clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Steam Train That Cut Through the Sand Dunes

Public spaces change fast here in San Francisco, and for better or worse, it can be pretty crazy when you see what the City used to look like. Every week, we'll bring you Then & Now, a comparison of historic photos of the Bay Area with current views from the same perspective. Have a suggestion for a photo comparison that looks totally different (or shockingly the same)? Drop us a tip in the Curbed Inbox or leave a comment after the jump.

Quick note: See that vertical green bar in the middle of the then and now photos? You can move it horizontally to see the photos side by side.

[1890 Then photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY/ Now photo: Google Maps] Some of the most striking images of early San Francisco come from the western neighborhoods, where miles of sand dunes were once uninhabitable by all but the most hearty and determined of pioneers. Curbed has covered the Cliff House and Sutro Heights in the past, but one of the most intriguing parts of that history is the steam train that used to traverse passengers over the dunes to their recreational wonderland.

Adolph Sutro's brother Gustav began the Park & Cliff House Railway in 1888, then sold the line to a private firm before completion. The line was combined with the planned Powell Street Railway to create the Ferries & Cliff House Railway. FCH operated a steam dummy line from the end of the Sacramento/Clay line. It traveled out California Street from Presidio to about 33rd Avenue, then went through a tunnel and around the cliffs near Lands End to a terminal at 47th and Point Lobos, near Sutro Heights and the Cliff House.

By 1905, the Ferries & Cliff House steam train around Lands End was converted to an electric streetcar line, which eventually became the #1 California Street line, now better known as the #1 California bus line.

· The Ferries & Cliff House Railway [Cable Car Museum]
· Ferries & Cliff House Railway [Cable Car Guy]
· Railroad and Street Car Timeline [Cliff House Project]

Cliff House

1090 Point Lobos Avenue, , CA 94121 Visit Website