North Pacific Coast Railroad

Last updated
North Pacific Coast Railroad
Headquarters Sausalito, California
Reporting mark NPC
Locale Marin and Sonoma Counties, California
Dates of operation18711907
Successor Northwestern Pacific Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Previous gauge 3 ft (914 mm)

The North Pacific Coast Railroad (NPC) was a common carrier 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge steam railroad begun in 1874 and sold in 1902 to new owners who renamed it the North Shore Railroad (California) (NSR) and which rebuilt the southern section into a standard-gauge electric railway.


The NPC operated in the northern California counties of Marin and Sonoma that carried redwood lumber, local dairy and agricultural products, express and passengers. The NPC operated almost 93 mi (150 km) of track that extended from a pier at Sausalito (which connected the line via ferry to San Francisco) and operated northwest to Duncans Mills and Cazadero (also known as Ingrams). The NPC became the North Shore Railroad (California) (NSR) on March 7, 1902. In 1907 the North Shore Railroad became part of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP). Southern portions of the line were standard gauged and electrified by the North Shore for suburban passenger service, though tracks north of Point Reyes Station remained 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge until abandonment in the late 1930s.

All of the NPC trackage has been abandoned either by the NPC or the NWP. Some of the original right of way can be seen at the Samuel P. Taylor State Park near Fairfax, along the shore of Tomales Bay and Keyes Estuary and passenger depots remain in San Anselmo, Duncans Mills and Point Reyes Station. One NPC steam locomotive, No.12 the "Sonoma," remains as a restored static exhibit in its circa 1870s appearance at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, while Duncans Mills hosts some decaying cars that are not being restored. A flatcar, North Shore 1725, has been restored as a picnic car and operates at the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources' Railroad Museum at Ardenwood in Fremont. The wooden water tank and a freight shed are maintained and in good condition at Freestone.

North Pacific Coast Railroad tunnel near Keys Creek North Pacific Coast Railroad tunnel near Keys Creek.jpg
North Pacific Coast Railroad tunnel near Keys Creek


Portion of route along Tomales Bay North Pacific Coast Railroad - Tomales Bay.jpg
Portion of route along Tomales Bay
Inside the tunnel North Pacific Coast Railroad tunnel near Keys Creek - inside.jpg
Inside the tunnel
Bridge over Keys Estuary, viewed from California State Route 1 North Pacific Coast Railroad Keys Estuary bridge supports.JPG
Bridge over Keys Estuary, viewed from California State Route 1
Former railroad grade adjacent to Tomales Bay, viewed from California State Route 1 Former North Pacific Coast Railroad grade adjacent to Tomales Bay.JPG
Former railroad grade adjacent to Tomales Bay, viewed from California State Route 1

Mileposts conform to Southern Pacific Railroad convention of distance from San Francisco: [1]


NumberNameBuilderTypeDateWorks numberNotes [2]
1Saucelito Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 18733495sold to White Lumber Company of Elk, California 1876 [3]
2San Rafael Mason Machine Works 0-4-4 T 1874537burned at Tomales 1905 & rebuilt became NWP #89 [4]
3Tomales Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18753722became NWP #83 [5]
4Olema Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18743629wrecked 1894 & rebuilt became NWP #81 [6]
5Bodega Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18753703dismantled by 1897 [7]
6Valley Ford Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18743664leased to Dollar Lumber Company in 1899 [8]
7Tamalpais Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18753721 [9]
8Bully Boy Mason Machine Works 0-6-6 T 1877584burned at Tomales 1905 [10]
9M. S. Latham Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18753749wrecked 14 January 1894 at Elim Grove trestle over Austin Creek [11]
10Bloomfield Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18763840sold 1895 Guatemala Western #1
11Marin Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18763842became NWP #82 [12]
12Sonoma Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18763843sold 1879 Nevada Central #5 (preserved at California State Railroad Museum) [13]
13 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 18836611became NWP #195 [14]
14 Brooks Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18911885became NWP #92 [15]
15 Brooks Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18911886became NWP #90 [16]
16 Brooks Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18942421became NWP #91 [17]
17 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18753749NPC 1894 rebuild of wreck-damaged #9 wrecked again in 1900 [18]
18 Brooks Locomotive Works 4-6-0 18993418reputedly the largest 3 ft (914 mm) gauge locomotive in the world when built became NWP #145 then #95 [19]
20NPC Sausalito shop 4-4-0 19001became NWP #84 [20]
21Thomas-StetsonNPC Sausalito shop 4-4-0 19012 North Pacific Coast Railroad (NPC) No 21 at Howards.jpg

cab-forward rebuild of #5 scrapped 1905 [21] [22] [23] [24]

