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'Fallen Shortlines' Photo - 'beltrr.jpg'
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The Still-lamented State Belt Railroad     -   Original Post   -   Go to Post in Thread
Posted by coaster in Fallen Shortlines on 08/27/03 at 08:20:07
'beltrr.jpg' 409x274 JPEG 12428 bytes

This was an oddball little road, even by shortline standards.  With its first trackage laid out along the San Francisco waterfront by the California State Harbor Commission (which then owned the land) in 1889, the Belt would never extend to much more than 4 miles in length.  It probably owned more locomotives than rolling stock (said rolling stock consisting of exactly four -- count 'em, four -- idler flatcars) at any given moment, and its "railyard" consisted of one storage track.  Three of its four interchanges -- ATSF, WP and Northwestern Pacific -- were via barge or ferry (its only land-based connection was with SP at Third & Berry Sts), and it was the bane of at least three generations of motorists as it plied its trudging way up and down the Embarcadero, the subject of many a creative epithet.
But although designed as a "freight-only" road, it found itself hauling passenger consists which were either distinguished or infamous -- no middle ground.  During WWII, the Belt made over 245 troop train movements, delivering soldiers to their Presidio embarcation points and receiving them home again.  At various other times, most notably during the early 30s,  the "passenger" consists were composed of soon-to-be Alcatraz residents.
By the mid-50s, a fleet of six Alco 1000-hp diesels had replaced the last of the Belt line's 0-6-0s, and there was another change as well: California having deeded the waterfront to the City & County of San Francisco, the railroad's name changed to the San Francisco Belt Railway.  It was pretty much all downhill from there, inasmuch as the city promptly managed to lose 90 percent of its shipping business to cross-bay rival Oakland, which pretty well did away with the Belt's customer base.  One final moment of distinction remained, however, when in the mid-70s the Belt played host to the touring "Flying Scotsman" consist on its San Francisco stopover.  The railroad ceased operations once and for all in 1993, and driving the Embarcadero's never been any fun since.
Some of its rails still remain in place as part of the Municipal Railway's "Historic Trolley" F-line, and the road's original Embarcadero & Sansome roundhouse still stands, albeit as a business complex.
-- Paul