Rails West

The Eastbound California Zephyr boarding passengers at Western Pacific’s 3rd Street Station in Oakland, CA on June 21, 1968 as it begins its run to Chicago. In a year and half this part of the Zephyr would be history. The man in the suit is probably the station agent or a trainmaster.

I am taking a departure from railroads in West Virginia to share a few photos of passenger train operations in the San Francisco Bay area. I had an opportunity to travel by car in the summer of 1968 with my grandparents on a leisurely cross country trip. My grandfather had retired from the Huntington Publishing Company so there were no time restraints for them plus I was on summer break from Marshall University.

My grandmother’s sister lived in El Cerrito which was one of the communities across the bay from San Francisco. Her house was on a hillside that overlooked the bay. 1968 marked the fourth time that I had been west. Two times were by rail in 1958 and 1960 and the third by car with my mom, dad, brother and sister in 1965 that included my grandparents.

Another view of the California Zephyr as it pulls in from the coach yard and getting ready to board passengers (left photo). The classic rear of the CZ as it passes Broadway.

We spent about three weeks with my great aunt. This gave me an opportunity to do some rail fanning on my own. The one thing I wanted to do most of all was to photograph the California Zephyr at the 3rd St station in Oakland. The CZ also known as the Silver Lady ran between Chicago and Oakland and was operated jointly by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (Burlington Route) between Chicago and Denver, the Denver & Rio Grande Western (Rio Grande) from Denver to Salt Lake City, UT and the Western Pacific (WP) from SLC to Oakland.

Western Pacific station (left photo) on taken in June, 1968 after the CZ had departed. Contrast that with the photo on the right taken in July, 2008. Yes, I did make a fifth trip to the bay area with my wife and son by plane this time. The old station was remodeled and now houses private businesses. You will also note that the rail on 3rd St was removed or paved over.

It was public knowledge at the time that the WP wanted to discontinue its part of CZ citing loosing revenues. The WP finally received permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission on February 13, 1970 to discontinue its part of the CZ. The last train left 3rd St Station on March 20, 1970. I felt fortunate to see the CZ and photograph it a little over a year and a half before its last trip out of Oakland. While I was photographing the CZ someone walked by me asking why I was taking pictures. I remember that person remarking “it’s just a train!” Little did that person know that this “train” would soon be gone. For more on the CZ check Wikipedia on line or just Google California Zephyr.

With the shadow of the Richmond, CA depot in the foreground, Southern Pacific passenger train the San Joaquin Daylight passes by (Left photo) with classic F units. Station agent with SP passenger train, most likely the City of San Francisco. Note Pennsylvania RR sleeper behind the not so classic SDP45.

Another location I enjoyed hanging around was the Old Southern Pacific depot in Richmond, CA. I spent most time there because it was close to my great aunt’s home. The SP ran a number of passenger trains at this location and made train watching interesting. On one of my visits, a couple of older men befriended me and let me know about train operations on the SP in that area which included identifying the passenger trains for me. If I remember correctly they were retired railroad men and enjoyed train watching just as much as me.

Articulated coach on the San Joaquin Daylight. These are actually two cars that share a common wheel set known as a truck. Looks like the conductor was taking a break as he takes a lively step over the rail.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) more commonly known as the Santa Fe had a small presence in the Bay Area but did run at least one passenger train which I did photograph. The line at Richmond ran south to Barstow where it connected with the Chicago – Los Angeles main line which was known as the Transcon.

San Francisco Chief at Richmond, CA in July, 1968 with classic F Units in A-B-B-A arrangement. Note the high level cars back in the train. Amtrak uses these type cars today that were developed by the Santa Fe. Also note the C&O box car to the left of the lead locomotive.

Because of the mergers of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the railroad scene has changed the face of the Bay area railroads. The WP and SP are now a part of an expanded Union Pacific in 1982 and 1996 respectively. The Santa Fe is now BNSF Ry as a result of the merger with the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1995.

As a side note, I recorded the consist of passenger cars of the eastbound California Zephyr as follows:

CAR NAME                CAR NO.       OWNER         NOTES

Silver Antelope            1100             D&RGW         Baggage Car

Silver Pine                   1121             D&RGW         48 Seat Chair Car

Silver Stirrup                4722             CB&Q            Dome Chair Car

Silver Rifle                   4720                ”                            ”

Silver Bronco               1105             D&RGW                  ”

Silver Shop                  1140                ”                  Dome Dormitory – Buffet – Lounge

Silver Cafe                   193               CB&Q            Dining Car

Silver Dove                  450                  ”                  6 Dbl Bedroom / 5 Compartment Sleeper

Silver Falls                   427                  ”                 10 Roomette / 6 Dbl Bedroom Sleeper

Silver Chasm               430                  ”                                       ”

Silver Gorge                1132              D&RGW                             ”

La Jolla                         —                 RI*                 12 Bedroom Sleeper

Silver Planet                 882               WP                Dome Buffet – Lounge – Observation

* Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific RR.

For more info on these cars, except the Rock Island car, visit the website http://calzephyr.railfan.net/cars/cars.html


Please note that photos for this post only are not watermarked, but I do ask that you respect the ownership of these images. Any commercial use of these photos requires permission of the author.







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