Santa Fe Rail History Tour: Self-Guided Ride

Follow the old Santa Fe train right of way from Berkeley to Richmond, along off-street bike/walk trails. This flat, family-friendly ride can be done as an out-and-back, or stop at any of the BART stations along the way for a ride home. An “extra credit” section beyond Richmond BART includes a short hill just past the Ferry Point Tunnel in Point Richmond. Scan QR codes along the paths in El Cerrito and Richmond to win prizes via the West County Greenway Challenge.

This ride and the points of interest below are available here as a PDF.

Points of Interest:

Strawberry Creek Park

Start your ride at Strawberry Creek Park (access via Allston Way if biking from Downtown Berkeley). Until the 1970s this park was a train yard for the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe, a cross-country rail line with an interurban spur in the East Bay between West Oakland and Point Richmond. To the south the trains ran along 40th Street in Emeryville to Adeline Street, to Lowell Street, then Sacramento Street. We’ll follow the rest of the route north to Richmond, which has all been converted into paved bike/walk trails via the West Street Pathway, Ohlone Greenway, and Richmond Greenway.

In the 1980s Berkeley converted the abandoned train yard into this park, and brought the culverted creek from below ground back to the surface in what is believed to be the first “daylighting” project in the country. Other parts of the route have been converted into community gardens, housing, sports facilities, and more. Look for these throughout the ride and think about other ways the old railroad space is now used.

The Berkeley School

To the right just before University Ave. is The Berkeley School, previously the Berkeley Depot train station from 1904-1964. The front of the school along University Ave. was the side of the station, and the side which faces the trail was the boarding platform. The door handles on this side of the building still have the “Santa Fe” logo, and the reddish building to the right was originally the baggage room. This image shows a large Santa Fe train next to the station in the 1950s, and earlier on the station was served by steam engines. Both passenger and freight trains used this route.

Emergence of BART

In North Berkeley BART emerges from underground, and runs above for the rest of the way to Richmond. BART began service in 1972, by which time Santa Fe passenger trains had stopped running. However, freight service continued until 1979, so for about 7 years it was possible to see BART above and a Santa Fe train underneath. This photo shows a passenger train headed north in El Cerrito on tracks where the trail is now, Albany Hill is in the background.

Marina Way Overpass

Parts of the old Santa Fe line were reused along the Richmond Greenway, including the crossing at Marina Way. Take a short detour down the path to the left just before the overpass to get to Marina Way, and you’ll be able to look up and to the right to see the Santa Fe logo still on the side of the overpass. Then double back up the way you came to continue on along the Richmond Greenway.

W. Richmond Ave. Wig-Wag Signal

Before today’s flashing railroad signals, a swinging “wig-wag” style signal was used to alert people of an approaching train. One of the last remaining, operational examples of these signals can be seen in Point Richmond on W. Richmond Ave. just west of Garrard Boulevard. By law there are also now standard flashing signals, but the wig-wags are also used on special occasions. As you continue on Garrard Blvd. south of W. Richmond Ave., hop up onto the sidewalk path to continue through Ferry Point Tunnel.

Ferry Point - End of the Line

Santa Fe passenger service ended at a station near what is now Richmond Parkway near Ohio Ave., but freight trains continued south through Point Richmond to the end of the line at a ferry terminal. From here goods would be loaded between trains and boats to continue their journey across the Bay. Some remnants of the terminal remain, so poke around and take a rest before making your way back.


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