Key System, The:
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More About This Title Key System, The:


It is difficult now to imagine San Francisco Bay without bridges, but not too long ago, a complex system of ferries and trains helped span the waters in an elegant way. The Key System was a huge portion of this network; it was part of businessman "Borax" Smith's method to attract San Francisco workers to live in the cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and Piedmont, where he dealt in real estate. The Southern Pacific Railroad was the Key System's fierce competitor, then later an ally, before it was vanquished. Thousands of commuters rode the system for years, until a ridership decline eventually doomed the Key when bridges finally crisscrossed the bay.


Here transportation historians Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria, authors of San Francisco's Powell Street Cable Cars, tell the story of these transbay lines in nearly 200 rare photographs. Included is the rolling stock--from the handsome 1903 wooden interurbans to the famous 1930s Bridge Units, the ornate Key Route Pier, the ferryboat fleet, and lastly the Bridge Railway into downtown San Francisco. Rice and Echeverria blend their insights, knowledge, and photographic resources to capture the spirit of the bygone Key System era that linked San Francisco to what was then known as the "Eastshore Empire."