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The Elusive San Francisco - San Bruno "Loop" Motors
SP McKeen Motor Cars - presumably #'s 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13, all turned out in August, 1908 - lined up as an extra train, possibly en route to delivery. Some of these cars likely worked the San Bruno Loop route. Wx4 Collection
On October 1, 1916 Southern Pacific replaced most of its remaining steam passenger trains on the Ocean View Line out of San Francisco with "Motors", presumably 55' McKeen cars. The opening of the Bayshore Cutoff in 1908 had relegated the Ocean View to secondary status, and very little through freight or passenger service subsequently traversed the line. What passenger trains that remained on the route largely ran only as far as San Bruno, where their equipment turned to head back to San Francisco under different train numbers. The Ocean View and Cutoff routes between San Francisco and San Bruno described a large loop - indeed, prior to the institution of the motors, some trains were listed in timetables as "Loop Way Pass.". Depending upon the year, one or two trains each way traversed the Loop, half leaving San Francisco via the Cutoff and returning via Ocean View. The other half ran in the reverse direction. The equipment used on the other Ocean View trains to San Bruno turned on the Tanforan Wye, then backtracked its way to San Francisco. The only other post-Cutoff passenger train to operate via the old main line was #35, which carried express (and mail?) out of San Jose for distribution to Ocean View stations.
(click on the map for a larger version) USGS 1915 map showing the San Bruno "Loop": From San Bruno (bottom), the Ocean View Line heads northwest, then east towards Ocean View, the summit. The Bayshore Cutoff runs north from San Bruno through South San Francisco and Bayshore (yards and shops on the east edge of Visitation Valley). The two routes converge on the Third & Townsend San Francisco depot near Seventh St. Note the line running from Baden Station to South San Francisco: During the mid-1890's, this was known as the "passenger main", because all passenger trains used this route from Baden to San Bruno. The more direct Baden-to-San Bruno line was reserved for freight trains. In the late 1890's, some passenger trains returned to the direct route, and all passenger service was removed from the Baden-South San Francisco segment with the opening of the Cut-Off in 1908.
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Thus, SP decided upon substituting motor cars on six Loop trains in 1916, while two other steam trains were discontinued entirely. McKeen cars, while relatively less costly to operate, were unsuited to the service. They were exhaust and oil fume-laden boxes that resonated with motor noise. This made the nearby interurbans more attractive to riders than before. Worse, they were propelled by a single axel, making them slippery in inclement weather, of which there was considerable on the line, particularly fog which settles gently on oil-splotched rails without the cleansing effects of a good hard rain. This did not combine well with heavy Ocean View grades, particularly at Valencia Street, where a few years before SP discontinued the stop for several eastbound (southbound) trains due to difficulty in leaving the station. Forty-odd years ago, a Felton resident told me of how the McKeens on the uphill school trains that he rode out of Santa Cruz to his town regularly slipped and stalled on the grade, necessitating the kids to get out and push. Though this may be a myth, it does address a general awareness of McKeens' less than sure-footed nature.