Alameda Terminal

Last updated
Alameda Terminal
Alameda Terminal.jpg
Alameda Terminal, ca. 1869
Location Naval Air Station Alameda
Alameda, California
Built1864 by the San Francisco and Alameda Railroad (1864-1870) [1] :7
DesignatedJune 8, 1949 [2]
Reference no.440 [2]

Alameda Terminal (a.k.a. Alameda Wharf) was a railroad station and ferry wharf at the foot and west of present-day Pacific Avenue and Main Street in Alameda, California, on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay with ferry service to San Francisco. [3] [1] :1011 It was built in 1864 and operated by the San Francisco and Alameda Railroad. In 1869, it served as the original west coast terminus of the U.S. First Transcontinental Railroad, [1] :7 until the opening of Oakland Pier two months later. The western terminus was inaugurated September 6, 1869, when the first Western Pacific through train from Sacramento reached the shores of San Francisco Bay at Alameda Terminal, [4] thus completing the first transcontinental railroad to the Pacific coast.



Alameda Shore (Joseph Lee, c. 1868) depicts the ferry Sophie MacLane (left) approaching Alameda Wharf on August 25, 1864. Joseph Lee painting Alameda Shore (1868).jpg
Alameda Shore (Joseph Lee, c.1868) depicts the ferry Sophie MacLane (left) approaching Alameda Wharf on August 25, 1864.

In 1863, Alfred A. Cohen, a San Francisco lawyer, along with his associates, formulated plans to build a railroad and wharf to carry passengers not only to Alameda, but also by ferry to San Francisco. In 1864, he built a 3,750-foot-long wharf, starting from a spot near today's Pacific Avenue and Main Street westward, into the Bay at that time, and ending at part of today's Alameda Point where the USS Hornet sits anchored. On August 25, 1864, Cohen inaugurated passenger service, for 25 cents, from the wharf at Vallejo and Davis Street in San Francisco, via the leased river packet Sophie MacLane, to the Alameda Wharf and then five miles to his San Francisco and Alameda Railroad High St station. In September 1864, he leased the slightly larger Contra Costa. As business grew, he replaced the leased boat, in February 1866, with his very own ferry boat, the Alameda. [5]

First transcontinental train

After the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 authorized construction of the First transcontinental railroad and telegraph line, the first construction activity took place in 1863 eastward from Sacramento on the Central Pacific Railroad line. In October 1864, the Central Pacific Railroad assigned all the rights of the Pacific Railway Acts to the Western Pacific Railroad for the route between Sacramento and San Jose, including land grants. The plan was that the transcontinental railroad would follow the Western Pacific from Sacramento to San Jose and then connect with the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (SF&SJ), completed in 1864, to San Francisco.

By 1866, Western Pacific had built 20 miles (32 km) of track north and east from San Jose, reaching halfway into Niles Canyon, to about Farwell near MilePost33. [6] The Western Pacific used 500 Chinese laborers to grade and construct the rail line into the rugged canyon with its tight curves and narrow banks. [7] Construction was then halted because of disagreements between the railroad’s contractors and its financiers. [6]

In 1868, Central Pacific Railroad, a subsidiary of which had acquired the Western Pacific and Oakland Point, restarted work on the Western Pacific Railroad line starting at Sacramento working southward, as well as near Lathrop and Livermore, using upwards to 2,000 Chinese laborers. The new plan was to connect with Oakland and Oakland Point with its ferry service to San Francisco. After the golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, work resumed in June 1869 in Niles Canyon with track laying towards Livermore. Also in June 1869, J. H. Strobridge came to Niles (then Vallejo Mills [now part of Fremont]) to oversee the construction of the new line, with his crew of up to 600 Chinese laborers, heading towards Oakland. [8] By midsummer, Governor Stanford made known his hopes that the line be finished in time for the opening of the State Fair on September 6th. Thus in September 1869, a temporary connection was made at the bay side (west of Alvarado and Davis Sts) of San Leandro with the old tracks of San Francisco and Alameda Railroad, which led to the SF&A Alameda Wharf with ferry service to San Francisco. [1] :8

On September 6, 1869, the first Western Pacific train reached the shores of San Francisco Bay at Alameda Terminal, thus achieving the transcontinental Pacific Railroad envisioned in the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act. According to the Daily Alta California, this first through train left Sacramento at 10 am, got delayed by some construction trains, exited Niles Canyon late at 9:30 pm, and an hour later arrived at Alameda Terminal to a cheering crowd. [4] Continuing passengers boarded the ferry Alameda and crossed the Bay to the Davis St Wharf in San Francisco. [5]

