Sacramento Northern Railway

BAERA (the founder of the Western Railway Museum) Fan Trip with the 1005 in January 1957.

The Sacramento Northern Railway's mainline spanned 185 miles not including its numerous branch lines, streetcar lines, and bus lines. The Sacramento Northern also had a ferry boat, the Ramon, which brought both passenger and freight trains across Suisun Bay.

Originally, the Sacramento Northern consisted of two separate electric railways: the Oakland Antioch & Eastern (OA&E) and the Northern Electric Railway. The OA&E completed its line from San Francisco to Sacramento in 1913. The Northern Electric Railway's line ran from Sacramento to Chico. In 1920, both railroads merged and became the Sacramento Northern. The railroad was later purchased by the Western Pacific (WP). Passenger service stopped in 1941. Freight service in the Oakland Hills stopped in 1957 due to the Oakland Terminal Railway's new Union Street connector, which allowed the SP and WP to switch freight. The railroad later dieselized and dried up from the south and stopped running altogether in the 1980s. Today, BART uses old Sacramento Northern right of way from Walnut Creek to Concord.

Click here to see a full system map.

The South End


Thornhill Drive & Moraga Avenue

The Southern end of the line started at the Transbay Terminal in at First & Mission Streets in San Francisco. From there trains traversed the state owned Bay Bridge Railway to Emeryville. Trains then used the Key System's Line C tracks to get to the SN's yard at 40th & Shafter in Oakland. The train then climbs through the Oakland Hills to Montclair and then enters a tunnel in Shepherd Canyon. The line then runs through central Contra Costa County to a ferry slip near Pittsburg called Mallard. Picnic trains ran from San Francisco to Lake Temescal and to other nice spots in Contra Costa County. Trains also brought students to Saint Mary's College in Moraga.

A lot of track remains between Chipps, the ferry slip on the other side of Suisun Bay. This remaining track is mainly due to the Western Railway Museum's ownership of most of the right of way. From Chipps until Molena (the southern end of the Western Railway Museum's property), there are sections of trestle that are in various stages of decay. The WRM's track then runs 15 miles from Molena to Dozier. The right of way is well preserved and about 5 miles of it are restored for electric operation with more to come in the future. Riding trains at the museum is pretty much the same as it was 100 years ago: same equipment and same landscape (except there are quite a few modern windmills along the line). After Dozier, where the Vacaville branch turns off, the track disappears all the way to Sacramento. Some of the coolest trackage on this section was across the landmark Tower Bridge in Sacramento. I have heard rumors that rail might once again return to this bridge.

Click to view a map of the mainline and the SN's streetcar lines in Sacramento.

Interpretive Panels at Lake Temescal and Shepherd Canyon

Five Boy Scouts including Daniel Levy installed the Lake Temescal Panel on June 22, 2006. A box on the front page of the Oakland Tribune's Metro Section appeared on June 26. Also check out articles from the Montclarion (July 21, 2006) and Oakland Heritage Alliance News (Summer 2006).

Scouts including Daniel Levy installed the Shepherd Canyon panels in early September of 2006. One panel was about the Sacramento Northern and the other was about Highway 77, which was planned to pass through Shepherd Canyon. Check out an clipping of the installation in the Montclarion (February 23, 2007).

Danville Branch

Learn more at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville, CA.

Pittsburg Branch

Vacaville/Fairfield Branch

The Vacaville Branch has had two lives. The first branch left the mainline at Creed. Then, when Travis Air Force base was built, because the branch trackage went right through the base, the army relocated the track to the north at no cost. The new track intersected the mainline at Dozier, where it still does today. Some years later, the UP bought the right of way, and after abandonment, the Western Railway bought it for preservation and as their primary and only connection to the mainline.

The North End

Sacramento to Chico

Woodland Branch

Colusa Branch

Oroville Branch


Sacramento Northern (Interurban Special #9) - Ira Swett (1950)
Sacramento Northern (Interurban Special #9) - Ira Swett (1963)
Cars of the Sacramento Northern (Interurban Special #32) - Ira Swett (1963)
Sacramento Northern Album (Interurban Special #34) - Ira Swett (1963)
Sacramento Northern Railway (Images of Rail) Paul C. Trimble (2005)
Electric Railways Around San Francisco Bay Volume 2 - Donald Duke (2000)
Temescal Legacies - Jeff Norman (2006)
Sacramento Northern - Harre Demoro (2009)


California Electric Trilogy

San Francisco Bay Area Rail Transit Retrospective

Electric Railways Around the Bay

The Sacramento Northern Electric Railway 1940

Kenneth Shattock's SN North End Video: See Key Route Group


Sacramento Northern On-Line
This site has great articles with pictures on the Sacramento Northern.

SacNorthern Group
SacNorthern is the best place to be a Sacramento Northern enthusiast.

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!

East Bay Hills Project
Photos of the Sacramento Northern Mainline from Rockridge to Walnut Creek.