"N.W.P. Farewell Excursion!!"
1941 Goodbye to the Marin Electric Lines

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'Steam fan, juice fan, train rider, or companion--you'll enjoy the program we have mapped out for you. Bring your wife, your sweetheart, your sister, your brother, your cousin, your mother, your father, or anyone that you can think of who likes the good-natured companionship of a rail excursion.'

What self-respecting foamer would not give an arm and a leg to ride some of the railfan excursions of old, over rights-of-way to exotic places that now have reverted to their primaeval state, or succumbed to the depredations of strip malls and housing tracts. To have experienced and photographed rolling museum pieces before they were melted into battleships and k-ration cans... back in a time when everyone knew what a railroad was, and dressed in their Sunday best to attend it.

Before World War II, Northwestern Pacific's Marin County electric and steam lines were a popular venue of the nascent railfan organizations that were just beginning to give larger shape and form to a hobby that heretofore had been mostly a solitary pursuit. By the 1941 date of the Railroadians of America excursion seen below, such outings were conducted with an increasing sense of urgency. The Golden Gate Bridge was already nearly four years old, and from the moment it opened - nay, from the moment that the first construction shovel was planted - the NWP's suburban electric trains and connecting ferries to San Francisco were doomed. It was a lingering death, for the passengers did not all leave in one giant heap. It took awhile for passengers to comprehend the new, more convenient reality, and back this up with the purchase of a suitable commuter automobile. One by one they fled, until the trains and ferries ran empty.

The Farewell Excursion took place on Sunday, February 23. One of the event's main attractions was 4-4-0 #23, which was "resurrected from the scrap heap" to head the train. A more-modest excursion ran on Wednesday, conducted by an as-yet unknown group. The last scheduled electric train tied-up on Friday. After that, the tracks south and west of San Rafael either ceased to exist, or retrenched to "freight service only".

Below is an image of the February 23 event's afternoon stop at Tiburon. From the back of the photo we learn that Railroadian member Willis A. Silverthorn was the engineer of the lead locomotive, #23, but sadly the photographer failed to similarly record his own name. The physical photo it self is a masterwork of precise exposure and darkroom craftsmanship. Seventy-three years later it absolutely sparkles! Between the photographer's comments and the teasers on the invitational flyer, it is evident that this was one grand event.

Ironically, although #23 was a feature attraction of the excursion due to the rarity of the "antique"
4-4-0 wheel arrangement by then, the locomotive was the youngest one in this scene. American Locomotive Works constructed her in 1908. At some point, she wound-up in stationary steam service on Southern Pacific at Calexico, where we see her in 1948 in the below photo. She was carried on the NWP roster until 1949, the apparent date of her scrapping. The loco behind, Baldwin-built 4-6-0 #109, was eight years older than her, and was off the roster in 1948. Peaking-out from behind the train is SP 4-6-2 # 3104, ex-El Paso & Southwestern #144, built by Baldwin in 1907. On long-term (1938-1950) lease, the loco was scrapped in Tucson a few months after returning to SP.
MANY thanks to the following: Martin Hansen for the photo of #23, Dave Maffei for the observation car photo,
Evan Werkema for the excursion flyer scan. Click on them for larger renditions.

All for a buck-fifty (!): After an NWP ferry ride from San Francisco's Ferry Building, the excursionists boarded the train at Sausalito which headed to Mill Valley; back to Altamonte; northward to San Anselmo; over to San Rafael; northward to Ignacio, where the line to Schellville (The SP interchange) and Sonoma diverged from the Eureka Main (towards map right). After touring the Sonoma Branch, the train headed directly for Tiburon; retraced its steps presumably only as far as Detour; and thence to Baltimore Park, and the Sausalito ferry. Inspection / rest stops were scheduled to occur as seen on the excursion flyer.

Above the photo of NWP #23, we see an image of the smaller Wednesday, February 26 excursion at Altamonte. Question: Which one of the fellows crowding the platform is Vernon Sappers?

The map is available as part of a 300 dpi, 5.1mb PDF of the February 1, 1940 NWP "Interurban Trains" employee timetable, available for download here. This is likely the timetable that was in effect at the time of the excursion. A 300 dpi, 850kb PDF February 1, 1940 public timetable for the main line (steam) trains to Eureka is located here. Another question: Did more daily interurban trains operate prior to the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge?