Re: Odd Lands End Structures 11/07/05
posted by John Martini
Funny you should ask... I just finished writing an extensive history of Lands End for the National Park Service and had the same questions you did. Here's what I discovered during my research.
1. The 'platform' you're describing is part of the outfall for the Mile Rock Tunnel, constructed in 1915 by the City's Department of Public Works. There's an extensive Library of Congress website on the tunnel and its construction with numerous historic photos at:
(You'll have to scroll down to "Mile Rock Tunnel")
2. As for the shipwreck, it depends which way you're looking from the Land's End parking lot (or what we call the Memorial Parking Lot) since there are three.
The first is located just west of the USS San Francisco Memorial. She's the SS Ohioan, which wrecked in 1936 north of Sutro Baths. Two more wrecks are located between the parking lot and the Mile Rocks Lighthouse: the SS Frank Buck (wrecked in 1937) and her twin the SS Lyman Stewart (wrecked in 1923). You can see both these ships' engine blocks at low tide, which look something like rectangular mossy bricks jutting a few feet above the water. Here's how to tell them apart: the Buck is on the left and her engine block is arranged north-south (her bow is facing north) while the Stewart's engine is aligned east-west since the ship wrecked parallel to the shore with her bow facing east.
3. As for the Sutro Railroad (formally known as the Ferries & Cliff House RR), it disappeared without a trace when the line was converted to an electic streetcar line in 1905 -- except for the tracks' right-of-way.
The right-of-way (or what's left of it) can be followed today as the hiking trail that starts at the fire gate located near El Camino Del Mar & Point Lobos. It winds north then east along the cliffs below the Memorial Park Lot, Fort Miley and Lincoln Park before emerging at Eagle's Point near the corner of 32rd and El Camino Del Mar.
In some areas the path is a wide trail that actually sort of looks like a steam train / streetcar right-of-way, but in other areas it degenerates into a series of steep washouts. These mark the sites of the 1925 slides that wiped out the streetcar line, which was designated the #1 California.
The only "structures" along the path are two concrete retaining walls just east of the Memorial Parking Lot that some folks have mistaken for part of the Sutro train operations. These walls were actually built by the City in 1923, long after the trains stopped running.