Key System and March of Progress

Unfinished History


A Key System train on the Bay Bridge, depicted in the opening celebratory newspaper.


The Key System's B train enters the Bay Bridge, c. 1940s.

Photo: Emiliano Echeverria, via Facebook

Key System A train on Bay Bridge.jpg

Key System A train on the Bay Bridge, 1940s.

Photographer unknown

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Home movies of VS trains on Key System viaduct around Transbay Terminal area; F train along right-of-way in East Bay; Scenes of Bay Area Electric Railroad Association Special (older yellow car) on East Bay streets; North Berkeley tunnel (Shattuck-Solano); downtown Berkeley

Video: Prelinger Archive


Before the Bay Bridge the Key System trains ended on the "mole" at the end of the landfill spit where they discharged their passengers who then boarded ferries to cross the Bay to San Francisco. This is actually the second "temporary" terminal used until the trains ran on the bridge. The original terminal was destroyed in a fire on the night of May 6, 1933 which destroyed the building, 14 interurban cars and the ferry Peralta.

Oakland Mole ferry slip early 1900s. Source album 16 volume 5 number 65, Frank B. Rodolph Photograph Collection, BANC PIC 1905.17146-17161--PIC, The Bancroft Library. oakmole3.jpg

The Oakland Mole ferry slip in the early 1900s.

Photo: Bancroft Library, 1905.17146-17161


The Oakland Mole in early 20th century was the end point of the Southern Pacific steam trains and later also their Interurban Electric Railway trains that serviced the East Bay. The Key System trains terminated at their own pier to the north of the Oakland Mole until the completion of the Bay Bridge allowed them to roll all the way to the Transbay Terminal.

Photo: Shaping San Francisco


Key System map, early 20th century

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The March of Progress: Tour of the modern interurban trolley system of San Francisco's East Bay and over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Predicts the bright postwar future of streetcar transit, with visionary images of advanced-design railcars. The Key System transbay service was abandoned early Sunday morning, April 20, 1958.

Video: Prelinger Archive


An advertisement from the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company welcoming the new, modern Bay Bridge.

Cartoon of trial run of transbay Key System service 1938.jpg

Celebrating the 1938 trial run of the Key System train across the Bay Bridge.

Source: Facebook download

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