Western Railway Museum Trains Pt 1
This last weekend I was visited by my grand daughter and since she has never been on a train ride, we took her to the Western Railway Museum off of Highway 12 in Suisun City, Ca. It was quite the experience. I have been on steam trains and diesel, but this is the first for historical electric trains. Most of us have been on electrical trains, out here it is called Bart for Bay area Rapid Transit. It is your basic streetcar service and commuter train. What I didn’t know was that they had an electric train that went from San Francisco to Sacramento. Nor did I know that the Bay Bridge, which spans the Bay between Oakland and San Francisco, had trains and trucks on the lower level. Cars went both ways on the top. We actually rode two trains one was quick 15 minute ride and the other was about an hour.
Most of the trains in the museum were of Bay Area origins , but some started life in other parts ofthe country, although I did not pay enough attention to tell you which ones. At one time the Electric trains was the way to go. It would take forever to get from one side of the city to the other (or other cities) by horse and buggy, so folks hopped on the train. We rode the train that operated in San Francisco was owned by Key Systems. Key systems went to Oakland, Berkeley,Alameda,Emeryville, Piedmont, San Leandro, Richmond, Albany and El Cerrito in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area from 1903 until 1960. During its heyday in the 1940s, the Key System had over 66 miles of track. Ridership started to fail and local streetcars were discontinued in 1948. The commuter trains to San Francisco were discontinued in 1958.
The Key System began as the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose Railway (SFOSJR) in 1902. On October 26, 1903, the system started with a 4-car train carrying 250 passengers, departing downtown Berkeley for the ferry pier. By the end of 1903, the general manager of the SFOSJR devised the idea of using a stylized map on which the system’s routes resembled an old-fashioned
key, with three “handle loops” that covered the cities of Berkeley, Piedmont (initially, “Claremont” shared the Piedmont loop) and Oakland, and a “shaft” in the form of the Key pier, the “teeth” representing the ferry berths at the end of the pier. The company touted its ‘key route’, which led to the adoption of the name “Key System”. During World War II, the Key System built and operated the Shipyard Railway between a transfer station in Emeryville and the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond.
Between 1946 and 1954 transbay fares increased from 20¢ to 50¢. The increase used to operate and for ‘motorisation’ which included streetcar track removal, repaving, purchase of new buses and the construction of bus maintenance facilities. Transbay ridership fell from 22.2 million in 1946 to 9.8 million in 1952. The Key System’s famed commuter train system was dismantled in 1958 after many years of declining ridership as well by the corrupt monopolistic efforts of National City Lines. The last run was on April 20, 1958. In 1960, the newly formed publicly owned AC Transit took over the Key System’s facilities.
Most of the rolling stock was scrapped, with some sold to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Several streetcars, interurbans and bridge units were salvaged for collections in the United States. Of the large bridge units, three are at the Western Railway Museum near Rio Vista, California while another is at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in southern California.