Fairfax and the railroad

In the 1870's, the North Pacific Coast Railroad linked San Francisco with Marin and Sonoma counties. Fairfax was one of the many stations on "the railroad to the redwoods" between Sausalito and Cazadero. Train service provided heretofore unknown access to get dairy and forest products to Bay Area cities. Scheduled service also greatly popularized trips for the masses to the North Bay including to resorts on the Russian River in Sonoma and Fairfax Park in Marin. More than a few stayed on in Fairfax, and commuted by train and ferry to San Francisco. In 1904, one of the nations first electric interurban rail lines was built throughout suburban Marin. (see photo at bottom) The North Shore Railroad, successor to the North Pacific Coast Railroad, could deliver commuters from Fairfax to San Francisco in about 60 minutes including the ferry ride. In 1907, all of Marin's inter-city railroads were incorporated into the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which operated between San Francisco and Eureka. 

 White's Hill

The photo above was taken from back in the canyon behind the White Hill School in 1906 by a member of the Roy Family, owners of this farm at the time. At the top center one can see the Roy house and barn and just beyond is the trestle cutting across their field, the route of the narrow gauge North Shore Railroad as it heads to the right for the Bothin tunnel to Woodacre, on the other side of White's Hill. The trestle was built by the North Shore Railroad shortly after they bought out the North Pacific Coast Railroad as part of the realignment of the route to eliminate the arduous climb over White's Hill. About 1/4 mile west of this trestle a second trestle spanned Baywood Canyon shortly before the line entered the new tunnel at Bothin and came out in Woodacre.
In the foreground above, what looks like a road coming back into the canyon at left is actually the old railroad grade of the North Pacific Coast Railroad's original right-of-way, completed in 1874 and opened for business in January of 1875. Service was provided from Sausalito to Tomales via Corte Madera, San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Geronimo, Taylorville, and Point Reyes Station. The following year trains went to the end of the line in Cazadero, heart of logging and lumber industry.
In this photo the line climbed past the Roy house and back into the left side of the canyon, went thru a short tunnel through the knoll at the bottom of the photo, then continued up and to the right, crossing six trestles enroute to a longer tunnel at the summit. The rails have apparently been recently removed and piles of ties can be seen stacked along the roadbed.
Less than a year after this photo was taken, Northwestern Pacific owned the line and ran the trains.


ENGINE #12, Sonoma, as seen above, is the only remaining locomotive of over twenty steam engines once operated by the North Pacific Coast Railroad that carried freight and passengers between Sausalito and Cazadero. It probably made many trips through Fairfax during it life on the rails in Marin and Sonoma Counties. NPCRR started service in 1875 and operated until 1902 when bought out by the North Shore Railroad interests.
This locomotive, a 4-4-0, was bought new by NPCRR from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1876, served the line briefly until 1879 when it was sold to the Nevada Central Railway. By some miracle it escaped the scrapper and survived to star in the Golden Gate International Exposition stage show, "Pageant of the Pacific," in 1939 and 1940, performing twice daily disguised as the Central Pacific's "Jupiter" during the last spike ceremony.
It has been fully restored, having found a permanent home, since 1981, at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and welcomes visitors in all its original splendor. It never looked better.

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Electric train, downtown Fairfax


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