Dolores Street 1907

It’s my favourite thing, finding physical evidence of times past in the landscape of contemporary San Francisco. That’s why I was delighted when Aaron, a Sparkletack reader, sent me to a page of photographs snapped by a railfan in 1907.

The website displaying the photos is the passion of Amtrak engineer (and native San Franciscan) Frank Caron, and its name — Rails Around the Bay — is pretty much self-explanatory. The site is loaded with photos and history, and Frank describes this particular page of century-old rail photographs like this:

“The following photos are from the camera of Robert H. McFarland who grew up in San Francisco. Robert lived right on 22nd Street near Harrison where the original Southern Pacific mainline once ran and as a young man photographed all this action for us to see today. These photos were provided to me by Arnold Menke and are part of his collection. I thank him for allowing me to share with you today a sampling of the many photos that Robert McFarland took.”

The photos of these iron monsters steaming through the Mission are fantastic, but what really caught my eye was the fact that each photo came with a handy location description. What could I do? I had to create an interactive map! Those of you who enjoyed the Mission Street Railroad graphic are going to love this, too … it’s another look at the one-time “San Francisco and San Jose Railroad“, California’s first inter-city rail link. From 1864-1906 a $2.50 fare would bring you from San Jose to the terminal at 3rd and Townsend Streets. Crocker, Stanford and our other favourite robber barons absorbed the line into the Southern Pacific Coast Route in 1870, and it ran until sometime in the 1940s.

If you look closely at this map (choose “satellite” view), you can see the evidence of this long abandoned line all over the place, a still-vivid antique scar: the Juri Commons park between Guerrero and San Jose Avenue is a great place to start; the diagonal slice extends farther north- and east-wards across Shotwell between 24th and 23rd, then cuts through three rectilinear blocks before emerging at 21st and Harrison. It becomes Treat Street, then slices through several blocks between 16th and Bryant, and continues northwards, rolling out of range of ol’ Robert McFarland’s camera.

Google map after the break

View Larger Map

Visit Frank Caron’s site for contemporary photos and more history of the Southern Pacific’s Coast Line.