East Bay Electric Lines

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East Bay Electric Lines
East Bay Electric Lines (1911) (14572334499) (cropped).jpg
An East Bay Electric Lines train, 1911
OwnerSouthern Pacific Railroad
Began operationJune 1, 1911[1]
Ended operationJuly 26, 1941[1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification1200 V DC Overhead lines

The East Bay Electric Lines were a unit of the Southern Pacific Railroad that operated electric interurban-type trains in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.[2][3][1] Beginning in 1862, the SP and its predecessors[4] operated local steam-drawn ferry-train passenger service in the East Bay on an expanding system of lines, but in 1902 the Key System[5][6] started a competing system of electric lines and ferries. The SP then drew up plans to expand and electrify its system of lines and this new service began in 1911. The trains served the cities of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro transporting commuters to and from the large Oakland Pier (the "mole") and SP Alameda Pier. A fleet of ferry boats ran between these piers and the docks of the Ferry Building on the San Francisco Embarcadero.

The East Bay Electric Lines became the Interurban Electric Railway (IER) in December 1938 in anticipation of the completion the following month of the tracks on the lower deck of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge to the San Francisco Transbay Terminal. SP IER transbay commuter train service ended in July 1941.


1927 map of the East Bay Electric Lines near their full extent

The East Bay Electric Lines[1] were originally designated mainly by the names of their principal streets. They received numbers for Bay Bridge service. The most significant changes occurred as the result of the removal of the Harrison St. bridge between Oakland and Alameda in December 1923, and the agreement with the Key System in March 1933, with the Bay Bridge plans in view, to abandon duplicating lines, on the basis of which company first served each area.

The Oakland 7th Street Line carried the most passengers, with the Berkeley Shattuck Avenue Line being second. Patronage was at a maximum about 1920 and had declined by about half by the time of Bay Bridge operation.

The SP seemed to prefer to have groups of their lines terminate at the same place. Three lines originally terminated at Thousand Oaks in Berkeley, two at 14th and Franklin in Oakland, and two at High St S. in Alameda. The IER had two lines terminate at Thousand Oaks and two lines at West Alameda.

