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.