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1906 Train and Ferry Evacuation

The Southern Pacific Railway moved more than fifty percent of the San Francisco population immediately after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The combination of ferries and trains took 300,000 of the 410,000 population to other cities in the Bay Area. The U.S. Navy accounted for another 20,000 to 30,000 people from Fort Mason. This was one of the greatest evacuation efforts in history.

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People escaping San Francisco in 1906.

After the earthquake, Southern Pacific ran 1400 trains throughout the Bay Area free of charge. The SP evacuation began 45 minutes after the earthquake occurred and for lasted the next five days.

In an April 25, 1906 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it was noted that earthquake refugees fled the city from: Service between the Alameda Mole (1) and Wright's Station (2) in the Santa Cruz Mountains was re-established.

Southern Pacific's publicity department later wrote about these efforts, contributing to the myth that the fire caused more damage than the earthquake, so as to encourage people to return and rebuild San Francisco.

(1) The Alameda Mole was a ferry landing extending tracks to meet train lines into the shallow East Bay mud flats along the shore. When the Bay Bridge was completed in 1936, the Alameda trains ran directly to San Francisco on the lower deck of the bridge.

(2) Wrights Station, a disappeared town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, had a narrow gauge railroad. Southern Pacific bought the railroad to take advantage of a craze for picnic excursion trains. The 1906 earthquake ended the excursion trains.

  • Lost San Francisco, Dennis Evanosky and Eric J. Kos.
  • City Museum of San Francisco,

Photo credit:
Photos, courtesy of SF History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

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