  • Berkeley, California St Line - Thousand Oaks station at the intersection of Solano and Colusa Avenues (Colusa Wye) in Berkeley, via Colusa, Monterey, private right-of-way, California, Stanford to the upper platform of the Oakland 16th St Station, thence to Oakland Pier. Terminated March 1933.
  • Berkeley, Shattuck Ave Line (originally Berkeley Branch Railroad steam line) - Thousand Oaks station (Colusa Wye) in Berkeley, via Solano, private right-of-way, Northbrae Tunnel, Sutter, Henry, Shattuck (stopping at Berkeley Station),[7] Adeline, Stanford to the upper platform of the Oakland 16th St Station, thence to Oakland Pier. Designated Line # 3 (local) and # 9 (express) for Bay Bridge service, re-routed direct to the bridge with no stop at Oakland 16th St Station. During Bay Bridge operation, the last train of the day (early morning) to leave San Francisco was extended from Thousand Oaks along the outer 9th St Line to Albany (San Pablo Ave) because there was no 9th St Line service at this time;[8] this was the last IER service when terminated in July 1941.[9]
  • Berkeley, 9th Street Line - Thousand Oaks station (Colusa Wye) in Berkeley, via Solano, Jackson, private right-of-way, 9th Street to private right-of-way to Stanford to the upper platform of the 16th Street Station in Oakland, thence to Oakland Pier. Designated Line # 5 for Bay Bridge service, re-routed direct to the bridge with no stop at Oakland 16th St Station. Terminated July 1941.
  • Berkeley, Ellsworth St Line - Ellsworth and Allston Way in Berkeley, via Ellsworth to Woolsey, Adeline, Stanford to the upper platform of the Oakland 16th St Station, thence to Oakland Pier. Line shortened one block to Bancroft Way in 1931. Terminated March 1933.
  • Oakland, 7th St, Dutton Ave Line (originally San Francisco and Oakland Railroad steam line) - Dutton Ave and Bancroft in San Leandro, through the neighborhoods of Eastmont (with freight service to the Chevrolet plant that became Eastmont Town Center decades later), Havenscourt, and Seminary, via Bancroft, Almond St, then private right-of-way to 90th Ave, then Blanche St to 82nd Ave, then private right-of-way to Ritchie Ave, then Beck St to 73rd Ave, then private right-of-way to Church St, then Beck St to 64th Ave, then private right-of-way to Seminary Ave, then Bond St to private right-of-way leading through Melrose and along the SP main line tracks through Fruitvale[10] to 7th St, then 7th to Oakland Pier. Originally, regular trains operated only as far as Havenscourt, with a Suburban Connection train meeting every other train and operating to Dutton Ave. Starting in February 1924 all trains operated to Dutton Ave., but the last few cars of each outbound train were removed at Seminary Ave, then added to the front of the next inbound train.[11] During rush hour an additional express train operated via Alameda Pier and the Lincoln Avenue line, stopping only at Park St N. (Alameda), crossing the Fruitvale Bridge, joining the 7th St line east of Fruitvale Station, and making limited stops to the end of the line.[12] Designated Line # 2 (local) and # 7 (express) for Bay Bridge service, and re-routed via the upper platform of the Oakland 16th St Station. Starting in March 1939, all cars operated through to Dutton Ave.[11] Terminated March 1941.
  • Alameda, Encinal Ave Line (originally South Pacific Coast Railroad steam line) - High St South, via Encinal, Central, Main, private right-of-way to Alameda Pier. Outbound trains arriving at High St South became inbound Lincoln Ave trains. Designated Line # 4 eastbound and # 6 westbound for Bay Bridge service, starting at West Alameda, via private right-of-way, Main, Central, Encinal,[13] Fernside, private right-of-way, Fruitvale Bridge, private right-of-way alongside Fruitvale Ave to junction with 7th St line at Fruitvale Station. Terminated, January 1941.
  • Alameda, Lincoln Ave Line (originally San Francisco and Alameda Railroad steam line) - High St South, via Fernside, private right-of-way to Alameda Station at Park St, then Lincoln to 5th St, then private right-of-way to 4th St, Pacific, Main, private right-of-way to Alameda Pier. Outbound trains arriving at High St South became inbound Encinal Ave trains. Designated Line # 6 eastbound and # 4 westbound for Bay Bridge service, starting at West Alameda, via private right-of-way to Main, then Pacific to 4th St, then private right-of-way to 5th St., Lincoln[14] to Alameda Station, private right-of-way,[15] Fruitvale Bridge, private right-of-way alongside Fruitvale Ave to junction with 7th St line at Fruitvale Station. Terminated, January 1941.
  • Alameda via Fruitvale (Horseshoe) Line (originally Central Pacific Railroad steam line) - Alameda Pier (or other Alameda location on Lincoln Ave line) to Oakland Pier via Fruitvale Bridge. An important purpose of this line was to give Alameda residents access to main-line trains at Oakland Pier. Terminated, January 1939.
  • Oakland, 18th Street Line - 14th and Franklin Station, via Franklin to 20th, 20th (alternating with 21st) to West Street, then via diagonal private right-of-way to 18th Street, 18th to the upper platform of the Oakland 16th St Station, thence to Oakland Pier. In 1926, starting at Webster and 2nd St via Webster to 20th to Franklin and as before. Terminated March 1933.
  • Oakland via Alameda Pier Line (originally South Pacific Coast Railroad - steam line) - 14th and Franklin Station, via Webster, Harrison St bridge, to private right-of-way to Alameda Pier. Terminated December 1923.
  • Crosstown Streetcar Line - Oakland 16th St Station, via 18th St, then via diagonal private right-of-way to West St to 20th (alternating with 21st) to Franklin, through 14th and Franklin Station to Webster St to Harrison St bridge to private right-of-way to Mastick (Alameda) to 8th to Central to Encinal to Fernside to private right-of-way to Lincoln to Mastick and back. Alternate cars went around the Alameda loop in the opposite direction. Some service was to 14th and Franklin only. In December 1923, all service was cut back to the 14th and Franklin station. Terminated March 1926.
  • Mail trains - Starting in December 1923, mail trains, usually consisting of one box motor, loaded sacked mail several times a day at Oakland Pier and delivered it to Oakland 16th St Station and to Berkeley Station. Mail from Oakland Pier was also delivered to Alameda Station, using trains of cars being sent from Oakland Pier to the Alameda Shops for maintenance and repair. Terminated November 1938.


