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.
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.
A SOLE SURVIVOR
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
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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