I have more than a passing interest in transportation and urban infrastructure issues — not because I have any expertise in the subject, mind you — I just find it fascinating to ponder the way technology and movement have shaped our surroundings.

Craig Butz, a listener of mine, feels the same way. While examining his neighborhead from the aerial vantage of GoogleEarth, he noticed what seemed like the remnants of an old railroad course — blocks cut apart in strange ways, angular buildings and so on — all throughout the Mission district:

“I did a little walking around and found that when you’re looking for it, there are so many hints about the railroad right-of-way, many too small to see in google earth. Across from Juri Commons there’s some diagonal curb in the sidewalk. A couple of stores by McDonald’s at 24th and Mission have diagonal walls inside. And there are still tracks in the right-of-way by 22nd and Harrison.”

Most of the tracks in the Mission are now gone, but what had Craig spotted were the traces of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which once traveled directly through our fair city.

Craig has put together an amazing graphic combining those GoogleEarth views with a ca. 1900 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, tossing in a few period photographs, and adding explanatory historical text. He sent it to me because he thought (correctly!) that I’d be interested. I’ve had a show about vanished rail lines in San Francisco in mind, but who knows when I’ll get to it… so, with his permission, I thought I’d just share the thing.

Enjoy! (it’s on the largish side, so prepare to wait for a few seconds.)

random episode from the archives:
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