John Speller's Web Pages Carquinez Strait (SPRR)

John Speller's Web Pages US Railroads
Carquinez Strait (SPRR)
A Southern Pacific Railroad ferry boat formerly operated across the 2/3-mile wide Carquinez Strait between Benicia and Port Costa in California. The earliest ferry on the route was the "Carquinez," built in 1854, which was 82 ft. 6 in. long, 24 ft. wide and weighed 102 tons. It was capable of taking two or three freight cars or a couple of passenger cars. The "Solana" was a large ferry boat built in 1878, big enough to be capable of carrying entire trains. It had two vertical simple condensing beam engines with two cylinders of 3 ft. diameter and 11 ft. stroke. The two paddle-wheels were 34 feet in diameter and each had 24 blades, each of which was 17 ft. long. It was was 464 feet long and 126 feet wide and the cargo deck had 18 ft. 6 in. headroom for trains. Yhere were four parallel lines of track on the cargo deck. The displacement weight was 3,541 tons, which made it the largest train ferry in the world at the time it was built. It drew 5 ft. loaded and 6 ft. 6 in. when unladen. In 1914 it was joined by a second ferry, the "Contra Costa," which even larger than the "Solano," making it the largest railroad ferry ever built. The ferry service was replaced by a bridge in November 1930, at which time both ferries were withdrawn from service.
Postcard view of the "Solano" in around 1910
Another postcard view from around 1910 showing the "Solano" transporting freight cars. The ferry could take up to 48 standard freight cars, or 24 Pullmans with locomotive
An early photograph of the "Solano" docking in around 1880
A 1920s postcard view of the "Contra Costa" (1914), the largest rail ferry ever built
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