[Various cities in Alameda and xx counties, Ca. ca. 1881-1920]. 163 photographs, ranging in size from 4 x 6 to 5 x 9 1/2 inches, the majority measuring 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches and corner- mounted. Oblong folio. Green mottled paper boards, gilt stamping on front board, brown cord binding. Some wear to extremities. Several leaves loose, but all present as per the contemporary pagination on the leaves. Some leaves chipped at edges. A few photos creased or bowed, but overall quite well-preserved. Very good. Item #WRCAM55567
A substantial album documenting the history of streetcars and their crews across several cities in the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area. While the cable car is one of the dominant signifiers of San Francisco, this album demonstrates that entrepreneurs and city planners in the East Bay were hard at work providing mass transit systems in growing Alameda County, including the cities and towns of Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, Alameda, Hayward, and Piedmont. The album features not only a number of street cars and lines, but also the workers and conductors on the lines. Almost all photographs are captioned and many have notes on the verso as well, identifying the location and/or the conductors, crew, and maintenance workers featured. Though not in chronological order, some photographs are dated as early as 1881, with some of the earliest views apparently being copy prints. There are early views of horse-drawn streetcars, or "horsecars," which make way for electric-powered streetcars, and finally in the last photo, the bus (from the Key System). Additionally, there are a number of photos of the power stations which supplied the electricity for the trains, as well as photos of the support vehicles and technicians who kept the cars running, the tracks maintained, and the electricity flowing. Southern Pacific Railroad built the first streetcars in Oakland in 1884, which were primarily intended to serve passengers going to and from the ferry docks. These lines expanded as small railroad companies attempted to fill rising demand, including Piedmont & Mountain View Railway Co., Oakland Traction Company (Oakland Transit Co., Oakland Consolidated Street Railway), Oakland, San Leandro and Hayward Electric Railway, Oakland Railroad (Oakland Cable Railway), and over thirty other small railways that popped up and were absorbed into increasingly larger systems. But things really took off with the "Key System." The Key System began as the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose Railway (SFOSJR), incorporated in 1902, consolidating most existing streetcar and railway lines. Key was backed by Francis Marion Smith who, after making his first fortune in borax, turned to focus on real estate and transportation. The name "key" came along because the early route map resembled an old-fashioned key, with the three handle loops covering the cities of Berkeley, Piedmont, and Oakland, a shaft in the form of the pier, and the teeth as the ferry berths on the pier. The SFOSJR went bankrupt in 1923 and re-organized as the Key System Transit Co., making its nickname the company's formal name. Key System streetcars operated as a separate division under the name Oakland Traction Company (a very early company) which was later changed to East Bay Street Railways Ltd., and then to East Bay Transit Co., once the use of buses became more widespread. A remarkable collection of images revealing that transit has always been an issue - and never a simple one - in the Bay Area.