could not find that ramp. Do you have a idea exactly where She lies? ...

—Kevin Gardei

11/23/2016 10:50 AM  

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