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The story of the movement of relief supplies into San Francisco by the Southern Pacific is a dramatic one. The first relief train left Omaha via the Harriman lines April 19 at 5:19 p.m., on passenger schedule, but the first car was Chicago and Northwestern No. 1090, which left Omaha within twenty-four hours after the beginning of the trouble. Passengers on fast trains saw flying freights, every car labeled “relief,” go by, while the passengers took the sidetrack.

Within twelve hours after the disaster the Southern Pacific and related lines under the direction of President [Edward] Harriman were turned over to the work of relief. Everything else, by direct orders to the different general managers and vice-presidents, was sidetracked. The records of the runs of relief trains will show all transcontinental freight train records shattered. The commercial business was swept to one side, and President Harriman raced to the relief of San Francisco as fast as [a] special train could carry him. Traffic Director Stubbs was at his side. Since then the head of every department has been giving his attention first to the relief and second to the rehabilitation of San Francisco.

Up to the night of May 3 the Southern Pacific had handled free into San Francisco 1,409 cars of freight, totaling about 35,000 tons, for the benefit of the sufferers. A better idea of quantity is gained when it is said that this would represent in weight four sacks of flour for every person living in San Francisco before the fire.

The Harriman lines — the Southern Pacific and the Union Pacific — handled all this free, with expedited service, and turned over to the Government here, without charge, its fleet of ferry-boats and tugs to land the supplies at convenient places in San Francisco.

All sorts and conditions of articles were represented in the relief supplies.

Eleven cars of water, three cars of ice and three cars of coffee were among the unusual items. There were 183 cars of flour, 94 cars of potatoes and 67 cars of canned good, indicating clearly what the opinion of most people constitutes the necessities of life under unusual conditions. The contributions of syrup, sugar and honey reached twelve cars, of fresh fruit twenty cars, of fresh meat twenty-five cars, and of beans and breakfast foods sixteen cars. Soap was not overlooked — there were several carloads, and several cars of stoves and cooking utensils came along.

There were forty-eight cars of bread, crackers, cheese, cream, butter and eggs. The Stockton people adopted the unique and time-saving device of boiling their eggs in the case in butchers vats before forwarding them. Other eggs, moving at fifty miles an hour were, as a brakeman remarked, “dispatched rapidly” — perhaps in omelet fashion.

The supplies reached San Francisco from all directions via the Southern Pacific’s various lines; 534 cars were delivered at Mission Bay, 94 cars at Vallejo street, 296 cars at Oakland pier, 37 cars at 4th and King street, 95 cars at Oakland wharf, and the rest at no less than seventeen supply depots around the bay.

When the long roll of friendship for San Francisco is called there will be many towns that can reply... .

On California San Francisco leaned most heavily. Sixty-eight cities in this home State responded to the call of distress with one or more cars of supplies. Seventy-five per cent of the relief supplies came from the Pacific Coast, though trainloads of Eastern supplies are yet moving westward along the Harriman lines between here and Omaha as fast as steam can bring them.

The South and other sections responded generously in cash, and therefore are not represented in the relief shipments largely.

The figures above given do not include the Government material, which according to the present Government reports, aggregate fully a hundred cars.

If these cars of mixed supplies had been handled as commercial freight instead of free by the Harriman lines, the charges would have aggregated nearly a half million dollars.

San Francisco Chronicle
MAY 7, 1906

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