Photos aboard historic steam ferryboat Berkeley.

Golden light on the steam ferryboat Berkeley, hub of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. I believe I took this photo a year or two ago.
Golden light on the steam ferryboat Berkeley, hub of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. I believe I took this photo a year or two ago.

Over the years, I’ve taken many photos around and aboard the historic steam ferryboat Berkeley. The beautiful old ship is the hub of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of these photographs. Read the captions to learn a little about the Berkeley’s fascinating history.

Berkeley, built in 1898, was originally operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad on San Francisco Bay. It was used to ferry up to 1700 passengers per trip between the transcontinental train terminus at the Oakland Pier and the San Francisco Ferry Building across the bay. The Berkeley was also used after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to rescue thousand of refugees, which were brought out of the fire-devastated city safely over to Oakland.

Berkeley was acquired by the Maritime Museum of San Diego in 1973, and today she houses a large number of fascinating historical exhibits on her lower deck. She is both a National Historic Landmark and California State Historical Landmark, and a cool sight that many like to visit on San Diego’s Embarcadero.

Personally, I love to head up the stairs to the McKinney Deck, where passengers used to cross the water in elegance. I have often seen ferry visitors and members of the Maritime Museum of San Diego sitting on the beautiful wooden benches simply reading or enjoying a relaxing moment. It’s like being transported back into another era. The atmosphere is quite amazing, as you will see…

Plaque in front of the ferryboat Berkeley, which was the first successful West Coast-built ferry to be driven by a screw propeller as opposed to side wheels.
Plaque in front of the ferryboat Berkeley, which was the first successful West Coast-built ferry to be driven by a screw propeller as opposed to side wheels.
Downtown San Diego skyscrapers and masts of HMS Surprise and Star of India can be seen in this photo of the upper passenger deck and one of two pilot houses.
Downtown San Diego skyscrapers and masts of museum ships HMS Surprise and Star of India can be seen in this photo of the Berkeley’s upper passenger deck and one of two pilot houses.
Southern Pacific Lines logo on a pilot house.
Southern Pacific Lines logo on one pilot house.
Photo over the roof of the ferryboat, with a black funnel projecting into the blue San Diego sky.
Photo over the roof of the ferryboat, with a black funnel projecting into the blue San Diego sky.
I'm getting ready to look inside the pilot house on the west end of the Berkeley. I see the County Administration Building.
I’m getting ready to look inside the pilot house on the west end of the Berkeley. I see the County Administration Building.
The wooden wheel, binoculars and other instruments used to pilot the ferry.
The wooden wheel, binoculars and other instruments used to pilot the ferry.
Many forms of communication were used during ferry operation. The Berkeley's pilot houses contained a radio receiver, the ship's whistle, and two voice tubes.
Many forms of communication were used during ferry operation. The Berkeley’s pilot houses contained radio receivers, the ship’s whistle, and two voice tubes.
Standing outside, peering into the elegant Dan McKinney Deck of the Berkeley.
Standing outside, peering into the elegant Dan McKinney Deck of the Berkeley.
Visitors aboard the Berkeley look at the beautiful long wooden benches and stained glass windows of the upper passenger deck.
Visitors aboard the Berkeley look at the beautiful long wooden benches and art glass windows of the upper passenger deck.
Different stained glass windows on the ship infuse the passenger deck with colored light.
Different art glass windows on the ship fill the passenger deck with many-colored light.
More exquisite stained glass. Passengers would cross San Francisco Bay in style.
More exquisite art glass. Passengers would cross San Francisco Bay in style.
Walking through the passenger deck.
Walking through the passenger deck.
Sunlight on one comfortable, warm wood bench. Wouldn't you like to sit here?
Sunlight on one comfortable, warm wood bench. Wouldn’t you like to sit here?
A painting of the ferry Berkeley and a relic from its history.
A painting of the ferry Berkeley and a relic from its history.
More beauty aboard the old ship, which is now docked in San Diego Bay.
More beauty aboard the old ship, which is now docked in San Diego Bay.
I assume the fancy B is for Berkeley, but I'm not sure.
I assume the fancy B is for Berkeley, but I’m not sure.
Refreshments used to be served here during bay crossings. Today the Berkeley is often used for special events and drinks are still served.
Refreshments used to be purchased here during bay crossings. Today the Berkeley is often used for special events and drinks are still served.
Over the years, many thousands of passengers were served.
Over the years, countless thousands of passengers were served.
Ferryboat Berkeley,1898, has been designated a National Historic Landmark. This vessel possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.
Ferryboat Berkeley,1898, has been designated a National Historic Landmark. This vessel possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.
One of four old photos on the passenger deck. Berkeley was launched on San Francisco Bay on October 18, 1898.
One of four old photos on the passenger deck. Berkeley was launched on San Francisco Bay on October 18, 1898.
Berkeley was never a car ferry. The open deck below carried luggage carts for passengers transiting between the end of the railroad at Oakland and San Francisco.
Berkeley was never a car ferry. The open deck below carried luggage carts for passengers transiting between the end of the railroad at Oakland and San Francisco across the bay.
The Berkeley was heroine of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake story. She carried refugees to safety nonstop for three days and nights.
The Berkeley was heroine of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake story. She carried refugees to safety nonstop for three days and nights.
In 1973, Berkeley was towed down the coast to San Diego to begin a second life as floating museum.
In 1973, Berkeley was towed down the coast to San Diego to begin a second life as floating museum.
And what a beautiful museum she is! Many exhibits can be seen on the lower deck, where ferry passengers used to haul their luggage carts.
And what a beautiful museum she is! I haven’t included them in this particular blog post, but many cool exhibits can be seen on the lower deck, where ferry passengers used to park their luggage carts.
Gazing down some steps at a museum workshop aboard the Berkeley.
Gazing down some steps at a museum workshop aboard the Berkeley.
Gazing from the passenger deck outside toward San Diego Bay. Other museum ships, including Californian and San Salvador, are docked along a float west of the Berkeley.
Gazing from the passenger deck outside toward San Diego Bay. Other museum ships, including Californian and San Salvador, are docked along a float west of the Berkeley.
One of the ferry's old lifeboats.
One of the ferry’s old lifeboats.
Looking up at the pilot house on the ferry's bay-facing end.
Looking up at the pilot house on the steam ferry’s bay-facing end.
Some folks on the other end looking out at downtown San Diego and the Waterfront Park.
Some folks on the other end looking out at downtown San Diego and the Waterfront Park.
An old sign above one doorway says a Lunch and Grill Room are on the Lower Deck.
An old sign above one doorway says Lunch and Grill Room on Lower Deck.
That old sign was uncovered beneath accumulated paint. Working on an old vessel is a bit like an archaeological dig.
That old sign was uncovered beneath accumulated paint. Working on an old vessel is a bit like an archaeological dig.
Looking from the Embarcadero at the Berkeley, over the Maritime Museum of San Diego's deep diving submarine USS Dolphin.
Looking from the Embarcadero at the Berkeley, over the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s deep diving submarine USS Dolphin.
The handsome steam ferryboat Berkeley now greets visitors on San Diego Bay.
The handsome steam ferryboat Berkeley now greets visitors on San Diego Bay.
People walk through history aboard a beautiful old vessel.
People walk through history aboard a beautiful old vessel.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

