San Francisco

There now follows a series of blog entries documenting my trip to the USA. If you want to read about the bars and breweries I visited, they are to be found my Pub Blog at

I started my time in San Francisco with a surprise in the hotel lift where I found an Earthquake button:

I’m not sure whether this would light up to tell me there’s an earthquake, or I was supposed to press it if I felt the earth move!

A quick survey outside showed some of the types of transport available here:

More of those later.

Friday 22 March

My first excursion started at the Ferry Terminal, hard to photograph with all the street furniture:

… From where a ferry took me across the Bay, under the Bay Bridge to a stop called Alameda Seaplane:

This was a navy seaplane base in the past, but there are no seaplanes here now. I came to visit the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, now a museum:

Launched in 1943, USS Hornet was involved in the Japanese, Korean and Vietnam wars, and played a role in the Apollo missions, recovering the Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts after splashdown.

Here’s just a selection of the interesting exhibits:

This is a quarantine caravan in which the Apollo astronauts spent weeks of isolation, accompanied by a doctor. A caravan was used so that it could be moved from the ship to a NASA location while the quarantine continued:

Saturday 23 March

Today, a trip to Sacramento. This started with a ride on the BART (San Francisco’s underground) to Richmond:

And then on Amtrak’s California Zephyr for just a short part of its long journey all the way to Chicago. Here it is after arrival at Sacramento:

I was here to visit the California State Railroad Museum:

I took a short ride on their “excursion train”, a set of carriages dating from the 1920s hauled by a small diesel from 1939, for a pleasant trundle along the river:

I headed back to the imposing station for a local train back to San Francisco:

Sunday 24 March

A slight panic on Saturday evening when I was making plans for later in the week and learned that the heritage tram service was to be suspended for roadworks. Luckily it was not too late so I began today with a ride. Line F is a normal part of the public transport system, used by commuters and tourists alike, but it is operated exclusively by these beautiful heritage streetcars. I have always had a special fondness for these “PCC” trams which date from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, so the chance to ride on them is always good, especially on a “normal” public service.

Next, a more modern tram on the N Line carried me to the Caltrain station where I could observe operations before riding a diesel hauled service to Mountain View.

The line from here to San Jose which I first travelled on way back in 1981 is in the process of electrification. I saw a diesel shunter (switcher to Americans) moving one of the new units:

Today’s objective was the Computer History Museum. A few pictures can’t do justice to this brilliant museum:

This IBM 1401 from 1959 is in full working order and is demonstrated regularly, although sadly not on the day I visited:

Having returned to San Francisco I took a picture of one of the driverless taxis that run around the city. It’s really odd to see a car driving with no one in the front, I was disappointed not to be able to arrange a ride in one:

Monday 25 March

I started at Pier 39 for a quick visit to the famous (so the sign says) sea lions which have taken up residence there:

There are a few obvious tourist attractions in San Francisco that everyone has to visit and today was the day for me so I headed to Pier 33 to board a ferry to Alcatraz:

Once on the island one is able to wander around the various fascinating buildings and exhibits:

Once back on the mainland a short bus ride took me to the Golden Gate Bridge, the next of the must-do attractions. I walked nearly half way across and then gave up because it was very windy:

Here’s a sample of the support cables:

Tuesday 26 March

Today, Muir Woods. This national park is a redwood forest just twelve miles from San Francisco. A very popular destination for locals and tourists, you have to book in advance if you want to visit. I enjoyed a chance to wander amongst the enormous trees. It’s very hard to convey the size in a photograph, but I’ll try:

On to the pleasant waterside town of Sausalito for a ferry back to San Francisco:

Wednesday 27 March

Firstly, a little shopping trip found me in an industrial area where I came across this car park full of Waymo driverless cars:

Next I took a trip to Oakland Airport to check out the unusual cable-powered extension to the BART network. This fascinating line has rubber tyred cars which grip and release the cable in order to pass over junctions. They also stop at the midpoint of the line to switch to a different cable.

Back in San Francisco, time for a ride on a somewhat older cable-powered transit system, the iconic cable cars:

There is a small museum at the winding house from where all the cables are driven.

Wandering in search of cask ale (See my pub blog here for details.) I passed through the Haight area where there some attractive old houses:

Thursday 28 March

Hiller Aviation Museum is located a few miles south of San Francisco and is well worth a visit:

I was very pleased to have the chance to sit in the captain’s seat of a 747:

I climbed up to Twin Peaks for great views of the city:

The hill lines up exactly with Market Street which you can see along all the way to the Ferry Terminal:

This is the other one of the twins. I decided it was too much effort to climb both:

For my final bit of tourism in San Francisco I went to Civic Centre, where there is a collection of imposing buildings including City Hall, The Supreme Court of California, and the Federal Building.

Friday 29 March

Time to leave San Francisco and head south on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight which had already been travelling for twenty-four hours all the way from Seattle when I boarded it with another twelve hours to go, to Los Angeles.

Here it is at San Luis Obispo:

The holiday continues in Los Angeles…