Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway 120th Anniversary

Today is the 120th Anniversary of the founding of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, which carried visitors from Mill Valley up the slopes of Marin County’s Mt. Tamalpais to just below the East Peak of the mountain.

Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway Patch

The Mt. Tam Railway operated for 34 years until 1930, when operations were shut down and the tracks torn up.

Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway horizontal 2

Most of the old railroad grade was converted into a fire road, which remains a favorite hiking and running trail on Mt. Tam. During my trail-running days, I ran hundreds of miles on the railroad grade.

Three years ago, I wrote another blog on the Mt. Tam Railway, which contains additional photos and information about the railroad and the associated buildings and services:


Three Dot … 129

We Moved to Mill Valley …

… thirty years ago today … August 22, 1984, Sandy & I and our four children moved into our new home on Morning Sun Drive in the Tamalpais Valley area of Mill Valley, Marin County, California.

This move culminated more than a year of planning and preparation which had started during a visit to the Bay Area for me to run in the San Francisco Marathon and check out the trail on which the Dipsea Race is run. During that visit, we had driven through Mill Valley on Cascade Drive … surely one of the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in the world … and I had asked Sandy, “Why are we living in Orange County when we could live here?”

The answer to that question, of course, was that we didn’t have to … and so, here we were moving into the house on Morning Sun Drive.

Uprooting the kids from our home in Irvine, California, was not, as far as they were concerned, the most popular thing we had ever done … No. 1 son Douglas was about to start high school and was being dragged away from all of his friends … but we thought it best to make the move before school started, rather than waiting until our Irvine home sold, so that we wouldn’t have to move during his freshman year of high school.

No. 2 son Matt was about to start 5th grade, daughter Risa was starting 2nd grade and No. 3 son Sean was starting kindergarten … Sandy & I were confident that they would make new friends, but it was still a tough move for all of them.

Fortunately for Doug, we moved in directly across the street from another prospective Tamalpais High School freshman … who also happened to be, like Doug, a redhead … and who became the kind of best friend for life that most people only wish they could find … his name, of course, is Toby George.

Because the Irvine house had not sold, I remained in Southern California until it did … which meant that I didn’t actually move to Mill Valley until the following summer … and saw Sandy & the kids only during visits to Marin County. Once the house finally did sell … in June 1985 … I left the Orange County DA’s office, moved the last of our stuff to Mill Valley and went into private practice.

I have now lived in Marin County twice as long as I have ever lived anywhere else … and looking back over the past 30 years, I remain of the opinion that there is no better place to live than the San Francisco Bay Area and, in particular, Marin County.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 …

Today is the anniversary of another disaster which has long fascinated me … the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Even before moving to the Bay Area and experiencing first-hand the most damaging earthquake since the Great Quake (Loma Prieta in 1989), I had read many articles and several books about the 1906 event … the best of which, in my opinion, is “The San Francisco Earthquake” by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts.

The San Francisco Earthquake by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witt

The San Francisco Earthquake by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witt

Most of the damage to San Francisco as a result of the ’06 quake actually resulted from the ensuing fire, rather than directly from the earthquake … roughly one-quarter of the city was destroyed by the fire.

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 1906

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 1906

San Francisco Earthquake 1906 Map of Fire Damage

San Francisco Earthquake 1906 Map of Fire Damage

The quake was on the San Andreas fault … which ruptured along 296 miles of its length … more than 10 times the length of the Loma Prieta rupture … which means, of course, that damage extended far beyond San Francisco … and reached into Marin County …

San Francisco Earthquake -- Damage on the Fault Line

San Francisco Earthquake — Damage on the Fault Line

…lateral movement was as much as 24 feet in some places …though there now remains little physical evidence of this movement, the Earthquake Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore still shows a good example:

San Francisco Earthquake 1906 Pt. Reyes Fence Displaced

San Francisco Earthquake 1906 Pt. Reyes Fence Displaced

The Pt. Reyes Fence Today

The Pt. Reyes Earthquake Fence Today

One of my favorite items among my collectible postcards is one that was mailed from the “Tamalpais CA” post office on the day of the quake … unfortunately, the postmark does not indicate the time of mailing … nor have I been able to determine exactly where in Marin County the “Tamalpais” post office was located at that time … but the card must have been postmarked close in time and location to the Great Quake.

San Francisco Earthquake "Tamalpais CA" Postcard

San Francisco Earthquake “Tamalpais CA” Postcard

San Francisco Earthquake "Tamalpais CA" Postcard -- Postmarked April 18, 1906

San Francisco Earthquake “Tamalpais CA” Postcard — Postmarked April 18, 1906

I bought the postcard in a lot of Mt. Tamalpais postcards on eBay several years ago and discovered the historic postmark only after they had arrived.

Some interesting facts about the San Francisco earthquake:

The quake is now estimated to have been about 7.8 on the Richter Scale (which had not yet been devised at that time).  Property damage was estimated at $400 million … more than $5 billion in today’s terms when adjusted for inflation … more than 28,000 buildings were destroyed … and more than half of San Francisco’s 400,000 residents were left homeless.

San Francisco Earthquake Ruins

San Francisco Earthquake Ruins

The Valencia St. Hotel had been built on filled land … which liquified during the quake … three of the four floors of the hotel were swallowed up by the ground … with the loss of more than 100 lives.

The Valenda St. Hotel Sank into the Ground

The Valenda St. Hotel Sank into the Ground

Among those killed in the quake was San Francisco’s fire chief, Dennis Sullivan … he was asleep in his room on the third floor of the Engine House adjoining the California Hotel when the quake struck … and toppled the hotel’s brick chimney and dome onto the fire house quarters, causing the 2nd and 3rd floors to collapse onto the ground floor … Sullivan was severely injured and died at the Presidio Hospital on April 22, 1906.

A. P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy, saved his bank’s assets in the aftermath of the quake by moving them out of the city to his home in San Mateo … with public transportation disrupted by the quake, he walked the 17 miles from his home to the bank … hired a wagon to move the bank’s money, gold and other valuables … and later returned to set up shop on the sidewalk in front of the ruined bank building … his bank made millions of dollars in reconstruction loans … and eventually became the Bank of America, one of the biggest in the world.

A. P. Giannini

A. P. Giannini, Founder of Bank of Italy (later Bank of America)

For more information about Giannini and his bank rescue, see:

And for more information about the earthquake, see: