San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway

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San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway
Locale Vallejo-Napa-St. Helena-Calistoga
Dates of operation 1905–1937
Successor Greyhound, Navy Department
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 42 miles

The San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway, later briefly reorganized as the San Francisco and Napa Valley Railroad, was an electric interurban railroad in the U.S. State of California.[1][2]

The line originated at the port of Vallejo where it met the ferry connection to San Francisco. From there, it headed northwards for a total of 41.7 miles (67.1 km)[3] to terminate at Calistoga, passing through Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena. The system began service to Napa on July 4, 1905, and reached Calistoga on September 2, 1908.

The line paralleled a branch line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, part of which became the route of the Napa Valley Wine Train in 1987. When the Southern Pacific ended its passenger train service on this line in 1929, the mail contract was given to the electric line.

Much of the early passenger equipment consisted of graceful wooden cars manufactured by Niles and very similar to some equipment of the Sacramento Northern Railway. By 1931 the line operated 9 motor passenger cars with 5 unpowered trailer passenger cars, and one electric locomotive with twenty freight cars. The line used 25 Hz AC at 3,300 Volts[3] rather than the direct-current equipment used on most interurban railroads.[4]

Two steel cars built in 1933 were the last traditional interurban cars built in the United States before PCC streetcars were designed.[5] Passenger service continued despite several setbacks until 1937, when the ferry service was discontinued; without the ferry traffic, the line could not survive. The last passenger trains operated on September 12 of that year, and the last mail trains on September 30. On February 13, 1938, a farewell excursion train was operated between Vallejo and Napa for the Electric Railway Historical Society of California.

Following the end of passenger service, the company continued with bus service to San Francisco, but sold it to Greyhound in 1942. A stretch of track north of St. Helena was taken over by the Southern Pacific and used as a freight spur into the 1980s. The freight service to Mare Island Naval Shipyard remained and was taken over by the Navy Department in 1956.[6] In 1957 the company was dissolved.

The parallel SFNCR and SP rights of way can still clearly be seen in Calistoga, where the terminus of the SFNCR track is still visible in the pavement on Washington Street just southeast of Lincoln Avenue, whereas the SP Depot is a block farther northeast on Lincoln at Fair Way (formerly Railroad Avenue). There is an historical marker across the street from the Calistoga Fire Department, which is on the location of the SFNCR depot.

The railroad's former car barn located at Sixth Street and Soscol Avenue in Napa is still standing. [7]

1913 wreck[edit]

On June 19, 1913, two trains of the San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway collided head-on in the worst interurban accident in the state of California.[8] Thirteen people were killed.[9]


  1. ^ Swett & Aitken
  2. ^ Hilton & Due, pp. 403-404.
  3. ^ a b Demoro (1986) p.201
  4. ^ Brennan, Nancy (2010-04-11). "Shock of the new: Harry Ayres and Napa's electric railway". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  5. ^ Demoro (1986) p.116
  6. ^ Guido
  7. ^ Courtney, Kevin (2009-12-20). "Hidden history in Napa". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  8. ^ Swett & Aitken, pp.189-209.
  9. ^ Demoro (1986) p.118