Sacramento Northern
Suisun Bay to San Francisco

A Mid-Century Interurban Route
for Train Simulator 2017

by Rick Grout and Jim Friedland


The Sacramento Northern Railway (SN) was an electric interurban railroad that operated in northern California from 1905 to 1965. The SN was formed in 1925 as a result of the merger of two railroads: the Northern Electric Railway, which ran northward from Sacramento to Woodland, Colusa, Marysville, Oroville and Chico; and the Oakland, Antioch and Eastern which ran from Oakland to Sacramento, with a mid-route ferry crossing at Suisun Bay. Upon completion of the merger, the Sacramento Northern came under the control of the Western Pacific Railroad, which operated it as a separate entity.

The SN ran both passenger and freight trains. In the early days, passenger service continued across the bay to San Francisco using ferry boats operated by Oakland's Key System. Direct service to San Fancisco's Transbay Terminal was initiated in 1939 following the opening of the newly constructed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The SN shared tracks on the bridge's lower level with Key System's articulated interurbans, and the Interurban Electric Railway (IER). The IER was a Southern Pacific subsidiary that operated what were popularly known as the "Red Cars."

Due to competition from buses and private automobiles, the SN and IER both terminated passenger service in late 1940. The Key System continued to operate until 1958. The SN provided electric freight service until 1965.

The Route

The modeled route begins on Mallard Island at the south terminus of the Suisun Bay ferry crossing
Car ferry Ramon, Mallard to Chipps, Suisun Bay
. Branch trackage running eastward, parallel to the waterfront, serves a steel mill at the aptly named—but not aptly spelled—town of Pittsburg
Pittsburg depot
. Heading the other way along the main line, we reach an interchange point with the SP and ATSF at Port Chicago. The railroad then turns southward (railroad westbound) and inland, calling at the then-agricultural towns of Concord
Concord depot and SN substation
and Walnut Creek
Walnut Creek depot and processing facilities
. Passing through walnut and pear orchards in the shadow of nearby Mount Diablo, we climb steadily to a 1000 meter tunnel
Redwood Hills tunnel, east portal
through the Oakland Hills. We emerge from the tunnel at the railroad's highest point in a sparsely populated, forested section of Oakland. Continuing downhill on a grade that exceeds 4% in some places, the surroundings become increasingly more suburban. Eventually we depart the private right-of-way and begin the final run down residential Shafter Avenue
Shafter Avenue, North Oakland
Shafter Avenue to SN's tiny yard at 40th Street
Shafter Yard, south end of the SN

Shafter Yard marks the west end of the Sacramento Northern, but we're not done yet. The SN had running rights on the Key System's 'C' line tracks which ran along 40th Street. Turning onto 40th we traverse through North Oakland and pass briefly through the city of Emeryville, home of Key System's car-building and maintenance shop complex
Key System's Emeryville shops
. Continuing westward we descend into a 'subway' beneath SP and ATSF tracks and soon arrive at the massive Bridge Yards
The Bridge Yards
which were the cross-bay staging area for the three interurban railroads. The Bay Bridge
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, west span
is just ahead and we quickly begin the climb along the east span to the tunnel at Yerba Buena island in the middle of the Bay. We continue the bay crossing on the west span, a double suspension bridge, making landfall in San Francisco at Rincon Hill
        SoMa (South of Market), San Francisco
. From there it's just a short ride to the downtown Transbay Terminal
Transbay Terminal, San Francisco

Rolling Stock

  • Holman 1003 Class Interurban — motor and trailer. This is the "star of the show." Includes cab view and passenger view and prototypical in-cab signal system.

  • GE Steeple Cab locomotive in pre- and post-war (safety-striped) livery. Based on an original model by Tim Muir. This is your freight workhorse. Includes cab view.

  • Key System articulated Bridge Unit. For AI use on the Bridge Railway.

  • IER "red car" interurban — motor and trailer. For AI use on the Bridge Railway.

  • Assorted freight cars, by Michael Stephan

  • Custom signals throughout

  • Special "transponder" signal system on the Bridge Railway

  • Vintage autos and characters

  • Dense, far-field urban-suburban scenery representing San Francisco and North Oakland

  • San Fancisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, two spans, four miles, with lower-level tracks.

  • Quick Drive compatible


  • Driving the SN Interurban - Tutorial

  • SN Tour Part 1

  • SN Tour Part 2

  • SN Tour Part 3

  • SN Tour Part 4

  • The Meteor Pt 1 - Smooth Sailing

  • The Meteor Pt 2 - Twisting Hills

  • The Meteor Pt 3 - City Streets

  • SN Train 10 Part 1

  • SN Train 10 Part 2

  • SN Train 10 Part 3

  • Back to the Barn

  • Inbound Challenge

  • Cattle to Oakland - Part 1

  • Cattle to Oakland - Part 2

  • Freight Delivery to Shafter Yard

  • Walnuts to Market

  • [RailFan] San Francisco Transit Jam

Release and Distribution

Now available on Steam