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Alameda’s Original Horsecar Lines

In the summer of 1869, the Oakland and Encinal Turnpike & Ferry Company began carrying passengers on a small ferry from the foot of Franklin Street in Oakland to what became the foot of the Webster Street Bridge in Alameda. They laid tracks on a wooden turnpike through the marsh and onto Euclid Street. The line carried passenger to the northern terminus of Euclid at Central Avenue

The Webster Street Bridge opened in March 1871, eliminating the need for the ferry. The following year, the City of Alameda paved the turnpike from the foot of the bridge, across the marsh to Euclid and onto Central Avenue. (In 1877, city later renamed Euclid Street to Webster Street to match the Oakland street and bridge names.)

The Oakland & Alameda Railroad hoped to make Oakland accessible to everyone in Alameda. On September 11, 1872, the railroad incorporated. Just three weeks later October 1, H. F. Shepardson, Louis Fassking and Thaddeus F. Fitch formed a competing line, the Oakland & Piedmont Railroad and hired Theodore Meetz to act as general manager.


Alameda’s Horsecar Lines


Alameda Post- legend for Original Alameda Streetcars map

  1. June 21, 1869: City Council passed an ordinance that allowed the creation of the Oakland and Encinal Turnpike & Ferry Company. Passengers boarded a ferry at the foot of Webster Street in Oakland were carried across the San Antonio Slough (today’s Estuary) to Alameda. (The Webster Street Bridge did not exist at the time.) Horsecars traveled across the marsh to today’s Atlantic Avenue, where they met Euclid Street, which the City of Alameda would rename Webster Street in 1877. The horsecars traveled south along Euclid Street to Central Avenue.
  2. February 20, 1875: Alameda Oakland & Piedmont (AO&P) Railroad Line #1 began running from the Central Pacific Railroad Station at Park Street and Lincoln Avenue. The line ran south on Park to Central Avenue, east on Central to High Street, and north on High to Santa Clara Avenue.
  3. April 2, 1875: AO&P Line #2 began running. Horsecars carried passengers from the Central Pacific Railroad station at Seventh Street and Broadway in Oakland. The line traveled south on Broadway, then east from the foot of Broadway to the Webster Street Bridge. It crossed the bridge and traveled across the marsh to Euclid Street. It turned east onto Santa Clara and traveled east to Union Street.
  4. July 1, 1879: AO&P extended Line #1 along Santa Clara to Park Street. This connected Line #1 with Line #2
  5. August 1, 1892, AO&P built a second line connection Alameda with Oakland. Line #3, ran from Santa Clara Avenue north on Park Street across the marsh where the Park Street Bridge would appear on the landscape the following year. The horses then pulled cars northwest on tracks that became first Park Avenue, and later 23rd The line ended its trip at the Southern Pacific Railroad station on modern-day East 12th Street, a spot obliterated with the building of Interstate 880.

Note: AO&P did not call these lines #1, #2, or #3. This has been done for clarity’s sake.


July, 2022 – Alameda’s Innovative Streetcars​

Saturday July 9 — Alameda’s Horsecar Lines

Join Dennis Evanosky for an imaginary ride on two of Theodore Meetz's three horsecar lines and a visit to Fassking’s Hotel. Meet at Union Street and Santa Clara Avenue. at 10 a.m.
Tickets available

These two competing railroads planned to build horsecar lines through Alameda, across the Webster Street Bridge and into the Oakland hills. However, their $25,000 capitalization proved insufficient to accomplish this. On Feb. 7, 1873, they merged and formed the Alameda, Oakland & Piedmont (AO&P) Railroad. Their new capitalization of $100,000 also proved insufficient for their grandiose plans.

Alameda’s horsecar lines began to take shape on Feb. 20, 1875, when Meetz took control of AO&P and obtained a franchise to operate a line that focused on the East End. His horse-drawn cars carried passengers by rail along Park Street from the Central Pacific Railroad station (at the site of today’s Oil Changers where Tilden Way meets Park Street). The line traveled south on Park Street to Central Avenue, then east on Central to High Street and north on High to Santa Clara Avenue.

Alameda Post - Car house for horsecar lines at Atlantic Avenue and Webster Street
Alameda’s car house, located at the southwest corner of Atlantic Avenue and Webster Street was completed in 1893, as was electrification of the original horsecar lines. It was closed in 1906 with completion of the widening of track to standard gauge on and west of Park Street and transfer of car storage to Oakland. Photo The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Caption from “Alameda by Rail” By Grant Ute and Bruce Singer.

Five weeks later, on April 2, 1875, Meetz began operating a second horsecar line. This one served the West End. Horses pulled cars 11 times a day from the Central Pacific Railroad station at Seventh Street and Broadway in Oakland across the Webster Street Bridge to Santa Clara Avenue. There the line tuned east to Fassking’s Gardens at Grand Street. The fare? Just 5 cents. To accommodate his horses and cars, Meetz built a barn near today’s Atlantic Avenue and Webster. Street. He also had stables at Santa Clara and Union streets at the end of the line, Fassking’s Gardens.

On July 21, 1879, Meetz extended his second horsecar line to carry passengers further east along Santa Clara Avenue to Park Street. This move connected his second line with the first and created a circuit.

In 1886, Meetz received a franchise to build a third horsecar line from Santa Clara Avenue and Park Street into Oakland by way of Park Avenue, today’s 23rd Avenue. This line carried passengers to a Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad station on the SP’s main line near Calcot Place and the California Cotton Mills, which had begun operating in 1883. Meetz met competition from J. P. Potter’s horse-drawn omnibus that was now carrying passengers from stops along Park Street to the same SP station.

The horsecar era was ending, however. On Aug. 31, 1892, two months before his horses began pulling cars down from the cotton mill, Meetz sold the company name and all three of his lines to W. M. Rank, E. S. Dennison and T. F. Scanlon. These men incorporated as the Alameda, Oakland & Piedmont Electric Railway Company (AO&P Electric).

Join Dennis 10 a.m., Saturday, July 9 at Santa Clara Avenue and Union Street for an imaginary ride on two of Meetz’s three horsecar lines and a visit to Fassking’s Hotel. Horsecars served the SP station at today’s East 12th Street and 23rd Avenue for about seven more months. On May 6, 1893, this line became the first in Alameda to run on electricity. Dennis will lead the second tour on this topic Saturday, July 16, to talk about the workings of these electric streetcars. He will wind up the month on Saturday, July 23 with a with our third tour along Fernside Boulevard, a right-of-way that the SP built specially to accommodate the Big Reds. Tickets for each tour are $15 in advance. If you’re interested in attending all three tours, you can save $5 by purchasing tickets for all three tours at once.

Dennis Evanosky is an award-winning East Bay historian and the Editor of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Dennis-Evanosky.

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