Golden Gate Express

by Joe Thompson

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Golden Gate Express, San Francisco, California


Golden Gate Express - 2009

Golden Gate Bridge New Orleans streetcar 952 rolls across the Golden Gate Bridge. The Ferry Building is in the foreground. January, 2009.

We went to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park for the first time in years. The plants were in great shape. In the special exhibit room at the west end was the Golden Gate Express Railway, a garden scale layout designed by Cal professor Chip Sullivan. Various historic San Francisco structures, including the Golden Gate Bridge and the Ferry Building, were made from recycled materials by Figureplant (http://www.figureplant.com/). On the upper level, New Orleans street car 952 ran back and forth from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Chinatown gate. On the two lower loops, there were two Amtrack trains and lots of tunnels.

A video combines several scenes of the operation. January, 2009. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers will require two clicks to start the video.)

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Golden Gate Express - 2010

Golden Gate Bridge Families view representations of the Transamerica Pyramid, Ghirardelli Square, and the Golden Gate Bridge. A freight train speeds by in the foreground. January, 2010.

We went to to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. In the special exhibit room at the west end was the Golden Gate Express Railway, a garden scale layout designed by by members of the Bay Area Garden Railway Society. The famous San Francisco structures were made from recycled materials.

Autos ran across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cable car 3/1 Powell/Hyde cable car 3 runs down the Hyde Street Hill between Lombard Street and a row of Victorian houses. Coit Tower looms above. January, 2010.

A cable car ran down the Hyde Street hill. Unfortunately, it climbed the hill backwards. I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of that.

Cable car 3/2 Powell/Hyde cable car 3 waits at the end of the line after a downhill run. January, 2010.

Cable car 3/3 Powell/Hyde cable car 3 lays over at the end of its run. The freight train speeds by on a trestle in the background. January, 2010.

Castro Theatre The freight train emerges from a tunnel behind the Castro Theatre, which is showing Milk. Firehouse 37 stands on the hill in the background. January, 2010.

A freight train ran around the layout. I think one track was not in use that day.

Chinatown Gate The Chinatown gate, made from Mah Jong tiles and circuit boards, looms over Powell/Hyde cable car 3. The Conservatory of Flowers and the Palace of Fine Arts dome are visible in the background. January, 2010.

Structures included the Ghirardelli factory, made from chocolate-colored light switch and plug cover plates, the Chinatown gate made from Mah Jong tiles, the Castro Theatre, and Pac Bell Park. The Ferry Building clock came from a kitchen timer.

Ferry Building The Ferry Building stands in front of the base of the Transamerica Pyramid and some buildings I couldn't identify. Note the forks, the Scrabble(r) tiles and the kitchen timer dial used as the face of the Ferry Building clock. January, 2010.

New in 2010 were a soundtrack, including organ music for the Castro, bells for the cable cars, Chinese music for Chinatown, and crowd noises and Renel Brooks-Moon's announcements. We didn't get to see it, but the fog was supposed to come in twice a day.

Rabbit train In a separate area, two trains ran for the benefit of younger children: Thomas the Tank Engine ran light on a loop track and this train, pulled by a rabbit, ran back and forth. January, 2010.

The Conservatory's ticket booth was closed because some tried to break in during the week and damaged it.

A video combines several scenes of the operation. January, 2010. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers will require two clicks to start the video.)
Station 37/1 San Francisco Station 37 is located at 22nd and Wisconsin Streets. This is a good model. January, 2010.
Station 37/2 Another view of Station 37. January, 2010.

Pac Bell Park A model of Pacific Bell Park, or whatever it is called this week. Note the giant Coke bottle. January, 2010.

Dome inside Looking up at the Conservatory's dome from beneath. January, 2010.

Dome outside Looking up at the Conservatory's dome from outside. January, 2010.

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Golden Gate Express - 2011

Cable Car/Coit Tower Cable Car 4, running backwards, heads downhill after passing Coit Tower. January, 2011.

For the third consecutive January, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. In the special exhibit room at the west end was the Golden Gate Express Railway, a garden scale layout designed by by members of the Bay Area Garden Railway Society. The famous San Francisco structures were made from recycled materials.

The layout was quite different this year. The cable car ran on a separate table, with the Ferry Building, the Castro Theatre, and Coit Tower. Today the car was running backwards.
Station 37/1 San Francisco Station 37 is located at 22nd and Wisconsin Streets. This model was on the cable car table. January, 2011.
Pyramid and Castro Cable Car 4 passes the Transamerica Pyramid and the Castro Theatre. January, 2011.
Cable Car/Coit Tower/2 Another view of Cable Car 4 passing Coit Tower. January, 2011.

A video combines several scenes of the operation. January, 2011. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers will require two clicks to start the video.)
Bridge and Tunnel A Southern Pacific freight train enters a tunnel next to the Golden Gate Bridge. January, 2011.

