Marine Operations and Equipment

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When the Western Pacific reached Oakland, California it was still four miles short of its final destination of San Francisco and had literally run out of solid ground on which to build in order to reach the great industrial city. Between Oakland and San Francisco was a great divide of salt water known as San Francisco Bay. Tunneling under it was out of the question as was bridging this great body of water. Trains would have to terminate at Oakland with passengers and freight being ferried across the bay.

WP Oakland Mole.

An ornate passenger station and a slip was built at the mole with passengers disembarking from a long, tiresome transcontinental voyage being greeted by a stretch of concrete, roofed over, with a neat lunchroom and waiting rooms and the passenger slip itself.

WP ferry Telephone.

Eventually owning two ferryboats the first to be operated by WP was the Telephone a stern wheel paddle cruiser purchased from Portland, Oregon businessman J. H. Middleton on July 15, 1909. This was actually the second ship to carry the Telephone name. Launched on October 30, 1884 the original Telephone plied the stretches of the Columbia River between Portland and Astoria. Known for fast speeds on this run she was destroyed by fire on November 20, 1887. Saved from the fire was enough of the original machinery and hull to begin construction of a replacement, which would also carry the same name. Measuring just less than thirty feet longer than her namesake the second Telephone was launched on April 28, 1888 with the first trial run taking place on May 20th. With a hull length of 201½ feet at the load water line she had an overall width of 37 feet and a hull depth of 31½ feet. Weighing in at 565 tons she could handle 67 tons of cargo, freight and passenger weight combined. In 1894 she logged 12,731 landings while completing 312 round trips between Portland and Astoria. Sold to Captain James Cochrane of the Arrow Navigation Co. in 1903 a new hull was built and a new boiler installed. A portion of the old superstructure was retained as was the pilothouse and original wheel with new construction replacing everything else. Mr. Cochrane then sold her to Middleton.

Paying $24,500.00 and investing another $42,200.00 in remodeling, Western Pacific’s entry into ferry boat service was noticeable immediately as the Telephone became the fastest steamer to turn a paddlewheel on the Bay but with a terrific handicap. Being a sternwheeler it was necessary at the commencement of every run to back out of the ferry building into the steady stream of other ferry boat traffic, execute a 180 degree turn and then get underway. Even with all the apparent dangers and loss of time executing the back out and turn procedure it was seldom that a race was lost to neighboring Southern Pacific boats. With no other ferry equaling her speed she would hold the title as fastest on the bay until her retirement on December 31, 1917.

When the Telephone was finally dismantled, her boilers were hauled to Portola, California and set up as stationary power at the WP roundhouse. The wheel from the pilothouse was presented to the California-Nevada Historical Society where it is preserved.

WP ferry Edward T. Jeffrey launch.

Augmenting the Telephone would be a double-ended steel screw ferry named in honor of WP’s second president the Edward T. Jeffrey. The new ferry steamer built for operation between San Francisco and WP’s Oakland Mole, in connection with Western Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande train service, was launched on July 19, 1913 and, after a trial trip on August 11, was placed in regular service August 15.

The vessel was a double-end screw ferry with the following dimensions: Length over all, 230 feet; Beam over guard, 62 feet 6 inches; Beam moulded, 42 feet; Depth moulded, 19 feet 6 inches. The hull was steel throughout and divided into a number of watertight compartments by five transverse watertight bulkheads and by longitudinal bulkheads on each side extending completely through the engine and boiler rooms. The vessel was equipped with engines capable of developing 2,000 i. h. p. The boiler room contained four Babcock and Wilcox safety water tube boilers with a total heating surface of 10,000 sq. ft.

The seating capacity of the boat was in excess of 1,200 passengers, with standing room for three times that number. On the main deck there were provided, in addition to the seating accommodations, gangways for baggage, trucks and express wagons and galley, restaurant and dressing rooms. The interior on the main deck was finished throughout in white. On the saloon deck there was a large and completely equipped restaurant connected with a dumbwaiter on the galley with the main deck below. The cabin on the saloon deck was finished in mahogany and was provided with a raised omnibus roof for ventilation, the sash in the sides of this roof being fitted with art glass. The vessel was lighted, throughout by electricity.

Engine house of new ferry steamer Edward T. Jeffery. Railway Age

Particular attention was paid to the fire protection system. There was a large fire pump in the engine room running constantly, this being connected by lines of piping to the hose reels situated at convenient points on both decks. As the pump was constantly in operation and the pipes are always full of water, a stream from the fire hose can be turned on instantly.

Fig. 1 – Engine house of new ferry steamer Edward T. Jeffery
Fig. 2 - New Western Pacific Ferry Steamer.

Christened by one of the daughters of Charles M. Levey, later to serve as WP’s fourth president, the deep red colored ship was built by Moore & Scott Iron Works of San Francisco, California.

During World War I the Railroad Administration assumed control of her operations and her run became San Francisco to WP’s mole in Alameda. Upon return to control of the railroad and after the death of her namesake in 1930 she was repainted white and renamed the Feather River. With passenger trains being re-routed into Oakland Pier she was sold to the Southern Pacific in May 1933, repainted white, and her name changed again to Sierra Nevada. Payments from the sale were applied against Southern Pacific’s charges for use of Oakland Pier, allowing retirement of the WP's passenger mole. The Key System also made use of the Sierra Nevada, repainted into their orange, by transporting visitors to the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. World War II brought use by the United States Maritime Commission as well as a coat of gray paint to transport shipyard workers to Marinship at Sausalito from San Francisco. Operation by the State of California for the last time as a white colored auto ferry lasted until the opening of the Richmond-San Rafael Bay Bridge.

Originally having an ICC valuation in 1914 of $285,981.00 the old ferry was sold at a Moore Dry Dock Company auction in October 1961 for $19,750.00. The boat went down to San Pedro, California and became a part of the Ports O'Call Village commercial development, but a severe storm in 1978 damaged her and the boat sank while moored. Although it wasn't completely submerged, and was leaning over on a pretty good list, it wasn't hard on the bottom and would rock back and forth with the wave action. Plans to salvage her never materialized and the boat was cut up where it sat a few years later.

The Telephone and Edward T. Jeffery would take care of the passenger service across the bay’s restless stretch of water nicely. But there were plenty of loaded boxcars, stockcars, gondolas, center dumps and other freight delivered to Oakland destined for San Francisco. This freight couldn't be flown across the bay, neither could it be submerged nor dragged across on the bottom. So a second slip, this one for freight, was constructed just north of the passenger slip.

WP Barge 1.

Western Pacific transported freight cars across the bay from Oakland and 25th Street yard, San Francisco; Powell Street (S.F. State Belt Railway serving the Port of San Francisco) San Francisco; and the Alameda Belt Line at Alameda on two car barges with a third in reserve. Built in 1908 by Kruse & Banks at North Bend, Oregon barges 1 & 2 were of all wood construction with an overall length of 266 feet, a beam of 39½ feet, draft of 12¾ feet, a net tonnage of 934 tons and a gross tonnage of 1,339 tons. A shorter barge of all steel construction with a net tonnage of 1,200 pounds, Barge 3 was built by Moore Dry Dock Co. in 1928 and measured 258 feet long, had a beam of 38 feet, and a draft of 12½ feet. Barge 2 was held in reserve until needed and used with rented Red Stack tugs. Each barge was capable of carrying 13 average freight cars and except for numbers the barges were not named.

To drag these car barges across the Bay the first of two tug boats was purchased. Named after one of the WP's first officials, Virgil G. Bogue, she developed 750 horsepower and had a wooden hull. Unfortunately the Bogue was to come to an untimely end.

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