The Historic 16th

Street Train Station

The Oakland 16th Street Station (also known as the Oakland Central Station) was one of three train stations in Oakland, California, United States at the start of the 20th century. The Beaux-Arts building was designed by architect Jarvis Hunt, a preeminent train station architect, and opened in 1912. For decades the 16th Street Station was the main Oakland station for Southern Pacific (SP) through trains. The elevated platforms were used for the East Bay Electric Lines, which went around the East Bay and after 1939 over the Bay Bridge until 1941, when it was sold to the Key System. It was a companion (or "city station") for Oakland Pier, two miles away, which was demolished in 1960. After the pier was demolished people switched to buses at this station which took passengers across the Bay Bridge to the SP's Third and Townsend Depot. Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) used this station as its main Oakland stop for nearly two decades. It also had buses across the bridge but ran them to the Transbay Terminal instead. The station was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but continued serving trains at an adjacent building. It closed in 1994, having been replaced by the stations in nearby Emeryville and Jack London Square. The last Amtrak train serviced the station on August 5, 1994, after which passengers accessed downtown Oakland via the Emeryville Station, until Jack London Station opened in May 1995.


The 16th Street Station opened on August 1, 1912 and made West Oakland the gateway to the city. Built by Southern Pacific Railway and designed by Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt, the Station was constructed for $300,000. The Station was featured in Western Architect that year. The Station served as the terminus for the trans-continental railway, the last Western stop.

 As recently as the 1950s, Southern Pacific was one of Oakland’s largest employers. By the 1960s, the railroad company realized their revenue was primarily from freight rather than passenger travel. But in the early years, the usage was quite different.

 In the rear of the Station, the raised platform was the first elevated tracks west of the Mississippi. Passengers came in on the ground floor and went upstairs for their local connection. The Interurban Railway (IER) was operated by Southern Pacific. It began operating two years after the Station opened, on February 19, 1914, and continued for 26 years. For five years, 1936-1941, the IER went west over the lower deck of the Bay Bridge.

 The Station is historically significant not only because of its age. The Baggage Wing was the West Coast organizing home for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American union in the country. The first contract was signed in 1937 after nearly twelve years of organizing under the leadership of field agent C.L. Dellums. A. Phillip Randolph was the national organizing leader.

 The Signal Tower which is still on site, served as the train traffic controller. It was built in 1913 and was twice the size of most signal towers of its age. The base is made of concrete rather than wood, another unusual feature.