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Bay Area Transit History in the Gardiner Collection

February 5, 2020
Franz Kunst

If you're interested in transportation, San Francisco Bay Area history, or old photographs, you're sure to get lost in this new exhibit of scanned images from the William Gardiner Transportation Collection, accessible here:

Gardiner (1869-1949) was both a railfan and employee of the Key system, and as I processed his collection a few years ago I encountered a variety of prints, along with meticulously assembled scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, timetables, tickets, and other ephemera. Processing collections usually means making them available for others to do research; in this case the urge to do some of that research myself was irresistable. These rare views of Oakland from the 1870s are especially rewarding to share, since the hills are about the only thing still there. Few of these photos are attributed, but several are very close to published versions, leading one to speculate about who may have taken them. Check out this William B. Ingersoll stereoview half, approximately matching a view east from around Broadway & 12th Street:

Ingersoll test

Some photos are by Gardiner himself, identified by an embossed stamp in the corner of the print. He was also presumably responsible for the very skillful reproduction of older photos, the earliest of which were taken the year he was born. And while I'm not sure that he collected everything in his collection himself (there was considerable shuffling in the dispersal of the Hopkins Transportation Library), I'd love to know the story behind this image:

What's that young mod guy doing in the middle of a Chinese ox team moving a locomotive in the Sierras?