Aboard the “A” Train……………#10 (the 50’s)



Mike Willson’s Mother saw to it that the 11 year old would safely board the train on East 14th Street.  It wasn’t steam or diesel powered, it was a Key System Transbay commuter electric train that transported passengers from Oakland to san Francisco via the bay bridge.  The boy having been on the train before,  always referring to this electric conveyance as the A Train, because of the  large letter A,    displaying its route designation on the front.  It was the  beginning of another journey to visit his aunt Alice in San Francisco,  but this trip was to be different, his Aunt would not be waiting for him at the Transbay terminal when he disembarked.  He would be on his own to board the K car, for the street car journey through the Twin Peaks Tunnel to ocean boulevard.


There was a slight aura of ambiguity as he boarded the front car of the train, but immediately giving way to a wave of euphoria.    Mike couldn’t believe his eyes, an answer to prayers,  a dream come true,  the unbelievable had happened.  The very front seat of the train,  the one on the left side across from the operators compartment was empty, and he would be able to gaze at an unobstructed view of the tracks.   Mike had been hoping for this to happen ever since his first ride on a electric train, the young lad hurrying to sit down,  gazing at the remarkable window view now in front of him.


The journey beginning,  the train smoothly moving forward, he was in the driver’s seat, keeping notice of the traffic signals and watchful eye on the traffic negotiating around him as he mentally navigated his transport down the tracks.   Approaching a loading area,  stopping so the waiting passengers could board, then continuing  on.  As he journeyed thru Oakland  towards the bay,  a recognizable structure appeared,  raising up as a testament to an engineering marvel,  the Oakland, San Francisco Bay Bridge,  the train gliding onto left side of the lower deck.  The boy was  hoping  for an encounter,  to  pass an oncoming train would be impressive, but to no avail


The next stop would be TI,   Treasure Island Naval Station, the train coming to a halt at the lighted station tunneled beneath Yerba Buena Island.  The excursion vehicle motionless  waiting for the Navy  personnel to disembark or board, its mission fulfilled,  the train pushed onward leaving the station to emerge  from the tunnel into the daylight on the San Francisco side of the Island.   Continuing  towards the city,  listening to the clicky-click sound of the wheels on the tracks,  the breath-taking unobstructed driver’s view  was an experience that Mike would never forget.  The “A” train began crossing the Embarcadero on the elevated tracks heading southwest, soon making a sweeping  “S”  turn between Folsom and Mission Streets,  arriving  at  the upper level of the Transbay Terminal.   Mike looked over to his right at the uniformed man sitting at the levers in the driver’s compartment,  the operator turned looking at him smiling,  extending a thumbs up.

Mike knew his way,  he had traversed this many times with his Aunt.  He descended from the upper level and continued his way down to the outside turnaround.  It was here where the Muni electric street cars from various divergence would renew their destination and once  again  set out on their route to deliver their occupants.   The most impressionable attribute besides stepping   into the cool San Francisco air was the congregation of  well fed pigeons assembled.  They fluttered among the steady stream of electric street cars  and passengers coming and going.


The young traveler waited for the  K car that would provide the way to his destination.    Boarding the arrival, leaving the terminal area ,  the street car crossing Mission Street, then turning onto the tracks going up Market towards the Twins Peak Tunnel.   Crossing Castro Street,  the  K  car entering the abyss,  the  2 and a quarter mile journey having two station stops,   Eureka and  Forest Hill.    Mike enjoyed traveling into the unknown,  and as a young lad on a street car,  entering a darken tunnel was a sense of adventure,  there was always a possibility that something exciting would happen, but as usual,  it didn’t.

The K car exiting the twin peaks tunnel at the west portal, onto appropriately named,  west portal avenue.  The ocean avenue turnoff but a mile, the familiar El Rey theatre coming into view.  Young Mike getting off, walking four blocks up Victoria Avenue, then to a house at five thirty eight Garfield Street..  a smiling Aunt Alice greeting him, asking how his trip was?   The eleven-year old still teeming with excitement paused… then briefly summed it up with one word,  “Fun”


4 Responses to “Aboard the “A” Train……………#10 (the 50’s)”

  1. Gene Wohlfahrt Says:

    I’m impressed! After reading your post I can tell you are well-informed about your writing. If only I had your writing ability. I look forward to more updates and will be returning.Cheers!

    • gwillson7 Says:

      Thank you for your comment. It’s fun reliving and writing about these past events in my life. I hope to share many more.

      Take care………………Gary

  2. blow by blow michael webbs Says:

    Thanks, Take the “A” Train…………….#10 (the 50′s) Inquisitive Quest is a very lovely blog. I really like your blog theme actually, I frequently come back here and I don’t know why. I guess I just seriously like your website lol…

    • gwillson7 Says:

      Thank you for your comment….Take the “A” train was a memory that I will always remember….I do welcome you to share my lifes experiences. Hope you continue to read inquisitive quest.

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