image of trains to Russian RiverThe North Pacific Coast R.R. ran from Sausalito to Cazadero via west Marin. Operated under different owners from 1877 to 1935 the line carried redwood to San Francisco and returned with weekenders who were anxious to party. From Freestone to Occidental, there was a dramatic horseshoe bend that allowed front and back passengers to gaze at each other before crossing the monstrous Browns Canyon Trestle, which at the time was the largest man-made structure west of the Mississippi. The broad gauge and narrow gauge met in Monte Rio before running down present day Moscow Road and crossing the Russian River at Duncans Mills. Nine years later the line was extended to Cazadero at the behest of the town’s founder, Silas Ingram. Much of the redwood lumber was used to help rebuild San Francisco and Santa Rosa after the 1906 earthquake.  It is also said that redwood pilings from the mills were used as foundation for the Bay Bridge. 

Disaster Strikes the Railroad:

On September 17, 1923 a moonshine still blew up, igniting a blaze that roared through the lumber mills from Guerneville through Cazadero and Duncans Mills to Jenner.  This was the beginning of the end.  With the lumber trade on the fritz, passenger service picked up the slack over the standard gauge track.  Service existed to and from Cazadero with a daily passenger average of nearly 225. The Northwestern Pacific Railroad offered “dollar days” on the weekend with a roundtrip fare of $1.25 from San Francisco to any point along the Russian River.  And then the Depression arrived in earnest with the NWP running over a million dollars in the red.  The last train out of Cazadero was on July 31, 1933 while the Guerneville route lasted only two more years. Locals mobbed the passenger cars for the final ride and partied to the next stop. Some inebriated souls lost track of time (and consciousness) to find themselves awakening in Sausalito with no financial means to purchase a return ticket.  Or so the story goes.

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