Interurban Electric Railway (Southern Pacific)

red train at heinz avenue

Heinz Avenue (near Ashby) and 9th Street in Berkeley.

The Southern Pacific's "steam locals" provided the first transbay service from the East Bay to San Francisco. Steam engines chuffed down Adeline in Berkeley to the pier in west West Oakland. Once the Key System was formed in 1903, the Southern Pacific had a hard time competing with the clean and fast trains run by the Key System. To better compete, the Southern Pacific converted its steam local lines to electric lines, which began operation in 1905. People later nicknamed the Southern Pacific's trains the "Red Cars" because of the large red cars (like the one to the left) that were used after the conversion to electric operations.

Southern Pacific Electric trains, along with the Key System and Sacramento Northern, began to operate on the Bay Bridge on January 15, 1939. Due to the bridge operations, the system changed its name to the Interurban Electric Railway (IER). The IER stopped running trains in 1941 along with the Sacramento Northern. Many of the cars from the IER were sent to Los Angeles for service on the Pacific Electric until the early 1960s.

The Red Cars on the Bridge

Line 2: Bancroft Avenue to Dutton Avenue in San Leandro

This line ran from San Francisco, down 7th Street in West Oakland to Lake Merritt. It then shared the Southern Pacific's mainline tracks until 46th Avenue, where it turned up towards East 14th Street and went down what is now Bancroft Avenue to Dutton Avenue in San Leandro. It is important to note that Bancroft Avenue was not a street when the trains were running (view image). It was rather private right of way that was turned into a street after the trains were gone.

Line 3: Stanford - Adeline - Shattuck - Thousand Oaks

Line 4: Encinal Avenue

Line 5: Ninth - Solano

Line 6: Lincoln Avenue


Electric Railways Around San Francisco Bay Volume 1 - Donald Duke
Red Trains in the East Bay (Interurban Special #65) - Robert S. Ford (1977)
Red Trains Remembered (Interurban Special #75 - Robert S. Ford (1980)
Western Railroader - Issue 199, Vol. 19, No. 7, May, 1956, IER "The Big Red Cars"
Western Railroader - Issue 318, Vol. 29, No. 7, July, 1966, IER Pictorial (corrected picture captions below)
== p. 8, upper photo, Alcatraz and Adeline
== p. 10, lower photo, Testing the San Francisco terminal trackage.
== p. 16, upper photo, End of track at Dutton Ave. is shared by a Number 2, Seventh Street, local and a Number 7, Dutton Avenue Express.


Electric Railways Around the Bay


Bay Area Rails
Bay Area Rails is a good site for looking at historic photos of the interurbans of the East Bay.

Western Railway Museum
The Western Railroad Museum is located at Rio Vista Junction, which was a stop on the Sacramento Northern Mainline. Visit!