San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark 114: Beltline Railroad Roundhouse
Both Photos 25 May 2010
(Click Photos to Zoom)

The Pavement Marker Reads:

Construction began in 1889 for San Francisco's harbor Belt Line Railroad, a terminal switching railroad with locomotives dedicated to moving boxcars and flat cars directly alongside cargo vessels. Opening in 1896 to serve the warehouse and shipping district on the north waterfront, the Belt line tracks eventually covered 70 miles of the city front - from Islais Creek in the south, running through Fort Mason tunnel, to serve the Presidio in the north. Four tracks, that used half the width of the Embarcadero extended more than a hundred spur tracks out on to the piers. It was a marriage of technology between ocean-going vessels and the nation's railroad system.

San Francisco Landmark #114
Beltline Railroad Roundhouse
Intersection Sansome, Lombard, The Embarcadero
Built 1918

The Beltline Roundhouse Complex is the only one remaining in San Francisco. Harbor Commissioner Edward Murphy said in 1923:

The Belt Line System is one of San Francisco's unique and most important features, and one that distinguishes it from practically every other great port on the western continent in the efficiency of its Belt Railroad, so called, whereby every pier and practically every berth alongside is connected directly with the railway systems of America.

The Roundhouse is a rare example of a building whose form derives solely from its functional requirements. It is totally devoid of the decorative elements usually associated with even the most utilitarian buildings of this period, making it a significant forerunner of the structural expressionism that was to become a major concept in modern architecture.

From San Francisco Planning Commission Resolution 8560 dated 10 April 1980

The Beltline Railroad Roundhouse is leased by the Port of San Francisco to private architectural and design firms and is not open to the public.

For more information and photographs, please see National Register #86000207.

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