Interurban Intrigue

Written by: Gary Dolzall

The Sacramento Northern, South End route will soon bring classic American interurban railroading to Train Simulator!

Coming soon, the new Sacramento Northern, South End route will bring the unique and timeless appeal – and captivating challenges – of traditional American interurban railroading to Train Simulator!

Set in the late 1930s and early 1940s, this upcoming Train Simulator route brings to life the classic interurban passenger and freight operations of the Sacramento Northern Railway’s “South End,” which extended from San Francisco’s busy Transbay Terminal to the railroad’s famed ferry connection at Mallard Island on California’s Suisun Bay.

The Sacramento Northern Railway was formed in the late 1920s through the consolidation of two northern California electric railways – the Northern Electric Railway, which operated out of California’s capital of Sacramento northward to Chico; and the Oakland, Antioch, & Eastern (for a time renamed the San Francisco-Sacramento Railroad) which operated from Oakland to Mallard Island in Contra Costa County, and then, via a ferry connection across Suisun Bay, onward to Sacramento. Following the opening of the Bay Bridge across San Francisco Bay in 1939, Sacramento Northern trains directly accessed San Francisco’s busy Transbay Terminal by sharing the lower level of the massive bridge with the trains of the Key System and Interurban Electric Railway (IER). For virtually its entire existence, the Sacramento Northern was controlled by Class 1 railroad Western Pacific.

Stretching approximately 45 route miles, the upcoming Sacramento Northern, South End route includes the 4.5-mile-long, twin-span Bay Bridge crossing from San Francisco to Oakland, over which trains operate with the aid of an innovative in-cab signaling system. And once across San Francisco Bay, all the captivating features of interurban-era railroading await on the Sacramento Northern, South End route – including hectic street-running in Oakland and navigating tight curves and steep grades (of more than 4 percent) as the electric railroad climbs up and over the rugged Oakland Hills and through scenic Redwood Canyon.

Whether the location is bustling and urban San Francisco and Oakland or the rural agricultural towns of Contra Costa County, this new route marvelously rekindles the bygone era of the 1930s and 1940s. Created by G-TraX Simulations and the talented team of Rick Grout and Jim Freidland, the Sacramento Northern, South End route will re-capture the experience of operating SN’s iconic Holman Car Company 1003-class interurban (provided in both motor and trailer versions) for passenger service as well as taking the controls of the railroad’s 63-ton General Electric 650-class Steeple Cab electric locomotives in freight duty. The Sacramento Northern, South End route also features more than a dozen types of freight equipment authentic to the period and, to bring the western portion of the line to full life, AI versions of the Key System’s distinctive articulated Bridge Unit and the Interurban Electric Railway’s “red car” heavy interurban are included.

This upcoming route’s attention and fidelity in re-capturing the bygone era of the late 1930s and early 1940s is extraordinary, with a variety of authentic structures, vehicles, custom signals, and characters all helping to vividly re-create famed Sacramento Northern locations such as Shafter Yard at 40th Street in Oakland, 3,600-foot-long Redwood Peak Tunnel, the iconic Suisun Bay ferry “Ramon,” or the Key System’s expansive shops in Emeryville, California. And the upcoming route also includes the Sacramento Northern branch line from West Pittsburg (near Mallard Island) to the steel mill town of Pittsburg, California.

Featuring 17 career scenarios, including a tutorial for using the authentic in-cab signal system and a selection of passenger, freight, and switching activities, the remarkable Sacramento Northern, South End route is guaranteed to bring all the timeless appeal and unique operating challenges of classic American interurban railroading to your Train Simulator experience! – Gary Dolzall

The timeless appeal of American interurban railroading is coming soon to Train Simulator with the Sacramento Northern, South End route. At San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal, a classic Sacramento Northern Holman Car Company 1003-class interurban prepares to begin its memorable eastward journey. All screenshots by Gary Dolzall.