The steamer Oakland, strengthened and converted into a car ferry capable of carrying up to four freight cars at one time, also began service in September 1869, from Alameda wharf to the San Francisco freight slip. [9]

Two months later, Central Pacific Railroad switched the western transcontinental terminus to its expanded Oakland Pier, which was inaugurated on November 8, 1869, in another round of celebration. [10] Alameda then went back to local passenger train service. Freight service from Alameda continued until 1870 when the freight slip at Oakland wharf and the new line through First Street, Oakland, were completed. [9] In 1870 the SF&A was absorbed into Central Pacific and in 1873 the SF&A pier was abandoned, [1] :9 at least for rail-ferry purposes. It was subsequently used by the Pacific Coast Oil Company which established its refinery adjacent to the wharf in 1880. It was listed in the local city directory as the business address of the E.M. Derby lumber yard from at least 1874 to about 1885. [11] [12]

Present day

California Historical Landmark #440: NW corner of Lincoln Ave and Webster St in Alameda 440AlemadaTerminal.jpg
California Historical Landmark #440: NW corner of Lincoln Ave and Webster St in Alameda

The railroads and their wharfs are gone from Alameda. The last rails were removed in 1960 from Lincoln Ave (formerly Railroad Ave and along which the SF&A rails ran). [1]

The achievement of the first transcontinental railroad reaching Alameda Terminal on September 6, 1869 is marked by a plaque in the Naval Air Station Alameda and a California Historical Landmark (CHL #440) nearby. [2] The GPS coordinates of the two markers are given respectively by 37.786779,-122.30292 (plaque); and 37.77535,-122.276891 (CHL #440). [13] [14]

On 6 September 2019, a "golden spike" ceremony was held in Niles Canyon, where the Western Pacific tracks laid in 1866 was linked with the Central Pacific tracks laid in 1869, [15] commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 6 September 1869 completion of the first transcontinental railroad to the Pacific coast terminus at Alameda Terminal. [16] Also, the mayor of the City of Alameda issued a proclamation recognizing "the outstanding contributions of the many Chinese immigrants who helped make the Transcontinental Railroad a reality". [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

Central Pacific Railroad

The Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) was a rail company chartered by U.S. Congress in 1862 to build a railroad eastwards from Sacramento, California, to complete the western part of the "First Transcontinental Railroad" in North America. Incorporated in 1861, CPRR ceased operation in 1885 when it was acquired by Southern Pacific Railroad as a leased line.

First transcontinental railroad US railroad built between 1863 and 1869

North America's first transcontinental railroad was a 1,912-mile (3,077 km) continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 that connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay. The rail line was built by three private companies over public lands provided by extensive US land grants. Construction was financed by both state and US government subsidy bonds as well as by company issued mortgage bonds. The Western Pacific Railroad Company built 132 mi (212 km) of track from the road's western terminus at Alameda/Oakland to Sacramento, California. The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (CPRR) constructed 690 mi (1,110 km) eastward from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) built 1,085 mi (1,746 km) from the road's eastern terminus at the Missouri River settlements of Council Bluffs and Omaha, Nebraska westward to Promontory Summit.

Transcontinental railroad Contiguous railroad trackage crossing a continental landmass

A transcontinental railroad or transcontinental railway is contiguous railroad trackage, that crosses a continental land mass and has terminals at different oceans or continental borders. Such networks can be via the tracks of either a single railroad or over those owned or controlled by multiple railway companies along a continuous route. Although Europe is crisscrossed by railways, the railroads within Europe are usually not considered transcontinental, with the possible exception of the historic Orient Express. Transcontinental railroads helped open up unpopulated interior regions of continents to exploration and settlement that would not otherwise have been feasible. In many cases they also formed the backbones of cross-country passenger and freight transportation networks. Many of them continue to have an important role in freight transportation and some like the Trans-Siberian Railway even have passenger trains going from one end to the other.

East Bay Eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, US

The East Bay is the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area and includes cities along the eastern shores of the San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay. The region has grown to include inland communities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. With a population of roughly 2.5 million in 2010, it is the most populous subregion in the Bay Area.

