The Potrero Tunnel

Whilst trying to find a 4yr olds birthday party on Google Maps recently, I was telling a coworker how amazingly awesome Google Maps is when I noticed this strange diagonal line that goes through Potrero hill. I know there are train tracks at the bottom of Potrero, but never really though about where they went to.

It turns out there was once a tunnel underneath Potrero Hill; which collapsed in 1960. E writes in a blog comment:

The tunnel you’re describing under Potrero Hill was originally dug by the Ocean Shore Railroad in the early 1900’s. When the Ocean Shore went bankrupt in the early 1920’s the Western Pacific inherited the tunnel and some of its industrial trackage. In the early 1960’s the tunnel under Potrero Hill caught fire and burned. The fire caused parts of Potrero Hill to cave in and pictures of sinkholes caused by the collapsing tunnel can be viewed on the San Francisco Public Library’s website. In the early 1990’s a new building was constructed on 18th st between Deharo and Arkansas. Prior to this buildings construction an empty lot with rails leading into the hill marked the location of one of the tunnels sealed entrances. A newer patch of pavement leading straight into this newer building can still be seen on 18th st directly in front of it. This marks the location of the tracks leading to the tunnel. The other side of the tunnel is on Private property and cannot be viewed or accessed.


Pics are excerpted from Google Maps and copyrighted as such. The first shows fairly clearly the path of where the tunnel used to be. The second shows a train still hiding at the base of Potrero.

In researching this blog post I also learned about another arterial railroad into the city and the cause of many of our oddly shaped buildings in this excellent peice of imagery. (Big image, but worth examining)

It’s amazing how much history is right under our noses.

Adolf Gasser – The Photography Company

At some point; I think it was the trip back from Alcatraz; I managed to get dirt on the sensor of the DSLR camera. I headed to the largest camera store in town to try and get it cleaned maybe only a year after this happened expecting a $300 fee and maybe just to be told that nobody did that anymore.

On the contrary, Scott in the repair department at Adolf Gasser was extremely helpful, and I was able to pay about $45 for a sensor cleaning, since I didn’t need it done in a hurry (you can pay more for faster, which is an excellent pricing model IMHO). They also were able to handle getting Susan’s compact sony camera fixed; which had a broken sensor and a dented and slightly crooked lens fixture. I’m a very happy customer – we got both things done and we were ready to write off the compact.

I had to ask Scott about the name “Adolf Gasser”; turns out the business is named after it’s founder, who unfortunately passed away about 2 years ago. The store started out as a toy repair store before Adolf’s good friend (and best man) Ansel Adams persuaded him that there was a gap in the market for camera repair, which apparently was a good call on Mr Adams part since the business still seems to be doing well. I’m told there is an original Ansel Adams print in Adolf’s son’s office, who now runs the company.

I’m told Mr Gasser also prepared the cameras in the Enola Gay that took the pictures of the bombs that were dropped on Japan in WWII.

Scott spoke very fondly of Mr Gasser and told me they would call his wife when he left work in the evening since he looked like Mr Magoo driving his Chrylser back to Marin in the evenings to make sure he got home alright. He worked right up to the end of his life; and it’s confirmed was named well before WWII. He’s missed; and I kind of wish I’d been able to meet him too.