Presidio & Ferries Railway

by Joe Thompson

Where Should I Go from Here? Visit the Map

pf train At the corner of Montgomery and Washington, Presidio and Ferries customers transferred from Washington/Jackson horse cars to cable trains that ran out Columbus to Union and then out Union to Steiner. Photo circa 1890. (Source: OpenSFHistory / wnp26.335.jpg). August, 2018 Picture of the Month.

line: Union Street

opened: 23-Oct-1880. Montgomery Street (now Columbus Avenue) from Washington to Union, Union to Steiner.

extended: 1892. Union from Steiner to Baker, Baker to Lombard, Lombard to the Presidio. Private right of way in the Presidio to the main post.

powerhouse: Union and Leavenworth

grip: Hallidie bottom grip, screw-operated

grip: converted to Stut grip, lever-operated (?) in 1892. The shanks of the Hallidie grip were not strong enough to go around the pull curves in the extension.

gauge: 5'0"

cars: double-ended dummy & trailer trains.

turntables: cross overs.


notes: This was the only cable car line other than the Clay Street Hill Railroad to use the Hallidie bottom grip. It was the first cable car line to go around a corner, with a let-go curve at Columbus & Union. All previous lines had operated straight from terminous to terminous.

The company operated a horse-car line on Washington annd Jackson which connected the Ferry Building to the eastern end cable line. Before the 1892 extension, the company ran a steam dummy line on Steiner, Greenwich, Baker, and private right of way to the Presidio. After the extension, the steam line ran on Baker from Greenwich to the Harbor View Resort (now the Marina district). Read about the company's steam operations in "When Steam Ran on The Streets of San Francisco, Part I," by Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria.

JCH Stut

The Hallidie grip's shanks were not strong enough to stand the pull curve in the extension, so it was replaced by a new grip, designed by JCH Stut.

Cable car operations were wiped out by the earthquake and fire in 1906. The entire system was converted to an electric line. The company was taken over by the city in 1913. The line became the E Union Street line of the San Francisco Municipal Railway. It is now the 41 Union trolley bus line.

for sale An ad offering a nice lot at Leavenworth and Green, handy to the Clay Street and Union Street lines. From the 26-July-1881 Daily Alta California.

Some contemporary newspaper articles about operations and incidents.

Columbus and Jackson Presidio & Ferries customers transferred from Washington/Jackson horse cars to cable trains that ran out Columbus to Union. Note the broad gauge tracks.

Union Street, 1906 Presidio & Ferries tracks along Union Street, severely twisted by the 1906 Earthquake (Source: [group 50:15410], Zelda Mackay Collection of Stereographic Views, BANC PIC 1905.14906-.16118 -- STER, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

Presidio & Ferries Profile Presidio and Ferries Railway profile (Source: Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (LC-HABS/HAER) HAER,CAL,38-SANFRA,137-2)
Union & Leavenworth layout Union/Leavenworth powerhouse in 1899. Union is to the right. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, San Francisco, 1899-1900, Vol 4, Sheet 394).
Union & Leavenworth layout Jefferson/Lyon roundhouse in 1899. Jefferson is at the top of the map and Lyon is to the right. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, San Francisco, 1899-1900, Vol 4, Sheet 389).

Harbor View Harbor View with a Presidio and Ferries steam train (Source: "The Various Bathing Resorts," San Francisco Call, 25-May-1895).

PF Steam Dummy Presidio & Ferries steam dummy operating on the Harbor View extension before 1906 (Source: [group 5:50b], Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection, ca. 1850-ca. 1968, BANC PIC 1905.17500--ALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

seaside gardens ad A notice that the 24 piece US Presidio Band would play noon concerts every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at Seaside Gardens, "Presidio -- Terminus of Union-street Cable Road." From the 09-July-1882 Daily Alta California.

Hello Central, Give Me the Presidio & Ferries

Here is the Presidio & Ferries Railway's listing in the February, 1903 Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Company San Francisco phone directory:

East 802. Presidio & Ferries R. R. Co., Ofc. Union & Sharps Pl.

Dedicated volunteers at San Francisco Genealogy typed in every page of the book.

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Copyright 1996-2018 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.

Last updated 01-October-2018