From the community

My long-time supporter Michael Roberts sent an email several months ago that absolutely made my day:

After listening to your podcasts for the last six months, I couldn’t wait any longer and took a trip to the city so that I could experience some of your “brand” of history.

He’s in good company. This isn’t the first time a listener has been inspired by the show to book a flight and visit San Francisco. But Michael actually toured the city using his favourite Sparkletack episodes as a kind of audio guidebook. Attached to his email to me was a batch of photos from the trip — he’d documented the site of each episode with a digital snapshot.

This is just plain cool — thanks to Michael for letting me share this with the rest of the Sparkletack world.

Sparkletack Inspiration

#23: the Wave Organ
view towards the Marina

#52: Adolph Sutro
Sutro Baths at Lands End

#16: San Francisco Pyramid
Trans-America Pyramid

#35: Birth of San Francisco
Portsmouth Square

#13: Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Julius Castle – Telegraph Hill

#55: Caruso, the Palace, and the 1906 Earthquake
Palace Hotel – Market Street

#56: Lotta Crabtree
Lotta’s Fountain – Market Street

#42: Alexander Leidesdorff
grave marker – Mission Dolores

#15: Golden Gate Bridge and Suicide
Golden Gate Bridge

#46: San Francisco Fortune Cookie
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

#18: Lillie Coit
Coit Tower – Telegraph Hill

#33: Andrew Hallidie
Cable Car Museum – Nob Hill

#19: San Francisco Burrito
Taqueria Cancun – Mission Street

#20: Fog City
Golden Gate Bridge


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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.)

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