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 ■