9 thoughts on “Photos aboard historic steam ferryboat Berkeley.”

  1. Dear Richard: What superb photographs! By the early morning light on her Embarcadero end,
    in my favorite shot, it’s obvious you’ve done everything possible to catch Berkeley at her most elegant moments. I was a Museum docent for 1986 until I retired from 5 years as Museum Librarian in 2002. This month the Museum received a $200,000 grant to aid in the preservation of Berkeley from the National Maritime Heritage Grant Program [https://sdmaritime.org/latest-news/grant-program-preserve-steam-ferry-berkeley/ ]. A few things you might not have found: after the end of World War II, a rotating radar antenna was mounted atop her pilot house. The fogs on San Francisco Bay were not to stop her rounds, after that. The Snack Bar on her upper deck was added after the Berkeley restaurant and bar (sort of a floating pub), located down the mid-deck stairs to what is now a special exhibits and storage area, was closed. The museum has a large collection of historic photographs taken aboard Berkeley, which is how we saw that we needed to put a coin operated sightseeing telescope on one of the passenger level veranda areas. Also, we noted that Southern Pacific attached the round metal SP locomotive logos to their ferries, and were able to obtain one and add it to the street-end pilot house. The windows in the passenger deck are art glass, rather than stained glass. They were all completely removed, disassembled, restored and reassembled by the very same company that created them! It was apparent, about 10 years ago, that the lead in the windows had deteriorated and they were buckling, and needing exterior supports. The librarian, Dr. Kevin Sheehan, I’m sure would be happy to help you, if you wanted more information about Berkeley. A special edition of our journal Mains’l Haul devoted entirely to Berkeley and her history is possibly available at the gift shop. Chuck Bencik

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thanks for the incredible information! I’ll update my blog concerning the art glass. I’m always trying to learn more! Your stint as docent and Librarian must have been amazing–learning so much history. I love the Maritime Museum and walk down that way often. Thanks again for the comment and visiting my modest blog! I do it mostly just for fun, but am always learning more! I guess I need to renew my membership in the museum!

      Like

  2. Richard, loved this blog post. Great photos. I can see how easy it is to get so involved in photo-taking. Just keep on snapping! I must confess that my favorites are the art glass windows. It was so interesting reading the docent’s comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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