When the first excursion trains rumbled to the Russian River area on Sunday, March 25, 1877 the passenger cars were an assortment of open-end platform wooden coaches. Fifty years later the same type of cars were still bringing thousands of excursionists to the local resort towns. It must have been something to see the black smoke billowing from the balloon stack, listening to the whistle as ol’ NO. 11 rolled into the station. Perhaps the best part of the summer months was having the entire lower river available as your personal playground. When passenger and freight trains weren’t scheduled, the railway used the tracks to offer a kind of trolley service using an ancient steam engine and open railway car recycled from the old timber days.
Trains Along the River:
Meeting your friends at a particular swimming hole for a picnic by catching a ride on the “Coffee Grinder” – which looked like an oversized toy, and puffed away at less than ten miles per hour – added to summer’s delight along the Russian River. This chapter of the resorts ended in late 1909, when the NWP line finally met the narrow gauge railway that came up the coast. After that the railroad began promoting the “Triangle Trip” Sunday excursions, a 150-mile ride. A day out of the city sitting on trains while watching some nice scenery, which started in Sausalito and continued up present-day Highway 101 to Fulton Station. From there you would transfer to the Russian River line and travel to Rio Nido, Guerneville, Monte Rio, Occidental and on to the coast thru Valley Ford and Point Reyes Station. Your final leg encompassed the beautiful San Geranimo Valley until reconnecting with your ferry by the bay.
For more info, go to the bottom of this page and click on “Railroads”. If the mood strikes you, check out some of the historical fiction books of San Francisco and the Russian River by scrolling to the top and clicking “Novels”.