Electrical power at 1200 volts DC was supplied by the SP's power plant on the east side of the Tidal Canal along Fruitvale Ave. Substations were at Thousand Oaks, West Oakland and the power plant. The trains and streetcars used pantographs to obtain electrical power from overhead catenary wires. The equipment was maintained at the Alameda Shops,[16] located at West Alameda, on the Oakland Estuary. During bridge operation routine maintenance was performed at a shop in the Bridge Yards.[17]

The large steel cars, 73 ft. long, were moderately heavy in overall weight but low in weight per passenger due to their huge capacity 3-2 seating, giving a maximum of 116 passengers.[3][1] At first they were painted in standard railroad olive green, but were soon painted a bright red and became known as the "red trains" or "big red cars". The first group of cars arrived in 1911 from the American Car and Foundry Company (ACF) and consisted of 40 powered passenger coaches (motors), 25 powered combination baggage-passenger cars (combos), and 50 unpowered passenger coaches (trailers), some with train controls and some without. They had large rectangular end windows, which proved to be a liability for train crews in accidents.[18] These windows were replaced by smaller, distinctive round windows, or "owl-eyes", similar to but larger than those of the Pennsylvania Railroad's MP54 cars, in all cars except for trailers without train controls, which could not be used at the ends of trains.[14] The second group of cars arrived in 1912 from the Pullman Company and consisted of 10 motors, 4 combos, and 2 powered baggage-express cars (box motors), all with round end windows. The third group of cars arrived in 1924 from the St. Louis Car Company and consisted of 6 motors with round end windows, bringing the total number of cars for ferry-train service to 147.

The usual operating practice was that the number of powered cars in a train was at least one more than the number of trailers. Trailers, with or without train controls, were always placed in the middle of trains; train controls on trailers were mainly used in assembling or disassembling trains. As ridership declined and trains became shorter, trailers were primarily used only during rush hour. Combos were used to carry checked baggage to and from main-line trains at Oakland Pier and to deliver bundled newspapers. They were usually put on the end of the train toward Oakland Pier, and most commonly on the 7th St Line as far as Havenscourt or Seminary Avenue.[11] When plans for longer routes were not implemented,[19][20] 21 of the ACF combos were changed to motors at the time they received their round end windows in the 1920s. Due to the heavy grades on the Bay Bridge, 10 trailers were changed to motors in 1938 when all the passenger-carrying cars were modified with automatic train control and other safety equipment for bridge operation.[21] The California Toll Bridge Authority (TBA) funded these changes and received title to 58 cars in return. All cars carried the name "Southern Pacific Lines" until Bay Bridge service began, when the IER-owned cars were repainted with "Interurban Electric Railway Company".

In addition to the large cars already described, the SP took delivery in 1912 of 20 streetcars from the Pullman Company for its Oakland-Alameda streetcar line. In 1913 it found that they had too many of these cars so they shipped 10 of them to the Pacific Electric (PE).[22] By 1919 patronage had grown so the SP recalled two of the cars from PE.



The rival Key System assumed rights to some of the trackage and overhead wires of abandoned IER/SP routes.[3][1][5][6][23] This had first occurred due to the 1933 consolidation. In March 1933, the abandoned California St line in Berkeley from about Ada and California Sts, up Monterey Avenue to Colusa Ave, was used for the Key's Sacramento St Line (H line) until abandonment in July 1941. In April 1941, a portion of the abandoned 7th St, Dutton Ave Line in East Oakland, from East 14th St to Havenscourt Boulevard, was used to extend the Key's 12th St Line (A Line) until October 1950, when this line was cut back to 12th and Oak Sts. In August 1941, a portion of the Shattuck Ave line in Berkeley, from about Dwight Way to the south end of the Northbrae Tunnel was used to extend the Key's Shattuck Ave Line (F Line). In December 1942, the F Line was extended through the tunnel to the intersection of Solano Ave and The Alameda. The F Line was abandoned in April 1958.

