The Key System

San Francisco and the East Bay area

The Key System (so named because it's routes formed the shape of a skeleton key, served the East Bay area with service from Oakland and other cities into San Francisco.  Originally, the cars ran to a ferry terminal, but with the construction of the Oakland Bay bridge, service was direct to a terminal in San Francisco.

Eventually the auto took over and the system was dismantled, only to be resurected years later by the B.A.R.T. system.

My thanks to Joe Testagrose, Norm Spaulding and others who have posted these pictures and made this page possible.

Around the East Bay

From the Bill Volkmer collection

Some "Then and Now" scenes from John Stashik
Then      Now

Don Ross has several sections on the Key System on his web pages.  The pictures below are of the older cars and the later "Bridge Units."  For a complete story and history of these cars visit Don's web page at:
The first two pictures in the top row were former Sacramento Northern cars

The "Bridge Units" from Don Ross' page

During WW-II, the Key System built the Richmond Shipyard Railway to transport workers to their jobs at some of the yards in the bay area.  They obtained old New York El cars to do the job.  Because of wartime security, pictures of this system are extremely rare.

And today at the museums

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