San Francisco’s iconic Transbay Terminal is on the eve of destruction. The mammoth utilitarian structure opened in 1939 to fanfare of thousands crowding in to get a glimpse of the modern hub representing a new hope for the future. Key System trains rushing across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge followed a raised express route right into the terminal. In its heyday after WWII, trains arrived every 63.5 seconds during rush hour and the terminal’s rail system served 26 million passengers annually.
The last Key System train rolled out of the terminal in 1958, and the tracks on the Bay Bridge and inside the terminal were torn out. The grand art deco terminal began a long decline into a dank, graffiti-covered, urine-soaked magnet for the homeless. San Francisco’s noble railway hub had become nothing more than a big bus stop. Cuddles Bar cocktail lounge, the diner, the shoeshine stand, and other businesses were later entombed in plywood and plaster. Even a tiny jail cell built to hold train robbers was closed off and almost forgotten. You can see all these relics of yesteryear in my photos below.
Being a fan of 1930s Modernism and Art Deco, I always thought the terminal was a pretty cool building. Just before the closing, I poked around every little nook and cranny of the structure, taking hundreds of photos of every detail of the complex just days before the demolition crew will begin dismantling the building. The time has come for this sadly-degrading edifice to go, and I’m really looking forward to its gleaming $4 billion replacement–it will be spectacular.
So won’t you please join me for one final journey through the dark, musty innards of the behemoth known as the 1939 San Francisco Transbay Terminal, with not a soul around: