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Nostalgia & History > Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin


Date: 10/16/06 10:49
Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: shed47

Isolated from the rest of its system by San Francisco Bay, the Santa Fe once operated industrial trackage serving dozens of customers in San Francisco. Based at a 29 track yard at China Basin and connected to Point Richmond across the bay by a barge slip between Piers 50 and 54 this terminal operation is now history, wiped out by the almost total collapse of carload freight traffic in San Francisco in the 70's and 80's. The yard itself is now an empty lot undergoing environmental cleanup prior to the construction of office towers, but if you do some archaelogical exploration elsewhere in the area you can find evidence of what once was.

This trackage served freight customers along Illinois St.(two tracks and I believe jointly operated with SP), shippers west of 3rd St. along the eastern slope of Potrero Hill, and at Piers 48 and 50. The following link shows a track chart of the immediate China Basin area. Click on "Clicbooks" at the bottom of the page and scroll down to the Valley Division for additional San Francisco/Oakland/Richmond area track charts.
http://www.atsfry.com/EasternArchive/ClicBook/cval5p19.htm

Photos as follows:

--The China Basin barge slip that connected this trackage to the rest of the Santa Fe empire survives well preserved just south of Pier 50. A thanks to members of the Bayview Boat Club for allowing access for these shots.

--An electric motor drive raised or lowered the apron to meet barge heights and tidal variations. Note that it's three sets of tracks on the apron with some unique pointwork in the foreground.

--Not sure if the slip has acquired any historical status or not, but I'd be surprised if there were any immediate removal plans. That's Matson's "Lihue" docked at Pier 50 in the background.








Date: 10/16/06 10:58
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: shed47

--Looking south on Illinois in the City's Dogpatch neighborhood at what was once a double track section all the way to Army St. This little grade reaches a summit at 22nd St.

--Track 910 turns off Illinois and into Pier 70 at what is still an active drydock. There's nothing in Dogpatch the graffiti vandals can't get to.

--Remnants of track 906 survive headed east on 20th into the historic Union Iron Works site. This is an area steeped in San Francisco industrial and maritime history.








Date: 10/16/06 11:10
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: shed47

--Sheds A and B at San Francisco's historic Pier 48 were served by Santa Fe and the State Belt R.R. jointly. Tracks 1220-1221-1222 entered between the two buildings but I could find no surviving trackwork.

--The last double track section on Illinois is between Mariposa and 16th. This view looks north at that remnant.

--Very little evidence remains of the west of 3rd trackage(tracks along Iowa, Indiana, 16th, and Rhode Island Streets). One artifact is this lonely bumperpost at Carolina and 17th that marked the end of track 728. This spur once served California Caskets, a fitting end to this photo essay.








Date: 10/16/06 11:31
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: mococomike

The RR bridge on the 280 onramps at 18th street is still standing with tracks.



Date: 10/16/06 14:45
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: wharfrat

The service held it's own until the Point Richmond ferry slip burned in the very late 70's and the Santa Fe had to get their cars over there via some fowarding arrangement with the SP. They lost all intrest after that.



Date: 10/16/06 14:45
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: garrett

Wow, thanks for the great photo essay. I didn't know about the bridge. Any pictures of that?

I can only imagine how cool it was to see all of this industry served by the various railroads simultaneously.

garrett



Date: 10/16/06 15:13
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: stash

Interesting that there is mooring line faked over the railing of the old wharf like it's ready for another car barge.



Date: 10/16/06 16:13
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: rdsexton

That second shot of the bridge is fascinating. It takes a bit but it is evident that it has three tracks but they are spaced so that only one or two could be used at a time. I wonder how that worked. Did they have one and two-track barges or was there some other scheme involved?



Date: 10/16/06 16:16
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: davebb71

very interesting pics. i went to local.live.com and looked at the birdseye view of this thing and me thinks there are only two tracks going to the barges and one around to the side which makes a total of three and also the yellow building to the east of the car loader must be for boat storage because there is a ton of black rubber between its gate and the boat launch ramp to the west.

dave, out.



Date: 10/16/06 17:16
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: Evan_Werkema

wharfrat Wrote:

> The service held it's own until the Point Richmond
> ferry slip burned in the very late 70's and the
> Santa Fe had to get their cars over there via some
> fowarding arrangement with the SP.

The fire actually happened in 1984. Santa Fe was already petitioning to abandon transbay barge service, so the fire was somewhat convenient. The railroad embargoed operations and got the CF7 stationed at China Basin back via the SP. The remains of the Richmond slip still exist, with a new fishing pier recently built alongside.

About the track arrangement, Santa Fe's barges did indeed have three tracks. They were spaced a reasonable distance apart in the middle of the barge, necking down at one end to match the very tight arrangement seen on the ferry slip. They only loaded one track at a time, so this wasn't a problem.

Another ghost, the former Santa Fe tug Edward J. Engel, is currently moored at Alameda just north of the Park St. bridge from Oakland, CA. It's now painted white and green and named "Respect." According to the most recent SFRH&MS "Running Extra," a fellow named Derek Conant is trying to rally support to preserve it. http://www.derekconant.com/saveships/,



Date: 10/16/06 19:55
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: shed47

mococomike Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The RR bridge on the 280 onramps at 18th street is
> still standing with tracks.

