Sunday, July 15, 2012

How did the railroad passengers actually arrive in San Francisco?

From: "Cousins" emily91401@gmail.com

I write historical novels and am researching California railroads in 1885. My protagonist, an wealthy Englishman and foreign investor, travels from New York City to San Francisco, on train of course, to meet with Crocker and Stanford (just prior to Stanford’s departure for the next session of Congress).

Currently I have done much research on the internet and have read and re-read Richard White’s great book Railroaded. Next, if I can find an affordable copy, will be Octopus. But so far, I have not been able to find specific details that I would like.

The real (first two) questions are:

1. How did the passengers actually arrive in San Francisco, the city, not just the Bay Area outside of Oakland?
2. Exactly where did they arrive. The Ferry Building did not exist in 1885.

The ferry steamer, The Solano, was in use by 1885. When a transcontinental train came through the northern Sierras, through the Central Valley and into the Bay Area, would it have been transported by the Solano? It appears that the Solano operated from Benicia but did not ever dock in SF itself. How would the passengers have gone from the Solano to SF?

The Oakland long wharf, the official terminus of the transcontinental route, extended far into the Bay but if I am correct, the passengers left the train to take a ferry across to SF. There was no train ferry for that leg of the journey from Oakland that I can find.

I need to get my Englishman off the train and into SF so that he may get to his wonderful rooms at the Palace Hotel!

THEN he needs to take a train to Hanford, CA from SF. I know the offices of the SP were at Townsend and 4th; I need to locate the SF train depot, in 1885, unless would-be passengers needed to ferry back to Oakland and catch a train headed to the San Joaquin Valley. The maps I have found do not have that level of detail.

Last Question then is:

3. Was there a train depot in SF in March of 1885 and if so, where was it located; or did one need to depart from Oakland? ...

Amanya Wasserman, Writer, Historical Fiction, Los Angeles CA
(yes, I lived and worked in SF and the Bay Area, but alas, I had to move south!! ;-)

6 Comments:

Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kyle K. Wyatt"

I’ll try and answer some of the questions.

Richard White’s book is an impressive work, but its whole purpose and direction would provide you with little information that would help you with the types of questions you are asking. As to Frank Norris’ book The Octopus, as a work of pure fiction written with a very different purpose, I fear it will give you even less of use – its characters and situations, while sometimes drawing vague inspiration from some real person or event, have been so molded and stylized to serve the purposes of the story that they would provide little actual information about the people and events in question. I imagine you should be able to find a copy on line for free.

Anyway, your train would descend from the high Sierra Nevada mountains crossing of Donner Summit and arrive at the Arcade Station in Sacramento (built 1879), located right next to the Central Pacific/Southern Pacific railroad shops.
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Link - as it was in the 1920s
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Here is a list of Central Pacific Stations, Officers, and Agents
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For reference, here are the rules of the Central Pacific baggage department.
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Leaving Sacramento (still on the same train) you would cross the swing bridge across the Sacramento River (this one placed in service in 1878).
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Then you would proceed on to Benicia, where your entire train would be uncoupled into parts and loaded onto the train ferry Solano (built 1879) – including your locomotive.
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A scale model of the Solano, representing a slightly later period.
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[continued below]

7/18/2012 10:56 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The train ferry would carry you across Suisun Bay (a branch of San Francisco Bay) to Port costa, where your train would be reassembled and continue on its way. From there you would go to the Mole (train and ferry terminal opened 1882) in Oakland, adjacent to the Long Wharf.
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Link - ca 1905
Link - ca 1910
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A scale model of the Mole
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[continued below]

7/18/2012 10:58 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From the Mole you would take a passenger ferry to the Ferry building in San Francisco.
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The present San Francisco Ferry building was preceded by an earlier structure in the same location, at the foot of Market Street. That earlier structure was completed in 1875. See the following photos:
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From the Ferry building he would catch a cable car of the Market Street Cable Railway (opened in 1883 replacing horse cars) up Market Street to the Palace Hotel. The cable cars on Market Street were standard gauge (instead of narrow gauge like the surviving cable car lines), and the cars were rather larger than the surviving cars today.
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Link - scroll down
Link - enlargement of above photo (less caption)
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Link - power house at Valencia and Market Streets

The Palace Hotel was of course the grand destination. (Note the original burned in 1906 and was replaced with the present structure.)
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[continued below]

7/18/2012 11:00 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

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A bit on Victorian San Francisco generally
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To travel to Hanford you would retrace your steps to the Ferry Building, and cross on a ferry to the Oakland Mole. There you would catch a different train that would travel south from Oakland, east through Niles Canyon and over Altamont Pass to Lathrop (just south of Stockton), then south down the San Joaquin Valley to Hanford.

The Southern Pacific train station in San Francisco was adjacent to the Southern Pacific headquarters building at 4th and Townsend Streets. Trains from here went south to San Jose, and then further down the coast line to Santa Cruz, Monterey, and the southern Salinas Valley.
Link - note SP headquarters building behind depot

Reportedly an early view of the Hanford depot
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Hanford in 1877
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Hope that helps.

—Kyle Wyatt

7/18/2012 11:00 AM  
Blogger ae wasserman said...

Kyle – I have been negligent in thanking your for such a wonderful detailed “itinerary” for my traveler! This is wonderful information as you have held my hand going the final stages of the trip into San Francisco. There is so much rich history for us to surround ourselves with. And of course the trip to Hanford through Niles canyon makes perfect sense. I’ve driven that route many times, but for some reason was thinking a trip south would have taken a train passenger to San Jose, but that would not have gotten my main character over into the Central Valley. Now I am correctly headed in the right direction.

9/22/2012 11:28 PM  
Blogger Sybil Bates McCormack said...

Hi, Kyle. I am writing this comment several years after Ms. Wasserman's; but I, too, must thank you for the exceptional research you put into responding to her original inquiry. You have saved me hours of work on a novel I am writing from the same period, and I I can't tell you how much I appreciate this.

3/12/2016 12:26 PM  

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