It may be hard to believe now, but San Francisco was once dominated by railways. Before private cars crowded this hemmed-in city, rail was the only way to get around the challenging terrain, and the rail industry rose to the task with many innovative systems. Some of these were herculean, with massive bores through rocky hills, or elaborate cable and counterweight systems to handle steep inclines. Others were simpler, horse-drawn affairs that took passengers from the downtown and waterfront areas to outlying districts. The distinct flavor of San Francisco's neighborhoods owes much to the early rails, as these cars enabled residents to form their own enclaves and still interact with the commercial heart of the city. Some rail systems presaged today's commuter lifestyle-one even ran all the way down Mission Street to far-off San Mateo. Only a few of the many rail systems that once served this city remain.
About the Author
Here, rail historian Paul C. Trimble, author of Interurban Railways of the Bay Area and The Platform Men, draws from his extensive collection of vintage photographs to tell this unique story. Along the way, Trimble beautifully illustrates the symbiotic bond between San Francisco's early railways and the riders and communities they served.
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