A Southern Pacific freight train ran around the primary layout. I think one track was not in use that day. Several Golden Gate Park fixtures were there, including the buffalo herd, the carousel, and the Music Concourse with the De Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences.
Windmill Golden Gate Park's Dutch Windmill. Note that the sails are made out of rulers. January, 2011.
Train and Windmill The Southern Pacific freight train approaches the Dutch Windmill. January, 2011.
Buffalo The Buffalo herd. January, 2011.
Log Cabin The log cabin near Stow Lake. January, 2011.
Train/Buffalo/cabin The Southern Pacific freight train passes the buffalo herd and the log cabin. January, 2011.
Chinese Pavillion The Chinese Pavilion at Golden Gate Park's Stow Lake. The real one sits below Huntington Falls, but this one sits at the top. January, 2011.
Music Concourse What appears to be a Third Avenue Railway (New York) streetcar ran back and forth on a bridge over Golden Gate Park's Music Concourse. The new Academy of Sciences is on the left. The new De Young Museum is on the right. The band shell is in the middle. I recognize the back of an old stereo in the De Young. January, 2011.
Bridge Another view of the Third Avenue Railway (New York) streetcar on the bridge over thes Music Concourse. January, 2011.
Streetcar and Tunnel The Third Avenue Railway streetcar leaves its tunnel and crosses the bridge. January, 2011.
Carousel The freight train passes the 1914 carousel in the Childrens' Quarter. January, 2011.
Conservatory The Conservatory of Flowers, located in the Conservatory of Flowers. My wife wanted to know if it contained a tiny Conservatory of Flowers. I'm sorry they didn't include the city Christmas Tree. January, 2011.
McLaren Lodge McLaren Lodge, built in 1896, is the headquarters of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. January, 2011.
Ghiradelli Square Ghiradelli Square is made mostly of old switch plates. January, 2011.

Another table had the Victorians, Ghiradelli Square and other San Francisco landmarks, but no train was running there.
Chinatown Gate The Chinatown gate is made from Mah Jong tiles and circuit boards. January, 2011.
Victorians and Rotunda Victorians descend a hill near the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts. January, 2011.

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Golden Gate Express - 2012

Cable Car/Coit Tower An original Playland sign provides a backdrop. January, 2012.
cable car and tunnel Cable car 4 emerges from the tunnel. January, 2012.

For the fourth consecutive January, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. In the special exhibit room at the west end was the Golden Gate Express Railway, a garden scale layout designed by by members of the Bay Area Garden Railway Society. The theme this year was "Playland at the Conservatory of Flowers". The structures were made from recycled materials.
cable car and trolley Cable car 4 and the Third Avenue Railway streetcar pass each other on a curve. The Golden Gate Park buffalo herd is in the background, near the mouth of the tunnel. The Loof Carousel is on the left. January, 2012.

The only electric trains were a Third Avenue Railway streetcar, a cable car, and two PCCs that went back and forth.
cable car Cable car 4 runs along the straight track past Playland. Little kids watch attentively. January, 2012.
Loof Carousel Playland's famous Loof Carousel. The structure looks more like the Herschel-Spillman carousel at the Children's Quarters in Golden Gate Park. at the January, 2012.
PCCs A pair of PCC cars ran to and fro into and out of a tunnel that represented one of the Playland haunted house rides. The Fun House is on the right. January, 2012.
Fun House The Playland Fun House. I always enjoyed visiting it. Note the roof. January, 2012.
Laffing Sal Laffing Sal stood on the balcony of the Fun House. There was more than one Laffing Sal figure. My daughter was disappointed that this one did not move. January, 2012.
Big Dipper Playland's Big Dipper roller coaster got torn down before I had a chance to ride it. January, 2012.
Airplane Ride The Airplane Ride. January, 2012.
Ferris wheel The Playland Ferris wheel. The cars are made from pencil sharpener shavings receptacles. There is a Los Angeles Railway PCC in the background. January, 2012.
Diving Bell The Playland Diving Bell goes up and down. I never rode it. January, 2012.
Bumper car A young gentleman admires a real Playland bumper car. January, 2012.
cable car and Cliff House Cable car 4 passes between Adolph Sutro's Victorian chalet Cliff House and the entrance to Sutro Baths, climbing the hill towards the Golden Gate Bridge. January, 2012.
Sutro Baths entrance The entrance to Sutro Baths. January, 2012.
Sutro Baths Looking down at Sutro Baths. January, 2012.
Sky Tram The silver Sky Tram was an overhead cable car that ran from the Cliff House, along the back of Sutro Baths, to a point above the Sutro tide pools. January, 2012.
giant stink plant The sign next to the Giant Stink Plant. January, 2012.
Playland at the Conservatory A banner advertising Playland at the Conservatory. January, 2012.

A video combines several scenes of the operation. January, 2012. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers will require two clicks to start the video.)

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Last updated 31-January-2012