Niles Canyon Geographic feature in California, United States

Niles Canyon is a canyon in the San Francisco Bay Area formed by Alameda Creek, known for its heritage railroad and silent movie history. The canyon is largely in an unincorporated area of Alameda County, while the western portion of the canyon lies within the city limits of Fremont and Union City. The stretch of State Route 84 known as Niles Canyon Road traverses the length of the canyon from the Niles district of Fremont to the unincorporated town of Sunol. Two railroads also follow the same route down the canyon from Sunol to Niles: the old Southern Pacific track along the north side, now the Niles Canyon Railway, and the newer Union Pacific track a little to the south. At the west end of the canyon are the ruins of the Vallejo Flour Mill, which dates to 1853.

Vallejo Flour Mill

The first Vallejo Flour Mill, in present-day Fremont, California, was built in 1853 by José de Jesús Vallejo (1798–1882), elder brother of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, on his Rancho Arroyo de la Alameda. The Flour Mill was located at the mouth of Niles Canyon, then called Alameda Cañon, which served as the major course of Alameda Creek. A second Flour Mill was built in 1856, the stone foundation of which may still be seen today.

Niles Canyon Railway

The Niles Canyon Railway (NCRy) is a heritage railway running through Niles Canyon, between Sunol and the Niles district of Fremont in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, United States. The railway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Niles Canyon Transcontinental Railroad Historic District. The railroad is operated and maintained by the Pacific Locomotive Association which preserves, restores and operates historic railroad equipment. The NCRy features public excursions with both steam and diesel locomotives along a well-preserved portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.

California Pacific Railroad Defunct railroad from Vallejo to Sacramento and branches in Northern California, 1865-1876

The California Pacific Railroad Company was incorporated in 1865 at San Francisco, California as the California Pacific Rail Road Company. It was renamed the California Pacific Railroad Extension Company in the spring of 1869, then renamed the California Pacific Railroad later that same year. Its main railroad from Vallejo to Sacramento was completed six months prior to the May 1869 golden spike ceremony of the Central Pacific/Union Pacific Transcontinental Railway.

San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Pioneer shortline railroad from San Francisco to San Jose (1860-1870)

The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (SF&SJ) was a railroad which linked the communities of San Francisco and San Jose, California, running the length of the San Francisco Peninsula. The company incorporated in 1860 and was one of the first railroads to employ Chinese laborers in its construction. It opened the first portion of its route in 1863, completing the entire 49.5-mile (80 km) route in 1864. The company was consolidated with the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1870. Today, Caltrain and the Union Pacific Railroad continue to operate trains over the company's original route.

Sacramento Northern Railway Rail line

The Sacramento Northern Railway was a 183-mile (295 km) electric interurban railway that connected Chico in northern California with Oakland via the California capital, Sacramento. In its operation it ran directly on the streets of Oakland, Sacramento, Yuba City, Chico, and Woodland and ran interurban passenger service until 1941 and freight service into the 1960s.

Oakland Long Wharf

The Oakland Long Wharf was an 11,000-foot railroad wharf and ferry pier along the east shore of San Francisco Bay located at the foot of Seventh Street in West Oakland. The Oakland Long Wharf was built, beginning 1868, by the Central Pacific Railroad on what was previously Oakland Point. Beginning November 8, 1869, it served as the west coast terminus of the First Transcontinental Railroad. In the 1880s, Southern Pacific Railroad took over the CPRR, extending it and creating a new ferry terminal building with the official station name Oakland Pier. The entire structure became commonly and popularly called the Oakland Mole.

Alameda Creek

Alameda Creek is a large perennial stream in the San Francisco Bay Area. The creek runs for 45 miles (72 km) from a lake northeast of Packard Ridge to the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay by way of Niles Canyon and a flood control channel.

Ferries of San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay in California has been served by ferries of all types for over 150 years. John Reed established a sailboat ferry service in 1826. Although the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge led to the decline in the importance of most ferries, some are still in use today for both commuters and tourists.

South Pacific Coast Railroad

The South Pacific Coast Railroad (SPC) was a 3 ft narrow gauge steam railroad running between Santa Cruz, California and Alameda, with a ferry connection in Alameda to San Francisco. The railroad was created as the Santa Clara Valley Railroad, founded by local strawberry growers as a way to get their crops to market in San Francisco and provide an alternative to the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1876, James Graham Fair, a Comstock Lode silver baron, bought the line and extended it into the Santa Cruz Mountains to capture the significant lumber traffic coming out of the redwood forests. The narrow-gauge line was originally laid with 52-pound-per-yard (26 kg/m) rail on 8-foot (2.44 m) redwood ties; and was later acquired by the Southern Pacific and converted to 4 ft 8+12 instandard gauge.

