September 2, 1863 - San Francisco and Oakland Railroad goes into operation

October 29, 1869 - First locomotive enters Oakland via transcontinental tracks

November 8, 1869 - First transcontinental train enters Oakland 1

Railroad Facilities in Oakland

(These are topics anybody is more than welcome to expand on, each has its own history. Some have disappeared with the sands of time, others remain.)


Oakland once hosted several full-size railroads and several model railroads as well. West Oakland contained the large Classification Yard and Shops of the Southern Pacific Company (nee Central Pacific Railroad) at the general locale of 7th & Cedar Streets. The Western Pacific yard and shops was located along Middle Harbor Road west of the old Adeline Street overpass. The Sacramento Northern yard was located at 40th Street & Shafter Avenue. The great shops of the Key Route (Key System) were located in their “Yerba Buena Yard” complex on the Oakland/Emeryville border, bounded by Hollis Street and San Pablo Avenue. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (AT&SF) Railroad had a passenger and freight station and small yard, right off of 40th & San Pablo, opposite the shops of the Key Route. The Southern Pacific shops for the famous electric commute trains they operated for many years were located in West Alameda. The Alameda Belt Line served industrial customers thruout Alameda and interchanged with the Southern Pacific via the Fruitvale railroad bridge. The Oakland Terminal Railroad served industrial customers in West Oakland and was originally owned by the Key Route. In 1943, the Western Pacific and Santa Fe jointly bought the OTR from the KEY. The largest station for handling both local and Transcontinental rail passengers was the famous Oakland Pier (aka Oakland Mole) located at the foot of 7th Street where the Marine Terminal is now located. It existed from 1882 to 1960 and handled various trains for the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, Santa Fe, and Interurban Electric (SP “Red Trains”)… It was also the main docking point for the various Southern Pacific ferries, connecting rail passengers to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Some of the most famous “Model Railroads” in the Oakland area were the Golden Gate Live Steamers in Redwood Regional Park, now located in Tilden Park, Berkeley. Also, Victor Shattock’s amazing Live Steam indoor layout in the basement of his home at 38th Avenue & Foothill Blvd. Then there was one of the largest scale miniature Trolley and Interurban layouts in O-gauge in the basement of the home of Paul Icanberry on Park Avenue in Alameda. And to top it off, the great Eastbay Model Engineers Society layouts on Halleck Street in the West Oakland/Emeryville area.

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Passenger Service


Amtrak Coach Yard/ Maintenance Facility

At the foot of 3rd and Union streets a large repair facility was built in the 1990s for Capitol Corridor service. Also used to repair long distance Superfleet cars and the care and storage of Private Varnish as well. Locomotive and Car repair for Amtrak and CalTrain locomotives (on rare occasion)

16th Street Station

The main terminal built by the SP in 1912 in beautiful beaux-arts style. Served on the ground level by multiple tracks, all of SP’s best name trains. The Oakland section of the Daylight, the Shasta Daylight, the Overland Limited, the C.o.S.F. the San Joaquin, amongst others. An upper deck with an ambitious pair of approach trestles was used by the Interurban Electric Railway (IER) “Red Cars”, an SP Subsidiary.

Jack London Square Amtrak Depot

An ambitious modern design, built in the early 1990’s to replace passenger service at 16th street station following the crippling Loma Prieta earthquake making the 16th Street station unsafe for use. Features a very large passenger overpass and an airy glass depot waiting room. Served by the Capitol Corridor Trains, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, and the Westernmost terminus of the San Joaquin

Former SP station at Embarcadero & Broadway

This handsome brick depot was razed in the 1960’s and replaced by Jack London Inn.

Oakland Mole (SP)

This was the main gateway for most travelers from San Francisco via ferry since its construction. The SP, WP & ATSF all used this terminal for their passenger trains until the late 1950’s.

IER Mole in Alameda

The Interurban Electric Railway had a fleet of steel interurban cars that served Oakland, Alameda & Berkeley along the former South Pacific Coast lines, and operated a separate ferry terminal from the busy Passenger Terminal at the SP Oakland Mole. Service was terminated in 1937.

South Pacific Coast Mole in Alameda

A victim of multiple fires, but always rebuilt, the earliest ferry pier served Alameda and points south and east on the beautiful South Pacific Coast (SPC R.R.) 3-foot narrow gauge from the 1870’s - 1906.

Oakland Mole (WP)

There’s a park and observation tower of recent construction on the west peninsula marking the site of the old WP mole. Passenger trains eventually shifted to the SP mole, while freight service continued into the 1970s ending with the WP’s Las Plumas being retired from service.

Key System

Key System Pier & Shops

On the approach to the Bay Bridge, the last two vestiges of a large yard and facility dedicated to the Key System streetcars remain, One is a long, large metal building now used at the CalTrans paint shed, the other is a former electrical substation that stepped down high voltage power to the right 600V overhead power for the trains. The Key System ferry pier was just beyond the substation, and was a direct connection between the Ferry Building in SF and Oakland’s network of streetcar lines.

Piedmont Key System Terminal

The still extant building at 41st and Piedmont Ave. used to feature a small multi-track train shed for the Key System streetcars and interurbans to terminate. The building now sports a mural of one of the Key System “bridge unit” cars.

Key Route Inn

A beautiful tudor-style hotel build by Francis Smith was located downtown, but succumbed to fire not long after it was built. It featured a very unique feature, the Key Route cars ran directly through the middle courtyard of the hotel, bisecting the handsome hotel.

Key System East Oakland Shops

Past 50th & International was the site of the Key System shops for the route out to that point, one of the brick carbarns still stands, albeit modified.

Carbarn at Grand & Harrison Street.

Behind the Cadillac LaSalle dealership (Now a Whole Foods) lies the former carbarn for Key System trains for the Lakeshore neighborhood.

Key System E1st & 18th Ave Shops

On the site of the Merritt Bakery and Lucky’s supermarket was the old Key System streetcar carbarns. The yard throat ran down the oddly angled street that began at the corner of 1st & International Blvd. The Carbarns were closed by 1948.

BART Stations

  • Oakland Coliseum
  • Fruitvale
  • Lake Merritt
  • 12th Street
  • 19th Street
  • Mac Arthur
  • Rockridge

Freight Railroads

Southern Pacific

  • Diesel Shops/ Cape Canaveral
  • Fruitvale Junction & Lift Bridge to Alameda
  • Street Running down Embarcadero
  • Desert Yard
  • Intermodal Facility

Western Pacific

  • WP Yards & Shops
  • Street Running down 3rd Street
  • WP Depot

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe

  • Berkeley Depot
  • ATSF Industrial Trackage

Sacramento Northern

  • Shepherd Canyon Tunnel
  • 40th & Shafter Yard

Oakland Terminal Ry.

  • West Oakland Street Trackage (Wood & Poplar Streets)
  • Key System Flyover Trestles
  • Oakland Army Base Interchange

Howard Terminal Ry.

  • Former dock facilities where modern intermodal terminal is today

Alameda Belt Line

  • Car Float Operations
  • Del Monte Cannery
  • NAS Alameda Interchange
  • Alameda Belt Line Yard

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Links and References

  1. Railroad Celebration at Oakland Daily Alta California November 9, 1869