Transbay Terminal, Oakland, CA
Restoring the East Bay’s Electric Rail History
At Wooden Window, we do a lot of restoration for architecturally historic structures, but the chance to work close to home, and to recreate the 18-foot tall doors for a landmark of East Bay transportation history was something special–the Interurban Electric Railway Bridge Yard Shop.
If you’ve lived in the Bay Area for some time, you may know that public transportation needs in San Francisco and the East Bay, much like similar urban areas from Brooklyn to Denver, were once served by a robust and vibrant network of electric rail cars. The system maintained routes on both sides of the Bay, as well as commuter trains running across the Bay Bridge.
Construction on the Oakland Bay Bridge began in 1933 and cost an estimated $77 million to complete. By then, electric interurban railroads had existed on both sides of the bay since the turn of the century.
“They were the backbone of our mass transit system for nearly 100 years, with dozens of routes and hundreds of cars, and when they were discontinued in the late 1950s, almost all evidence of their reign was swept away.” (“When Trains Ruled the East Bay – Oakland Magazine – January 2008 – Oakland, California”, 2017)
For the whole story of the East Bay rail system and trains over the Bay Bridge click here.
The bridgeyard shop was erected in 1938 to provide maintenance and light repairs for the railway cars. Built as a long, unbroken vault bookended by sets of huge bi-fold doors, the shop was designed in the International Style for industrial buildings–focussing design considerations around the provision of expansive open spaces, clearstory banks of windows for light and attention to supporting the actual work to be done in the structure. Three tracks ran longitudinally through the building over inspection/work pits to provide access to traction motors, brake system and other operating components of the cars.
Over the years, the tracks were removed, the inspection pits were filled in and surfaced over, and the continuous original interior split up into 3 sections. Since the demise of Transbay electric train travel, the shops have been used for the equipment and supplies of the Bay Bridge painting crews.
As part of the new EAST Span Project for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the remaining shop was evaluated, included in The National Register of Historic Places and made eligible for rehabilitation to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
At Wooden Window, our piece of the overall rehabilitation project was to restore and reuse components from the 1938 door sets to create 8 new doors, complete with hardware and steel window inserts, fabricating perfect-to-match new parts where necessary.
The first step was to bring the original doors into our shop, strip and restore the original wood, and survey them for all the engineering data necessary to create new parts where needed.
Of the historic 12 doors in the shop facade, 4 had been replaced by a roll-up door years ago.
The existing doors were salvaged for their original components to create 8 restored units.
Metal mullion inserts for the new doors were reclaimed from the 1938 sets and fitted with modern safety glass.
|From Scrap Wood to Masterpiece||The Presidio Visitor’s Center|
|From Scrap Wood to Masterpiece|
|The Presidio Visitor’s Center|