Having departed Transbay Terminal, a Sacramento Northern eastbound trundles below the 1930s skyline of San Francisco and encounters an inbound Interurban Electric Railway “red car” train. Transbay Terminal was accessed by a loop track and hosted Sacramento Northern, Key System, and Interurban Electric Railway services. Note: Screenshots may depict content still in development.

Stretching more than four miles in length over two massive spans linked by a tunnel through Yerba Buena Island, the Bay Bridge is an absolute wonder re-created in Train Simulator! An eastbound Sacramento Northern train is dwarfed by the bridge’s east span (above). The bridge was equipped with transponders and operations governed by an early application of in-cab signals which are authentically re-created in this upcoming route. As viewed by the motorman (below), the in-cab signal is showing a clear (35 mph) indication as the train meets a sister on the Bay Bridge.

Bringing the railroad action on the western segment of the upcoming Sacramento Northern, South End route to full life are AI editions of the Key System’s articulated Bridge Units (above) and Interurban Electric Railway’s “red car” heavy interurban (below).

Heartbeat of the Sacramento Northern South End route is the depot, yard, and car barns located at the intersection of 40th Street and Shafter Avenue in Oakland. A San Francisco-bound SN interurban waits at Shafter Avenue depot while a Key System train scurries past on 40th Street.

Nearing the eastern edge of Oakland street running, a Suisun Bay-bound interurban crosses the intersection of Shafter and College Avenues (above). From nearby Rockridge, the Sacramento Northern took to its own private right-of-way climbing up and over the Oakland Hills and making its way through the scenic Redwood Canyon (below).

The Sacramento Northern totted tonnage as well as passengers, and on the upcoming Sacramento Northern, South End route you will have the opportunity to take the controls of the diminutive but powerful General Electric 650-class Steeple Cab electric. Wearing a postwar livery, 63-ton SN electric 654 switches a string of cattle cars at Moraga (above), while at the far east end of the route a Steeple Cab (below) – this time in SN’s prewar livery – switches the steel complex at Pittsburg, California.

A truly iconic feature of the Sacramento Northern faithfully re-created in the upcoming South End route is the railroad’s Mallard Island ferry landing. A four-car San Francisco-bound interurban is making its way off the famed ferry “Ramon” and onto Mallard Island’s pier.

From bustling and busy San Francisco and Oakland to the open agricultural lands of California’s 1930s-era Contra Costa County (above near Saranap), the upcoming Sacramento Northern, South End route will bring all the captivating appeal and challenging operations of classic American interurban railroading to Train Simulator!

Gary Dolzall


  • The Bridge span alone has me sold..

  • Even though I also know about the route prior to its announcement on this site, I am still coming off the initial shock and awe of finally seeing this route coming to Train Simulator. I have wrote numerous articles suggesting this route and here it is! It’s always great to see something fresh brought to the game. I would have taken any interurban route but the fact that this is based in the area where I live plus the fact that I have visited the Western Railroad Museum where some pieces of the equipment featured on this route are held and have rode the 1005 interurban at the museum makes this route all the more amazing. I’m telling you I will be one of the first to buy this route. Thank you.

  • Somebody pinch me ! Feather River Canyon and now Sacramento Northern, I don’t believe it. Awesome. 🙂

  • Yes, I’ve waited so long for this day to come!!! 😀

  • Believe it or not, these great screenshots include only a portion of what this route has to offer. Having had the privilege of participating in its beta testing, I can assure TS enthusiasts that this is a great route to drive. The bay bridge model, with its unusual signalling system, is worth the price of admission all by itself. One piece of advice: do not skip over the tutorial scenarios!

  • This route looks like such a laugh. I can imagine a bundle of fun being had on this route!

  • This is going to be one of the best American Routes out there. This and the Racetrack are both very amazing routes by the GTrax Team. Their modeling skills have grown massively from the start with Portland Terminal to now this amazing route!

  • This looks interesting; I did see this was announced on the G-Trax website months ago before it was announced here on the TS site, so I knew it was going to come eventually…

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