The Golden Gate was one of the namedpassenger trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe). It ran between Oakland and Bakersfield, California; its bus connections provided service between San Francisco and Los Angeles via California‘s San Joaquin Valley.
In 1912 The Santa Fe tried to compete with Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) with overnight trains that included cars to and from San Diego, the Saint train to San Francisco and the Angel train to Los Angeles. The Santa Fe route via San Bernardino and Barstow was longer than the SP route via Glendale and Lancaster and the San Francisco to Los Angeles schedule was 16 hrs 45 minutes, compared to 14:45 for SP’s Owl and 13:45 for the Lark. The Saint and Angel were withdrawn in 1918. Although rumors soon flew of their return, Santa Fe later cited competition by bus services as preventing restoration of the Saint and Angel schedules.
In 1936 the completion of improvements on the Ridge Route highway south of Bakersfield and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge gave the Santa Fe an opportunity to compete with the SP with faster service. The lightweight Golden Gatestreamliners were assigned Nos. 60–63 and ran daily between Oakland (station was actually in Emeryville) and Bakersfield. Santa Fe buses connected San Francisco across the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge to Oakland and between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, most with stops at North Hollywood and Hollywood and some with stops at Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena. The Oakland transfer point moved to Richmond in 1958 with buses making stops at Oakland and Berkeley.
A competitor to the Southern Pacific Railroad’sSan Joaquin Daylight, the Golden Gate’s scheduled 9-hour and 25-minute time bested that of the Daylight. After a series of hearings and legal challenges, as well as public displays of the new rolling stock, the new six-car consists entered service on July 1, 1938. Coach fares were $6.00 one-way, $10.80 round-trip, rates that were matched by the SP. San Francisco to Los Angeles was 312.8 rail miles (503.4 km) plus 112 bus miles (180 km).
In early 1939, the Golden Gate was involved in what was believed to be the first collision between a modern streamlined train and an automobile when it was struck by a car in Richmond. In 1939 another train, the Valley Flyer, was added to the Bakersfield-Oakland route to carry passengers to the Golden Gate International Exposition. In 1940 the Exposition ended and this train moved to the San Diego to Los Angeles route.
Citing losses of up to $421,000 in 1963 (equivalent to $3,558,823 in 2020), the Santa Fe applied to discontinue the Golden Gate. The California Public Utilities Commission held hearings on the discontinuance of the service in 1964 and authorized discontinuance of the service in March 1965 stating that “the public reaction [to discontinuing the service] was apathetic to say the least.” Yet just seven years earlier in 1957, passenger feedback was cited as the reason to adjust the Golden Gate timetable about one hour earlier in the day. The Golden Gate was all but eliminated on April 11, 1965, though No. 62 was reassigned as No. 8 and took over the duties of the southbound Fast Mail Express. That service ended April 28, 1968. Today Amtrak California’sSan Joaquin runs the same route from Port Chicago to Bakersfield.