Since the 19th century, the Southern Pacific had had a stranglehold on rail traffic between the major cities of the West Coast, specifically Los Angeles and San Francisco. True, the Santa Fe had won trackage rights over the Tehachapi Loop and entrance to San Francisco in 1900—but the Santa Fe's route between California's two largest cities ran far to the east through Barstow. Freight didn't complain, but passengers balked at having to travel 130-plus miles out of the way.

But in the late 1930s as the state of California was upgrading and modernizing its highway system, the Santa Fe saw its chance. The Santa Fe proposed a coordinated intermodal bus and rail service between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Air-conditioned, streamlined buses would transport passengers over the new highway between LA and Bakersfield, where they would board the Santa Fe's new, streamlined, diesel-powered Golden Gate. That train would transport the passengers to Oakland, from whence they would again board buses and travel to San Francisco across the newly completed Bay Bridge.

Southern Pacific did not take kindly to having its monopoly assaulted—to put things mildly. Nor did Pacific Greyhound Lines, an SP affiliate, welcome the thought of new competition. The respective companies fought a titanic battle before the California Railroad Commission which dragged out for almost two full years. Finally, on April 18, 1938, the Commission ruled in favor of the Santa Fe and the new Golden Gates entered service on July 1 of that same year.

From the pages of the Official Guide, June 1941

Santa Fe Railway herald

The Golden Gates

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry.
October 27, 1940

Connecting Bus Service
8 00A 1 00P Dp Los Angeles, CA (Bus Station) (PT) R Ar 5 20P 3 20A
8 20A 1 22P Dp Hollywood, CA Ar 5 01P 2 58A
8 33A 1 36P Dp North Hollywood, CA Ar 4 48P 2 45A
9 15A 2 19P Dp Castaic, CA Ar 4 06P 2 03A
10 09A 3 14P Dp Lebec, CA Ar 3 10P 1 10A
11 05A 4 10P Ar Bakersfield, CA Dp 2 10P 12 10A
61 63 Train Number 60 62
Daily Daily Miles Services Daily Daily
11 10A 4 15P Dp 0.0 Bakersfield, CA (PT) C Ar 2 00P 11 59P
17.8 Shafter, CA F
25.3 Wasco, CA T C F
63.2 Corcoran, CA T C F
12 24A 5 29P 80.2 Hanford, CA T C 12 48P 10 38P
12 57A 6 02P Ar 110.4 Fresno, CA C R Dp 12 12P 10 05P
12 59A 6 04P Dp Ar 12 10P 10 03P
1 56P 7 02P 168.4 Merced, CA T C 11 15A 9 08P
3 00P 8 06P 233.7 Stockton, CA C R 10 10A 8 06P
4 21P 9 26P 301.9 Richmond, CA T C 8 48A 6 48P
4 40P 9 45P 309.9 Berkeley, CA C R 8 30A 6 30P
4 50P 9 55P Ar 312.8 Oakland, CA (40th St.) (PT) C R Dp 8 20A 6 20P
5 10P 10 15P Ar 319.8 San Francisco, CA (via bus) (PT) C R Dp 8 00A 6 00P

Train 61: 7 stops, 6:00, 53.3 MPHTrain 60: 7 stops, 6:00, 53.3 MPH

Train 63: 7 stops, 6:00, 53.3 MPHTrain 62: 7 stops, 5:59, 53.4 MPH


EQUIPMENT—Completely Air-Conditioned—Nos. 60, 61, 62 and 63 (The Golden Gate) ALL SEATS RESERVED. Lightweight streamlined trains operate daily between Bakersfield and San Francisco. Diesel-electric drawn and air-conditioned, each train carries baggage and chair cars, and Fred Harvey lunch-counter dining car. Motor Coaches are streamlined and air-conditioned.

The Golden Gates were an instant and overwhelming success—aided, in no small part I am sure, by Santa Fe's decision to charge a $6.00 one-way fare between the two terminal cities when Southern Pacific was charging $9.47 and Pacific Greyhound Lines $6.75 for the same trip. [And you wondered why the big fight....]

The public response was so strong, in fact, that Santa Fe was motivated to upgrade its more conventional service along the same route in June of 1939. The new Valley Flyer would feature a semi-streamlined Pacific steam locomotive pulling refurbished heavyweight cars (including a buffet-lounge from the original Chief) and the same kind of coordinated rail-bus service as the Golden Gates. The Valley Flyer would only last the duration of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exhibition at Treasure Island, but the Golden Gates would do yeoman service for the full duration of World War II and beyond.