Chapter 7

THE SAN FRANCISCO TERMINAL RAILROAD AND FERRY COMPANY

Page 11

“Our charter calls for a railroad into San Francisco by the way of San Jose. We will also tap Stockton. We will maintain a complete ferry system. It will be up to date and modern. It will be safe to say that we will make half hourly trips. It is our intention to actively enter into competition with other corporations in the same business."

To the question whether or not the new railroad was a transcontinental line Mr. Bartnett said that he would neither affirm nor deny any such statement. He said, however that Eastern capital was behind the road.

Oakland rejoiced over the good work of the council, who by unanimous vote on November 17 formally granted the San Francisco Terminal Railway and Ferry Company a franchise to enter Oakland. This opened the door for another transcontinental railway to enter the city, and greatly add to its importance as a railroad center. It was a matter for public congratulation that the Council summarily swept aside the petty objections raised and voted as a unit to promote the prosperity and up building of Oakland.

Mr. Bartnett, president of the company, announced that work on the new road would commence without delay.

This was welcome news. It was proof that his company was acting in good faith and the city, and indicated the speedy fulfillment of the promise that Oakland would soon be connected with the interior by another great avenue of commerce and transportation.

Messrs. Reed & Nusbaumer handled the application for a franchise with great skill and tact. The real antagonism to the franchise was subterranean and promoted by influences far more powerful than they appeared on the surface, but it was of necessity put forward on purely ostensible grounds. The lawyers declined to be drawn into any diversions or to participate in discussions projected solely to cloud the issue and mystify the public. By adroitly keeping the measure itself to the front criticism and objection were disarmed and foiled. This victory was a victory for the city of Oakland, for its chief result would be making Oakland the Pacific terminal of a third great transcontinental system. It would make the future of Oakland more secure than it had ever been.

The franchise was granted for a period of fifty years, and provided that the work of construction must commence within ninety days. The officers of the company declared that there would be no delay. The line had been surveyed to its connection with the Tesla road, which it was understood would be absorbed, and from the connecting link will reach the city of Stockton.

A big move in the railroad game was then made on March 3, 1903 when agents of the San Francisco Terminal Railway and Ferry Company purchased seventy-six acres of property contiguous to the water front on the north side of Islais creek in San Francisco at a cost approximating $1,000,000. This heavy purchase of property for railway terminal purchases strengthened the popular conviction that George J. Gould was behind the San Francisco Terminal railroad project.

The land acquired in the Potrero would provide greater facilities than either the Santa Fe or the Southern Pacific controlled. The new terminal comprised between sixty and seventy full blocks, continuing more than seventy-six acres. The greater part of the property was submerged by the tides and it would require an expenditure of $2,000,000 to improve it, but the projectors of the enterprise were said to be ready to proceed with the work, regardless of expense.

It was the general belief in railroad circles that George Gould was furnishing the financial backing and that the new road would form the western connection of his system, which now extended to Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah. Although there were other possibilities it was apparent that the enterprise had an unlimited amount of capital at its command, for the local operations were being conducted on a mammoth scale.

The purchases had been made in the name of W. J. Bartnett and J. Dalzell Brown the promoters of railroad projects. Mr. Bartnett returned from New York, where he was supposed to have gone to confer with Mr. Gould, and these heavy purchases coming on the heels of his Eastern trip suggested that the Gould system was preparing for an early entrance into San Francisco.

So far it had cost Brown and Bartnett a great deal of worry, time and money to get hold of the terminal in San Francisco. The property in question had about fifty different owners. The Petrero Land and Water Front Company was the largest holder. Other owners where J. M. McDonald, H. L. de Fretnery, Captain W. H. Taylor, O. C. Pratt, Robert Hartshone, the Piper Estate, O. U. Baldwin and others.

The purchases had been made quietly and shrewdly without the sellers knowing who the new owners were to be. Brown and Bartnett in consequence thought they got the property at a fair price.

It had only been in the previous two years that the Santa Fe had begun perfecting a freight terminal of fifty acres in the same section of the city. Part of the Santa Fe terminal included the China Basin lease from the State. The Santa Fe, to add to the China Basin, bought $1,500,000 worth of property and was spending $3,000,000 improving it. The Brown and Bartnett terminal was due south from the Santa Fe property.

The Southern Pacific also had a new terminal in the same section of town. This was in addition to its extensive freight yards, commonly designated as Fourth and Townsend streets. The company also had sixty acres in the Mission Bay district of the Potrero. That land was west from the Santa Fe property and south of Channel Street.

Brown & Bartnett, while spending a great deal of money, still refused to discuss their plans. Only a few weeks prior to this purchase they had paid $750,000 for an Oakland terminal at the foot of Third Street.

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