Looking for details on the old Railroad Line going north through Marin County....

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There are old railroad tracks in Marin County that pass through Larkspur Landing (where Dirty Harry jumped on the bus, see picture at right), through downtown San Rafael, behind Embassy Suites near the Civic Center, behind Smith Ranch Road, through Hamilton Field and Novato, and on northwards.

What is the name of this railroad line? What train company used to use it? When were the tracks built? When was the last time they were used? And, particularly, where in southern Marin County do they start, and where north of here do they end? Any maps online? Any books I should find?

Oh, and yes, Paul Trimble, the railroad historian, is indeed my uncle, but I just can't get ahold of him lately! I'm on my own with this one, with the help of some of you. I haven't done much in the way of train research myself, so any resources you can recommend would be greatly appreciated.

Scott Trimble

-- Scott Trimble (stst@stst.net), August 15, 2001



That's the old right-of-way of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. It started in Sausalito and ran all the way north to the Redwood Empire. In Marin it was a combination freight-streetcar (or "interurban car") operation, but further north it was a freight line. There's a good web site at http://www.nwprrhs.org/


-- John Martini (JAMartini@earthlink.net), August 15, 2001.

_Trains To The Russian River_ by Fred A. Stindt-- first printing 1974

Published by the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Inc.

A wonderful book- lots of photos !

Enjoy- Carolyn

-- carolyn feroben (sweetwater@sierratel.com), November 27, 2001.

Trains To The Russian River_ by Fred A. Stindt is a great book. The railroad lines extending into San Rafael were part of the great Triangle Trip that was part narrow guage and broad guage. Lines ran as far as Cazadero in Sonoma County and even towards the pacific past Duncan Mills up until 1935. My house was built along the old broad guage line past Guerneville. As a matter of fact, building supplies for my house were hauled on that line in 1920! I have found traces of the line near Hwy 1 (near Jenner) when a line ran up Willow Creek for logging. I have walked the old right of way from Freestone to Monte Rio and found traces of collapst tunnels and old redwook trestles. Near Valley Ford is remnants of an old trestle as well as an existing tunnel outside of Tomolas in Marin Co. Fred Stindt and Roy Graves have some fine books on this subject.

-- coldpack (coldpack@sonic.net), January 03, 2002.

The line is the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP.) There actually were two seperate lines: The 'bayside' or east line was of standard gauge (4' 8.5") and began at Tiburon in the mid 1800's as the San Francisco and North Pacific, I believe. I don't know too much about the SF&NP RR, but I think it terminated in San Rafael or farther north. This line carried passengers and mixed frieghts. It later fell back to just frieghts once the NWP aquired the line. The NWP aquired this line around 1904, If I remember right. Station stops included: Tiburon, Reed, San Clemente, Greenbrae, San Rafael, Ignatio, Novato, Petaluma, etc.

The 'western side' was of narrow gauge (3' 0") type built by the North Pacific Coast RR and began operations around 1879 at the southern terminus at Sausalito. This line, later became the North Shore RR (in 1904) and became electrified from Sausalito, San Anselmo, to the end at Manor. From what I read, it became the NS RR partly due to competition from both rail lines. The east line brought lumber and passengers from Eureka and points south, while the western side competed by seeing how much lumber and passenger service it could do up to Cazadero, the end of the line. It then became the NS RR. With similar interests, they merged.

It was in 1907 that the NS RR became as we know it today: The Northwestern Pacific Railroad which formed with interests from the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe RR's. This takeover also gulped up 40 some shortlines, particurally in the north end of the line. I hope rail comes back to Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties, as it used to be before.

Please feel free to e-mail me for specifics. A good source for additional info as well would be the Northwestern Pacific Historical Society in Rhonert Park. (www.nwprrhs.org)

Happy rail hunting.

-- Joe Myott (jmyott2000@yahoo.com), January 05, 2005.

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