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Long Before High-Speed Rail, the Transcontinental Railroad Was All the Rage

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This week the country's first bullet train project finally broke ground in Fresno. Planned to eventually link the Transbay Terminal in SF to LA in three hours flat, the high-speed rail line still has some major funding hurdles to clear (and some political ones) before the projected 2029 finish date. Nonetheless, in honor of bringing train travel back to the masses, we're taking a look back at some of the Bay Area train stations of yore. Some have been lost and others repurposed, but California's railroad history is a rich one.

When California became a state in 1850, it was essentially geographically cut off from the major cities of the East Coast. Cross-country transportation was expensive and dangerous, while the sailing route could take up to eight months. The long journey not only prevented convenient passenger travel but also limited economic growth, since agricultural products couldn't be easily imported or exported. Eventually, by 1869, the Central Pacific (led by the California's "Big Four") and Union Pacific Railroads combined tracks to complete the First Transcontinental Railroad. Within four years, the length of railroad track in the US more than doubled. The new lines served as catalysts to new towns throughout the state as communities formed around train depots—often the first buildings to be constructed.

Note: this photo collection is by no means comprehensive. If there's a station we missed that you'd like to see, leave a note in the comments and we'll try to dig up some more photos.

SAN FRANCISCO


SOUTH BAY


EAST BAY


NORTH BAY


· Railroad History [California State Railroad Museum Foundation]
· Railroad Beginnings in California [Rails West]
· Transcontinental Railroad [History Channel]
· Railroad Whales Were Richer Than You Could Ever Hope to Be [Curbed SF]