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Don's Rail Photos

City Operations of Key System

East Bay Street Railway

Street railway service began in the East Bay area of California in 1890. A number of individual companies were formed, but they consolidated in to the Oakland Transit Co. in 1898. Additional companies were added until everything came under the San Francisco-Oakland Rys. in 1912. This became the Key System in 1924. In 1930, the local lines were turned to a wholly owned subsidiary, East Bay Street Ry. It became East Bay Transit in 1936. In 1942 everything was again consolidated under the Key System name. In 1946, National City Lines gained control thru purchase of 65 per cent of the stock of the holding company. The name was changed to Key System Transit Lines, and the last street cars ran in 1948. The cross bay trains continued to operate until 1958. This is an overview of the street railway cars used by the various companies over the years. Additional information would be gladly received.

One of the predecessors was the Highland Park & Fruitdale Ry. which operated this double deck horse car.

Another predecessor was the Alameda Oakland & Piedmont which operated California style cars like this one.

After consolidation, Oakland Traction used cars like this.

Just like so many other systems, East Bay operated birney cars built by American Car in 1920.

This car looks like a closed version of the Oakland Traction car.

In 1901, the Lehigh Valley Transit had big plans for expansion and ordered 75 cars from St. Louis Car Co. While they were being delivered, the promoter with the grandiose ideas died. His plans died with him, and the LVT found themselves with a surplus of new cars. They offered them for resale, and Oakland Traction bout 18 of them in two batches in 1904. One of the cars, LVT 139, still exists today. It was renumbered 251 and put into service immediately. In 1906, some of the cars were rebuilt for train service, but not the 251. The platform of the 251, which had been renumbered to 271 in 1917, was extended for PAYE service in 1921. It was rebuilt in 1930 or 1931 for 1 man operation. In 1933 it was equipped with a pantograph for the Westbrae line, but it was reconverted back to pole operation during World War II. In 1946 it was sold to the Bay Area Electric RR Association. It remained on the property for special use until the middle 1950s and is now at Rio Vista Junction as shown in the third photo. The gentleman with his back to the camera is Harre Demoro, who did much historical research on the Key System and other Bay Area lines.

In 1909, Oakland Traction built 20 cars to be used as two car trains to Hayward. In 1931 they were made one man cars. After 1935 they were rarely used and were burned in 1939.

At a time when other systems were ordering heavy weight street cars, Oakland Traction had St. Louis Car build them 60 lightweight cars in 1911 which were originally 351 thru 410, but the 410 became the 350 in 1917. The City of Berkeley barred the cars because they had arch roofs and did not have clerestory windows. The cars were immediately rebuilt to conform. They also were built with maximum traction trucks. Over the years they were rebuilt several times. The roofs went back to arch. They were one-manned. Some of the cars got 4 motors in several types of trucks. When service was ended in 1948, 26 were still in use. I don't think they would win any beauty contest, but they were durable.

I have no data on this car.

This is another one for which I can supply no details.

The 700s were attractive lightweight cars. Bob Townley tells us that the 700 was built at Emeryville in 1916, and 701 thru 720 were built by American Car in 1917. These were originally center door cars, and this can be seen by the extra wide window posts near the center of the cars.

The 800s were built at Emeryville. 800 thru 817 were built in 1919 and 818 in 1922. Thanks to Bob Townley for the information.

Car 820 was built at Emeryville in September, 1926. Except for drop platforms, it was almost identical to the 900s. In 1947, car 938 was wrecked and scrapped. 820 was renumbered 938 to fill the gap for another year.

The newest cars were the 900s which came in two groups. The first group was 900 through 954, delivered in 1923 by American Car Co. As built they included Tomlinson couplers for train service. Partitions for smoking compartments were added shortly after delivery, but they were removed when the cars were one-manned in 1930-1. Another oddity was that the cars were built with the controls on the left side, but they were quickly moved to the usual middle position. The side skirting was added at the time they were rebuilt for 1 man service. See the remarks regarding car 938 under the notes for car 820.

The second group of 900s was the 955 through 994, built by American Car Co. in 1926. They were slightly larger and were delivered with a smoking section. In 1930-1 the cars were rebuilt for one man service, except that cars 975 thru 994 retained their couplers and doors for two man service. In 1943, the couplers were removed, but the doors remained. You can see the various differences in the photos.

In May, 1927, the Emeryville shops built another car to the same dimensions as the 955-994 and numbered it 899. On May 12, 1930, car 987 was destroyed in a collision with a Western Pacific train. The 899 was renumbered 987 to fill the gap. When the lines were abandoned in 1948, the 987 (ex 899) was donated to the Bay Area Electric RR Assn. They loaned the car to the Portland Traction Co. in Oregon, which ran it as 4011 until 1958 when they discontinued service to Oregon City. The car was returned to the BAERA and is now restored as the 987 at Rio Vista Junction. Here are photos of the car in Oregon.


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