Ocean Shore Railroad

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Trace of the Ocean Shore rail grade can be clearly seen at top center-right, between shore and road. Tunitas Beach is at bottom center.

The Ocean Shore Railroad was a railroad built between San Francisco and Tunitas Glen, and Swanton and Santa Cruz that operated along the Pacific coastline from 1905 until 1920. The route was originally intended to be continuous but the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, financial difficulties, and the advent of the automobile caused the line to remain divided into a Northern and Southern Division.


Route as envisioned in 1908

Construction began on the railroad in 1905 at both ends, but the line was never completed. The April 18, 1906, earthquake caused major damage and delayed completion of the railroad. A major tunnel was built at Devil's Slide; another tunnel was built near Davenport. There were numerous bridges and trestles along the route. The tracks from San Francisco were completed as far south as Tunitas Creek, south of Half Moon Bay. The tracks north from Santa Cruz were completed as far north as Swanton, north of Davenport. Trackage within the city of San Francisco was electrified, while the rest of the line was operated with steam locomotives, and later, with self-propelled railcars. Despite significant passenger patronage, especially on weekends, the railroad never recovered from losses in the 1906 earthquake and failed to attract enough freight traffic to cover increasing deficits.[1]

A never-built branch would have split from the mainline and run along what is now 19th Avenue, Eucalyptus Drive, 47th Avenue, Rivera Street, and 48th Avenue to Golden Gate Park.[2]

Completion of the Pedro Mountain Road in 1913 provided additional competition to the railroad, particularly since many farmers began using trucks to transport their produce to San Francisco, instead of paying expensive freight charges.[3]

Mainline service was abandoned in 1920. The line north from Santa Cruz was leased to the San Vicente Lumber Company, which continued to the use the tracks until 1920. Electrified trackage within the city of San Francisco, which served major industries, was operated for many years, in part by the San Francisco Muni.[1] A segment of the railroad in the southeast section of San Francisco was also operated by the Western Pacific Railroad. This section was in use until the mid-1980s and was the last part of the Ocean Shore in operation.

Following abandonment, the railroad company fought for decades over ownership of their right-of-way, large portions of which they had purchased wholesale rather than as easements. The company reincorporated as the Ocean Shore Railroad Company, Inc., on November 16, 1934 and continues to exist as this legal entity to manage the sales and leasing of various properties the company still owns in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties.[1]


San Vicente Creek tunnel at Davenport

Portions of the right of way can be seen along the Rockaway headlands and along the railway berm in Pedro Point. The huge cut between Fairway Park and Vallemar was blasted out by railroad engineers. Several railroad stations still stand. One is now the Vallemar Station Grill, located at 2125 Coast Highway. Another is Tobin Station on San Pedro Point (corner of Danmann Avenue and Shelter Cove Road). The former outdoor shelter was enclosed many years ago and is now a private residence.[4] The former Edgemar Station was located near the intersection of Clifton road and Waterford Street, Pacifica as is clearly shown on the official Ocean Shore Railroad grade diagram. The small office building at the corner of Manor Drive and Oceana boulevard has sometimes been mistaken for the Edgemar Station.

A hotel built next to the tracks in Montara, has been greatly remodeled and remains in business as a bed and breakfast inn.[5]

The Montara Station still exists as a residence at the corner of Second Street and Main Street. The name "Montara" can still be seen in the pavement near the front door.

The Moss Beach Station may still exist as a residence.

The North Granada Station, heavily remodeled, is now a restaurant at the corner of Capistrano Road and Avenida Alhambra. The Granada Station was moved a block from its original location and is now a residence at the corner of the Alameda and Avenida Portola.

Another is the Arleta Station, at Railroad Avenue and Poplar Street in Half Moon Bay, which exists relatively unaltered as a residence. Also in Half Moon Bay, the old Kelly Street Station was relocated to a site near the Johnston House at Highway One and Higgins Canyon Road and serves as a daycare facility.

Liddell Creek tunnel exit on Bonny Doon Beach, Davenport

A small section of the track can be seen today crossing 13th Street in San Francisco in front of Best Buy. From that point the tracks crossed Harrison Street and ran up 12th Street to the terminal station at Mission Street. Up until just a few years ago the tracks still existed on 12th Street. Going South from Division Street, the line ran down Florida Street to Mariposa Street, where it turned left and ran to Potrero Street. There it turned right and ran down Potrero Street, then to the east of Bayshore and then following what is Alemany Street today. (Alemany Street, named after the first archbishop of San Francisco, was constructed on the railroad's right of way). Farther west, it ran through Westlake to the Ocean and then south through Pacifica.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jack R. Wagner: The Last Whistle: Ocean Shore Railroad. Howell-North Books, Berkeley, 1974, ISBN 978-0-8310-7107-3
  2. ^ Chevalier, August (1911). "The "Chevalier" Map of San Francisco" – via David Rumsey Map Collection.
  3. ^ San Mateo County Historical Society
  4. ^ June Langhoff, The Ocean Shore Railroad (2001: City of Pacifica)
  5. ^ Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund[original research?]
  6. ^ John Redmond

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]