22 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 18743664former #6 renumbered when returned from Dollar Lumber Company in 1901 [8]


The NSR was operated by John Martin and Eugene de Sabla Jr., pioneers in the electric railroad business. The southern 23 miles (37 km) of line were modernized to allow operation of standard-gauge electric passenger cars in addition to narrow-gauge steam-powered freight trains. Electric cars sometimes shared dual-gauge tracks with the steam trains, while at other locations a separate track for the electric cars was constructed parallel to the narrow-gauge route. The line was ultimately double tracked from Sausalito to San Anselmo except for the tunnel at Alto. A power house was built at Alto and power was also purchased at San Rafael. Direct current electrical power was transmitted to the trains at 600 volts by a third rail (which was actually a fourth rail on the dual-gauge segments.) [25] Service started to Mill Valley on August 20, 1903, and to San Rafael on October 17, 1903. It was the first United States steam railroad electrified for operational efficiency rather than for smoke abatement. The railroad established practices later used in Grand Central Terminal and the interborough subways of New York City. [26] The electric lines were expanded after 1907 as part of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. Interurban services ceased on February 28, 1941. [27]

Roster of electric cars

101-112 St. Louis Car Co. Trailers190266 seatstwelve unpowered open platform wooden trailers; #102 built in North Shore shops [28]
201-202North Shore shopsMotors190432 seats & baggage/mail/express compartmenttwo vestibuled wooden motors converted from narrow-gauge Pullman coaches built in 1879 [29]
203North Shore shopsMotor190450 seatsopen platform wooden motor converted from narrow-gauge Pullman coach built in 1879; renumbered 309 [28]
301-308St. Louis Car Co.Motors190264 to 70 seatsopen platform wooden motors; #303-308 built in North Shore shops [30]
350-358St. Louis Car Co.Motors190236 seats & baggage/mail/express compartmentnine vestibuled wooden motors [29]
401-404North Shore shopsTrailers190466 seatsfour unpowered open platform wooden trailers converted from narrow-gauge Pullman coaches built in 1879 [28]

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  1. Stindt (1964) pp.88-89
  2. Dickinson (1970) pp.132-133
  3. Dickinson (1974) p.27
  4. Dickinson (1974) pp.27,72-74,108,110 & 155
  5. Dickinson (1974) pp.5,63,67,136 & 150
  6. Dickinson (1974) pp.10,68,87 & 148
  7. Dickinson (1974) pp.40 & 137
  8. 1 2 Kneiss (1956) p.140
  9. Dickinson (1974) pp.66-67,115 & 134
  10. Dickinson (1974) pp.50,134 & 156
  11. Dickinson (1970) pp.46 & 83-83
  12. Dickinson (1974) pp.88-89
  13. Dickinson (1974) p.46
  14. Dickinson (1974) pp.55,80 & 116
  15. Dickinson (1974) pp.87,109.113,& 136
  16. Dickinson (1974) pp.76,109 & 137
  17. Dickinson (1974) p.82
  18. Dickinson (1974) pp.70,96 & 120
  19. Dickinson (1974) pp.91 & 155
  20. Dickinson (1974) pp.2,92,107 & 114
  21. Dickinson (1974) pp.93-94,115 & 156
  22. Patented water tube boiler: Patent #682,765, application filed 20 June 1901, patent granted 17 September 1901.
  23. Patented cab forward: Patent #35,806, application filed 25 November 1901, patent granted 11 March 1902.
  24. Kyle K Wyatt: Cab Forward Locomotives, 30 November2006.
  25. Stindt (1964) p.31
  26. Demoro (1986) pp.13 & 88
  27. Wood, Jim. "Remnants of the Rail Era". Marin Magazine. December 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  28. 1 2 3 Stindt (1964) p.214
  29. 1 2 Stindt (1964) p.220
  30. Stindt (1964) p.218