Here's the stretch of track Mike mentions--the rubber grade xing is for a s/b I-280 onramp but the track is now removed from the short bridge section. This is the only notable section of track left in the west of 3rd/Potrero Hill section of the ATSF in S.F.(and I walked the whole damn thing). It's between spur tracks 821 and 825 on the CLIC book map below. While I-280 obliterated some sections, in others the alleyways, easements and old loading docks are still very evident.






Date: 10/16/06 20:30
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: fjc

Pier 50 was serviced by the SP, reefers were spotted there inside the port building, right up until the end when things started being developed and the RR tracks served little use to anyone.

shed47 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> --Sheds A and B at San Francisco's historic Pier
> 48 were served by Santa Fe and the State Belt R.R.
> jointly. Tracks 1220-1221-1222 entered between
> the two buildings but I could find no surviving
> trackwork.
>



Date: 10/17/06 21:28
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: XMOP

rdsexton Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That second shot of the bridge is fascinating. It
> takes a bit but it is evident that it has three
> tracks but they are spaced so that only one or two
> could be used at a time. I wonder how that worked.
> Did they have one and two-track barges or was
> there some other scheme involved?


Several of the "short haul" rail barges taper at the ends, not unlike most vessels. I am guessing that the floats were just three tracks, but the two outside tracks fanned to normal spacing on the barge. Loading these is a real challenge. A few cars in the middle then a few on one side and a few on the other side. Watch your loads and empties, if the barge gets out of trim you are in real trouble. I have seen cross slopes of 5 to 10 degrees when the C&O was loading box cars of used bricks on their float operation in Newport News, VA. They almost lost that one.

Is it possible that someone might have some drawings of these car floats?

Google Earth's vievw of the transfer bridge today.


Ron Zimmer




Date: 10/17/06 21:36
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: Evan_Werkema

XMOP Wrote:

> Is it possible that someone might have some
> drawings of these car floats?

I've never seen drawings, but a number of good photos showing the layout are in the book _Valley Division Vignettes_, and in _Santa Fe Heritage Vol.2_ starting on p.151.



Date: 10/18/06 12:05
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: TCnR

Watched them unloading and then loading a barge at Harbor Island in Seattle on the UP quite a few years ago, amazed at the angle of the barge and the concept of the rails on the apron staying in-line. The apron was taking up most of the angle offset but was obviously twisted. Both crews moved very fast, the sea crew tossed the lines and off they went. Think it was an Alaska run but not sure, later saw ARR cars in the yard.

> -----
... Loading these is a real challenge. A few
> cars in the middle then a few on one side and a
> few on the other side. Watch your loads and
> empties, if the barge gets out of trim you are in
> real trouble.
>
>



Date: 10/18/06 14:36
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: XMOP

TCnR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Watched them unloading and then loading a barge at
> Harbor Island in Seattle on the UP quite a few
> years ago, amazed at the angle of the barge and
> the concept of the rails on the apron staying
> in-line. The apron was taking up most of the angle
> offset but was obviously twisted. Both crews moved
> very fast, the sea crew tossed the lines and off
> they went. Think it was an Alaska run but not
> sure, later saw ARR cars in the yard.
>
> > -----
> ... Loading these is a real challenge. A few
> > cars in the middle then a few on one side and a
> > few on the other side. Watch your loads and
> > empties, if the barge gets out of trim you are
> in
> > real trouble.
> >
> >


That would be the operation north and west of Terminal 18 and near the radio tower.

Yes that is the transfer run to Whittier, Alaska.

There are several things to note about that operation. The barges used have many more tracks than the the transfer bridge has. Therefore, the barge must be shifted back and forth as the railcars are loaded. I am fairly confident that those large barges have an active ballast system, so that the crew can shift ballast to aid in maintaining accepatble trim, and the wider vessel can tolerate a slightly greater trim angle. The other thing about that particular transfer bridge is that it uses pontoons with an active ballast system to raise and lower the water end of the bridge. This is different than the cable and counterweight system seen on the Santa Fe transfer bridge at San Francisco. Well the one cell is flooded and they cannot pumpit out. I believe that is the west or left one as you look at it from the land end. It is therefore necessary to get all of the lift from the east pontoon, So when the bridge is not resting on the vessel, as it must durring railcars transfer, the cross slope is really extreme. The other note come from the fact that today's locomotives are too heavy for the transfer bridges. To keep the locomotives off the bridge, they use a long string of old flats and skeleton cars between the Locomotive and the railcars being loaded or unloaded.

The other transfer bridge in Seattle is over near Terminal 30 off Alaska Way. (See Photo)








Date: 10/18/06 15:59
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: stash

XMOP Wrote:
> The other note come from the fact
> that today's locomotives are too heavy for the
> transfer bridges. To keep the locomotives off the
> bridge, they use a long string of old flats and
> skeleton cars between the Locomotive and the
> railcars being loaded or unloaded.


Santa Fe used boat flats to move cars on and off barges. The switch engines didn't go on to the barge. Over in Oakland at Alice St., Santa Fe had a 44-tonner for that service.



Date: 02/13/18 09:32
Re: Ghosts of the Santa Fe at China Basin
Author: Seventyfive

I wasn't a TO member when this was first posted. What an especially interesting
set of photos, maps and info. Many thanks to all who contributed. Next time I
am in the Bay area I will see what is left.



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