This article lists the railroads and a timeline of railroad history in Solano County, California.

The San Francisco and Oakland Railroad (SF&O) was built in 1862 to provide ferry-train service from a San Francisco ferry terminal connecting with railroad service through Oakland to San Antonio. In 1868 Central Pacific Railroad decided that Oakland would be the west coast terminus of the First transcontinental railroad and bought SF&O. Beginning November 8, 1869, part of the SF&O line served as the westernmost portion of the transcontinental railroad. It subsequently was absorbed into the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). The track in Oakland was electrified in 1911 and extended across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1939. Service was abandoned in 1941.

The San Francisco and Alameda Railroad (SF&A) was a short-lived railroad company in the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay Area. The railroad line opened 1864–1865 from Alameda Terminal on Alameda Island to Hayward, California, with ferry service between Alameda Terminal and San Francisco started in 1864. After being bankrupted by the 1868 Hayward earthquake, it was acquired by a subsidiary of the Central Pacific Railroad in August 1869. Part of the SF&A line between Alameda Terminal and San Leandro served as a portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad starting in September 1869, while the southern section was abandoned in 1873.

The Western Pacific Railroad (1862-1870) was formed in 1862 to build a railroad from Sacramento, California, to the San Francisco Bay, the westernmost portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. After the completion of the railroad from Sacramento to Alameda Terminal on September 6, 1869, and then the Oakland Pier on November 8, 1869, which was the Pacific coast terminus of the transcontinental railroad, the Western Pacific Railroad was absorbed in 1870 into the Central Pacific Railroad.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Oakland, Alameda County, California, United States.

Third and Townsend Depot

The Third and Townsend Depot was the main train station in the city of San Francisco for much of the first three quarters of the 20th century. The station at Third Street and Townsend Street served as the northern terminus for Southern Pacific's Peninsula Commute line between San Francisco and San Jose and long-distance trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles via the Southern Pacific's Coast Line. For service for destinations to the north, such as Seattle, and destinations to the east, such as Chicago, passengers needed to travel to Oakland, initially on ferries to Oakland Long Wharf, and later on buses to 16th Street Station. It was demolished in the 1970s and replaced by the Caltrain commuter station a block away at Fourth and King Streets.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ute, Grant; Singer, Bruce (2007). Alameda by rail. San Francisco, CA: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN   978-0-7385-4706-0.
  2. 1 2 3 "Alameda Terminal of the First Transcontinental Railroad". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
  3. Mosier, Page; Mosier, Dan (1986). Alameda County Place Names. Fremont, CA: Mines Road Books. see map 3 for the location of Alameda Wharf
  4. 1 2 "The first through train on the Western Pacific Road". Daily Alta California 7 September 1869 — California Digital Newspaper Collection. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  5. 1 2 Evanosky, Dennis (July 17, 2015). "Alameda in History: Failed railroad led to thriving ferry service". Alameda Sun. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  6. 1 2 Luna, Henry; Pacific Locomotive Association (2005). Niles Canyon Railways. San Francisco, CA: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN   0-7385-2983-4. Western Pacific became the first railroad into Niles Canyon when their first 20-mile section of track was built from San Jose to a point in the canyon just beyond Farwell, when construction halted.
  7. "Niles Canyon Transcontinental Railroad Historic District". National Park Service. June 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  8. "Again in the field -- the Western Pacific Railroad". Sacramento Daily Union. June 5, 1869. Retrieved 5 June 2019. J. H. Strobridge, commence work upon the branch of the Western Pacific Railroad leading from Vallejo Mills to Oakland.
  10. "Railroad celebration at Oakland". California digital newspaper collection. Daily Alta California, Volume 21, Number 7172, 9 November 1869. Retrieved 10 May 2019. New York and Oakland are bound together by ties strapped with iron.
  11. A directory of the city of Oakland and the town of Alameda for the year ending 1874, Henry G. Langley, Internet Archive
  12. Husted's Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley directory, F.M. Husted, Polk-Husted Directory Co., 1884-5, Internet Archive
  13. "California State Historical Landmarks". Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  14. "Alameda Terminus of the 1st Transcontinental Railroad". Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  15. "'Golden Spike' Ceremony Held To Honor Niles Canyon Railway". Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  16. Evanosky, Dennis (5 September 2019). "Transcontinental Railroad Arrived 150 Years Ago". Alameda Sun. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  17. Ashcraft, Marilyn Ezzy (September 2019). "Proclamation: Transcontinental railroad recognition" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2019.