Sunday, December 20, 2015

San Francisco Port of Embarkation (SFPOE)

Unpacking my books I came across Gateway to Victory, The wartime story of the San Francisco Army Port of Embarkation.  I had purchased it about 10 years ago and was excited to find a detailed history of the largest rail customer in my chosen locale and era.  The book documents the activities of the principle Army port for the Pacific Theater during WWII.  It starts with a brief history of the port and Fort Mason and Benicia Arsenal then continues with the expansion of the port to Oakland Army Base, Alameda Air Depot, Camp Stoneman, Parr Terminal and Fort McDowell. 

Fort Mason, along with piers on the Embarcadero was the loading and unloading point for nearly all of the troops passing through SFPOE.  Today, a Safeway store occupies the block with the large storage tank and the pier buildings are managed by the National Park Service.

Oakland Army Base in the foreground had 16 berths for loading ships along the waterfront between the Key System approach to the bay bridge on the right and the SP Oakland Mole at the center top. Large warehouses with direct rail and truck access are just right of the SP and Oakland Terminal yards at the lower left.  The Naval Supply Base is the group of warehouses and piers on the far side of the SP tracks leading to the Mole.  The WP's freight slip is beyond the Navy base on the near side of the channel.  Alameda Naval Air Station is on the far side of the channel in the upper left.   

Fort McDowell on Angel Island was used for Prisoner of War (POW) processing.  Fort Baker is on the bay side of the Golden Gate at the upper left.  The NWP car float apron at Tiburon is visible at the mid-upper right.  Marin Ship in Sausalito is at the far-upper right.

Camp Stoneman provided facilities to complete overseas processing and training for army troops bound to the Pacific Theater.  Most arrived in unit moves from points east in MAIN trains.  Troops debarked from their trains in Pittsburg from either the Santa Fe or SP.  They then marched or trucked into the camp south of the SP tracks.

Geographic separation of the components of the port meant that troops had to move to the piers when it was time to ship out and from them to Camp Stoneman when they returned home to demobilize.  The Army used a number of ferry boats to provide transport from a pier on the San Joaquin river in Pittsburg direct to the loading piers in San Francisco, avoiding rail and traffic congestion that would occur with land movement.

Although these troops are going home after the war, they are traversing the reverse of the route that they took to the front.  Loading a MAIN train at Pittsburg.


Emeryville was the home to the port vehicle section.  They prepared all vehicles for shipment.  Here they unload a DUKW from SLSF 152203 onto a Boston & Albany flat.

SLSF 152203 is one of 224 (Apr 43 ORER) in the series 152000-152228 DS Steel Frame, Staggered 12’6 side doors, 8’10 wide by 9’11 high end door.  These 40’6 inside length cars were 8’10 inside width, 80,000 lb capacity XAR cars.  The Boston & Albany flat is one of 188 cars in the 16000-16399 series of 40’ 100,000 lb capacity cars built in 1913.  The 1944 reweigh date places the photo in my modeling era.  It is likely that the XAR would have been reloaded with another vehicle out of the Bay area, perhaps with a 2 ½ ton truck from the Chevrolet plant in Oakland or with Jeeps from the Ford Plant in Richmond.