Key System streetcars also used the IER Shattuck Avenue tracks from Parker St to University Ave until abandonment in November 1948.[24] During World War II the Key System used a portion of the 7th St, Dutton Ave Line tracks in Oakland on 7th St, from Broadway to Pine St, for streetcar service[25] to a shipyard and most of the 9th St track of the 9th St Line for the Richmond Shipyard Railway.

SP freight service continued over parts of the 9th St, Shattuck Ave, 7th St and Lincoln Ave Lines. An excursion train pulled by a steam locomotive was operated over this track in April 1954, by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association.[26] By 1960, all except the part from the 9th St Line had been abandoned.

The most noticeable remaining structures from the SP/IER lines are the Northbrae Tunnel, now used to extend Solano Ave eastwards, turning to the south to connect with Sutter St, and the Alameda shop building, now used by private businesses.


After the SP streetcar line was abandoned in 1926, all 12 cars were sold to the Key System.[27][28]

After IER service ended, the TBA separated its 58 cars from the SP's 89 cars. In 1942, the TBA sold 6 motors for scrap in January[29] and the remaining 52 cars to the Houston Shop Corp., which shipped them via the SP to Houston. One of the TBA trailers was wrecked in transit, so the SP replaced it with one of its trailers. The SP sent the 2 box motors to the PE,[30] in March and April used 5 trailers for buildings in West Oakland,[31] and stored their remaining 81 cars until they were requisitioned in July and September by the United States Maritime Commission for use in transporting workers to World War II shipyards: 20 trailers to a line in the Portland, Oregon, area and 61 cars to the PE in Southern California where some of them were in use until that system ceased operations in 1961.[32] Many cars were reassigned to other locales during World War II.[33] A few of the cars have been preserved and can be seen and ridden at the Travel Town Museum in Los Angeles,[34] the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista, California (in need of restoration), and the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.

See also[edit]

  • The Key System;[5][6] another transbay commuter rail system that served the East Bay during the same era.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ford (1977).
  2. ^ Guppy
  3. ^ a b c Tufveson.
  4. ^ See under Lines.
  5. ^ a b c Sappers (1948).
  6. ^ a b c Demoro (Parts 1 and 2).
  7. ^ Red car (before bridge) at Berkeley Station
  8. ^ INTERURBAN ELECTRIC RAILWAY COMPANY TIME TABLE, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, San Leandro, March 25, 1940, Form 1.
  9. ^ Ford, (1977), p. 278.
  10. ^ IER train at Fruitvale Station
  11. ^ a b c Ford (1977), p. 329.
  12. ^ Southern Pacific TIME TABLES, SAN FRANCISCO, OAKLAND, SAN LEANDRO, BERKELEY, ALAMEDA, Ferry and Electric Train Service, Form 7, May 1938.
  13. ^ "IER car on Encinal Ave line at Chestnut station". Archived from the original on 2010-12-19. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  14. ^ a b IER car on Lincoln Ave. line at Bay St. station.
  15. ^ "IER car on Lincoln Ave. line at Alameda Station". Archived from the original on 2010-12-19. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  16. ^ Alameda shops
  17. ^ Ford (1977), p. 245.
  18. ^ Original train (combo, trailer, motor) in Alameda
  19. ^ Demoro, Part 1, p. 40.
  20. ^ Ford (1977), pp. 115, 123, map on p. 128.
  21. ^ Ford (1977), pp. 250-251.
  22. ^ Swett (1964), pp. 84-85.
  23. ^ Sappers (2007).
  24. ^ Sappers (2007), pp. 175-176.
  25. ^ Sappers (2007), pp. 114, 116, 120, 155, 168, 234.
  26. ^ Ute & Singer, p. 125
  27. ^ Sappers (2007), pp. 440-441.
  28. ^ Demoro, Part 2, p. 275.
  29. ^ Sappers (1965).
  30. ^ Swett (October, 1965), pp. 572-573.
  31. ^ Southern Pacific Co. records.
  32. ^ Swett, (April 1965), pp. 388-409.
  33. ^ Some of this information is known, some is not, and contradictory statements have been published on some points.
  34. ^ LAMTA #1543 Archived June 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine


External links[edit]

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