Train Mishap Near Villa Grande

image of trains along the Russian River

On December 20, 1920 the Northwestern Pacific Railroad experienced its worse mishap along the lower reaches of the Russian River. After leaving the station in Monte Rio (upper photo) and before crossing the bridge to Duncans Mills (lower photo), engine No. 222 encountered a slide that buried the tracks near Mesa Grande (Villa Grande). No sooner would a steam shovel remove the debris when another load of muck took its place. A large locomotive, which could furnish 200 pounds of steam pressure, made its way up from Tiburon with a hydraulic pump. Even though the engine proceeded at 10 m.p.h., its weight broke fifteen rails along the way. (more…)

Train Routes to the Russian River

images of train to Russian RiverIt appears that the Russian River resorts reached a tipping point in the summer of 1910 when there was a jump in the number of visitors. It was the first season after the Northwestern Pacific (NWP) line finally connected with the narrow gauge railway coming up the coast. This meant someone in San Francisco could easily reach the popular resorts on the west end of the Russian River. No longer was it necessary to board the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad (SFNP) to Fulton near Santa Rosa and transfer to a slooooow connection that crawled as it made over a dozen stops along the way including Dell, Hilton, Eagle Nest, Guerneville, Montesano, and Camp Vacation near today’s Northwood. From there a determined soul would have to board the seventy-five-foot stern wheeler, the Monte Rio, in order to travel further downstream. (more…)

Last Train Leaves the Russian River

image of last train along the Russian River  Guerneville declared a holiday on the last day of operations for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.  With three cars full to capacity, Engine No. 108 cruised down to Rio Campo (now Northwood) where it crossed the Russian River (at the 9th tee of present-day golf course) and headed into the Bohemian Grove before running down Moscow Road in Monte Rio to Duncans Mills.  With the sky overcast, 250 persons gathered at the depot for the “last rites” (see photo).  All came together for pictures and speeches.  Lunches were eaten and beer and harder liquid flowed freely.  Over in one corner of the Duncans Mills depot several of the old-timers talked and wondered what was going to happen to the area.  Without a railroad how could business go on?  What did the future hold?  And so sixty years of railroading came to an end.

November 14, 1935.

Train Crosses River at Duncans Mills

image of train crossing Russian RiverThe broad gauge accommodated the passenger trains when the lumber industry along the lower reaches of the Russian River faded in the early part of the 20th century.  The broad gauge crossed the river at three locations: (1) Cosmo (now Hacienda), (2) between Rio Campo (now Northwood) and Bohemian Grove; and (3) at Duncans Mills (see photo).  Two trains made their way from San Francisco to the Russian River on a daily basis with weekend and holiday specials offered at $1.25 roundtrip.  The larger 4-4-0 engines were capable of handling a thirteen-car train.  Northwestern Pacific (NWP) once again bounced back into the black until the Depression hit in earnest, crippling the system in the early 1930’s.


Circa 1930.

Railroad along the Russian River




images of railroad along the Russian River


Old No.222 with engine No. 20 heading a five-car train on the three-rail portion west of Monte Rio approximately where Cassini Ranch is today.  Next stop, across the river to Duncans Mills.



Year 1924.

Heading To Duncans Mills

image of train along Russian River


This is a photo of a broad gauge passenger train leaving Monte Rio and heading down present-day Moscow Road along the Russian River to Duncans Mills, 3.3 mile distance. 


Circe 1890.

Catching the Ferry

The camera-eye records the arrival of the venerable ferry Tiburon as she glides into the slip at Sausalito on a routine afternoon run connecting with train No 224 for the the Russian River in the year 1922.

In the 1880’s passengers boarded the ferries through this structure at the foot of Market Street, San Francisco, for the ride to the train terminal at Sausalito.

Duncans Mills Railroad Days

The first train arrived in the new town of Duncans Mills in 1877, becoming the northernmost terminus of the North Pacific Coast R.R. (NPC).  The NPC operated almost 93 miles of track while a ferry connected San Francisco to Sausalito where the line began. The railroad carried redwood lumber, local dairy and agricultural products, express and passengers.     

The NPC developed into the North Shore Railroad (NSR) that later became part of the North Western Pacific (NWP). The depot (upper photo) was erected in 1907 and restored in 1971. (more…)

Elim Gove in Cazadero

images of Elim GroveElim Grove in Cazadero has been an integral part of the town since 1890, located where Raymond’s Bakery is today.  Elim comes from a passage in the Bible: Exodus 15:27: “And Moses came to ELIM where there were twelve wells of water, and three-score and ten palm trees: and he camped there by the waters”. Biblical scholars interpret “Elim” as being “The Place of Refreshing”.  While it is a coincidence that the grove is a mile from town, that is not where Elim received its title (i.e. Elim spelled backwards). 

Elim was the site of the first summer retreat for the Bohemian Club in 1877. Members would board the ferry at the Embarcadero in San Francisco before catching a train at the Sausalito NWP depot.  The seventy-seven mile trip from the bay to Elim lasted three hours with a stop at Duncans Mills to change over to the narrow gauge line. (more…)

Cazadero & North Pacific Coast R.R.

image of North Pacific Coast R.R.The North Pacific Coast R.R., built in the 1870’s, stretched from Sausalito to Cazadero.  Mishaps along the line were plentiful.  George Simpson Montgomery, who originally named Cazadero, had switched from a Bohemian Club drunkard to a born-again Christian. His insistence that the town go dry might have initiated a protest in 1894 when Engine No. 9 was hijacked by its crew and others in Duncans Mills with the intent of a party-run on one stormy night to Cazadero. The train never made it to its destination plunging into Austin Creek while attempting to cross the trestle at Elim Grove. Frank Hart, proprietor of Cazadero Hotel, had joined the liquored-up group but unfortunately fell victim to the tragedy. His body was never recovered and presumed carried out eventually to sea. Ten days later a local Native American shaman joined the search party and affixed a candle to a board and sent it on its way.   Several hundred yards downstream, the candle suddenly flickered out. (more…)