Berkeley (ferryboat)

The Berkeley was one of several ferryboats of the Southern Pacific Railroad that operated on San Francisco Bay between the Oakland Pier and the San Francisco Ferry Building for sixty years. Built in 1898 by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, she served after the 1906 earthquake, ferrying refugees across the bay to Oakland.

The Berkeley was in regular service from 1898 to the spring of 1958, when she was taken out of service for repairs. She never returned to service as Southern Pacific decided to end all ferry service on July 29, 1958. The Berkeley was put up for sale, and was purchased by the Golden Gate Fishing Company to be used as a whaling processing facility. Before it was put to this use, however, it was sold to ferryboat enthusiast and businessman Bill Conover. Conover had the Berkeley docked in Sausalito, a small town on the Bay in Marin County and converted it into a gift shop called "Trade Fair". However, the Berkeley was not well-maintained in its gift shop incarnation and 12 years of serious deterioration took a toll. In 1973, she was sold to the Maritime Museum of San Diego. She was towed out of San Francisco Bay by tug on May 31, 1973 arriving 3 days later in San Diego where she was subsequently restored. She currently serves as the main "building" of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

The Berkeley was notable for having been the first propeller-driven ferry on the west coast. At the time of its launching on October 18, 1898, it became the largest commuter ferryboat in the United States with a 1700 passenger capacity. It was also remarkable for being one of the earliest ferries to be powered by a triple-expansion steam engine.

The Berkeley was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1990 and California State Historical Landmark No. 1031 in 2000.


  • Actor and Sausalito resident Sterling Hayden rented one of the pilot houses of the Berkeley as an office while he wrote his autobiographic book Wanderer (published in 1963).
  • While the Berkeley was under construction in 1898, the battleship Wisconsin was being constructed adjacent to it.

See also


  • "Berkeley: A Pioneering West Coast Ferryboat", in Mains'l Haul Spring 2004 (entire issue) Vol.40, No.2, published by the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

External links

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