San Bruno to San Francisco

The Colma Branch

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Map submitted by Paul Carr.

The SP Colma Branch (or San Bruno Branch), like the 4th Street Line in San Jose, is part of the original alignment of the Coast Line Route. It opened for service in 1863, and was downgraded to branch line service in 1907 after the 1906 earthquake prompted the building of the "Bayshore Cutoff," which is the present-day alignment of the line, which is now owned by Caltrain. The line also featured steep grades and required helpers during its time as a mainline.

The line was severed in 1942, and a few portions remained to served industrial customers. The line was abandoned piece by piece, as the 280 Freeway was built over portions of the line and later, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). It was likely abandoned sometime in the last few decades.

Thanks to Paul Carr for contributing information about this route.

I can only remember when the line went as far North as a Cement Plant just South of John Daly Blvd. I can remember in the late 70's seeing open gravel type hoppers (one or two car trains at most) going through Daly City to most likely that plant. The rails were ripped up from just north of the Macy's Warehouse all the way through Colma to the Daly City terminus in 1980 so I imagine the last train to roll through was a year or two before that. As for the section south of Macy's, it remained in service up until the mid 90's with the Macy's warehouse being the only rail customer at that point. The line is now gone and a good portion of it in South San Francico has been converted to jogging/bike trail. Love your site BTW.

Phillip Gangale
Daly City , CA
7/28/2011

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In early-mid 1950s (when I was a small kid) the line still extended as far north as about Ocean Ave. in SF. Supposedly Muni got their last streetcars delivered by rail right across the street from the old barn at Geneva/San Jose. 280 and the BART starter line destroyed the remains of the branch in SF and part of Daly City. BART did in the rest in 2 stages (extension to Colma; then extension thru San Bruno to Millbrae & SFO). The BART Millbrae extension and Daly City's sprucing up of Mission St. also nuked the remains of the Muni 40 line - rails were still in the Mission St. pavement between sections of traffic island in the early 1970s.

At the north end, even into the 1970s, there were still tracks in Division St., Treat Ave., and some of Folsom St. to bump over when driving around. If you zoom WAY in on the Google satellite view, you can still see lines in the street on part of Treat that look like tracks remain under the pavement.

Amusing: Muni now runs light rail cars through the Bernal Cut along San Jose Ave. where SP originally was followed by Ocean Shore and a previous Muni line, so I guess surface tracks have returned to a tiny part of the branch.

Mike B
San Francisco, CA
11/27/2012

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actually the tracks are still in place from bart/colma to the top f the hil in dc,

they have just been paved over, the track shows through at the various crossings

me perry
south san francisco, CA
1/2/2013

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I am originally from San Carlos. My grandfather was a native San Franciscan. He grew up in Bernal Heights. He said that where 280 is now was the right of way for the Ocean Shore Railroad, and the Southern Pacific went out what is now San Jose blvd through Bernal Cut. Before it was torn down, there was a business called Ray's oil burner that had a stub track along the side of the building at San Jose Blvd and Rousseau St. It would be considered the South East corner. He said that Ray's use to get tank car deliveries out there 3 to 5 times a week.

Mike Goodwin
Kinston, NC
9/10/2013

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The spur track into Ray's Oil in Bernal Cut was visible until around the early 1980s at least.

I followed the old branch line around 1979. You could - and probably can - still see where it passed between buildings in the Mission District. You can see the sides of houses at odd angels and a new house in between, for example. Same with where it crossed 30th Street on a bridge. The house covering that spot is clearly newer that other houses on either side of it.

Jim G
Mukilteo, WA
7/8/2016

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