Sunday, July 15, 2012

How did the railroad passengers actually arrive in San Francisco?

From: "Cousins"

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!! ;-)