San Francisco Bay Area Streetcars: "The March of Progress" 1945 Key System
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"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 in 1961."
Public domain film from the Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
The Key System (or Key Route) was a privately owned company that provided mass transit in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Emeryville, Piedmont, San Leandro, Richmond, Albany and El Cerrito in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area from 1903 until 1960, when it was sold to a newly formed public agency, AC Transit.
The Key System consisted of local streetcar and bus lines in the East Bay, and commuter rail and bus lines connecting the East Bay to San Francisco by a ferry pier on San Francisco Bay, later via the lower deck of the Bay Bridge. At its height during the 1940s, the Key System had over 66 miles (106 km) of track.
The local streetcars were discontinued in 1948 and the commuter trains to San Francisco were discontinued in 1958. The Key System's territory is today served by BART and AC Transit bus service...
The system was a consolidation of several streetcar lines assembled in the late 1890s and early 1900s by Francis Marion "Borax" Smith, an entrepreneur who made a fortune in his namesake mineral, and then turned to real estate and electric traction. The Key System began as the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose Railway (SFOSJR), incorporated in 1902. Service began on October 26, 1903 with a 4-car train carrying 250 passengers, departing downtown Berkeley for the ferry pier. Before the end of 1903, the general manager of the SFOSJR devised the idea of using a stylized map on which the system's routes resembled an old-fashioned key... which led to the adoption of the name "Key System".
In 1908, the SFOSJR changed its name to the San Francisco, Oakland & San Jose Consolidated Railway, changed to the San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railway in 1912. This went bankrupt in December 1923 and was re-organized as the Key System Transit Co., transforming a marketing buzzword into the name of the company.
Following the Great Crash of 1929, a holding company called the Railway Equipment & Realty Co. was created, with the subsidiary Key System Ltd running the commuter trains. In 1938, the name became the Key System.
During World War II, the Key System built and operated the Shipyard Railway between a transfer station in Emeryville and the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond.
National City Lines era
National City Lines acquired 64% of the stock in the system in 1946.
The same year E. Jay Quinby hand published a document exposing the ownership of National City Lines (General Motors, Firestone Tire, and Phillips Petroleum)...
On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals (constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants) were indicted in the Federal District Court of Southern California... They were convicted of conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies. They were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the ownership of these companies.
In 1948 they proposed a plan to convert all the streetcars to buses...
Streetcars were converted to buses during November/December 1948.
In 1949 National City Lines, General Motors and others were convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to their subsidiary transit companies throughout the U.S.
Between 1946 and 1954 transbay fares increased from 20Â¢ to 50Â¢... Transbay ridership fell from 22.2 million in 1946 to 9.8 million in 1952.
The Key System's famed commuter train system was dismantled in 1958 after many years of declining ridership as well by the corrupt monopolistic efforts of National City Lines. The last run was on April 20, 1958. In 1960, the newly formed publicly owned AC Transit took over the Key System's facilities.
Most of the rolling stock was scrapped, with some sold to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Several streetcars, interurbans and bridge units were salvaged for collections in the United States. Of the large bridge units, three are at the Western Railway Museum near Rio Vista, California, while another is at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in southern California.