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

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:

Nano … One in a Billion …

… “Nano- : one billionth part of something”

… (the Merriam-Webster online dictionary) …


Nano … my one-in-a-billion canine companion … well, one in about a half-billion or so anyway (the estimated dog population of the world being somewhere between 400 and 550 million).

I have been planning to write a series of blog posts here about the furry critters who bring such joy to our lives … Nano being the oldest and with me the longest, she goes first.

Unfortunately, I have to start with bad news … this past weekend was a tough one for Nano … she is closing in on 15 years old and has been slowing down in the recent past … on Saturday, we had an unexpected medical crisis.

Early in the day, she went outside and up on the hill behind our house … something she had not done for some time … and I had to carry her back down when it was time to come in … I then went out to Costco … primarily for dog treats … and was gone for about an hour and a half.

When I got home, I found Nano lying lethargically on her bed, surrounded by what appeared to be bloody vomit … and found a trail of the same stuff all the way out the back door onto the deck.

Nano was listless, could not stand on her own and did not respond when I talked to her … so, I picked her up and took her to the Pet Emergency & Specialty Center in San Rafael … had to carry her into the vet’s office, too, as she still could not walk.

They quickly discovered that what I had thought to be vomit was actually diarrhea, as she had a serious bout in the vet’s office shortly after we arrived … ultimately, the vet determined that she was suffering from HGE or Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis … which means that it was a good thing that I took her in right away, as the website “” describes HGE as follows:

“HGE or Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis is a disease that hits quickly and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Veterinarians and pet owners remain frustrated by Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis because symptoms appear rapidly and often without explanation. A perfectly healthy dog will be fine one moment and then seriously ill the next. The problem with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis is that there is no known cause. Experts believe there might be a link between this disease and a loss of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. What is known is that fluids leak from blood vessels within the intestines and exit through the rectum.”

The vet … Dr. Audra Pompeani … put Nano on a hydration IV and some medications … and recommended that she stay at least overnight … I went in to see Nano and she barely responded when I hugged her goodnight.

Sunday morning, the vet recommended that Nano stay the rest of the day … and I had to drive to San Diego for a Monday morning court appearance … so Candy had to pick Nano up after she got off work at midnight.

By the time I got home near midnight on Monday, Nano was doing somewhat better … though she had to be carried when she needed to go outside for a couple of days.

By today, Thursday, we had also learned that a follow up urinalysis revealed that she has a urinary tract infection … for which she has to take amoxicillin … and her blood work shows elevated kidney values, an early sign of kidney problems.

All in all, a tough few days … for Nano … and for Candy & me.

Looking back at better times …

… I adopted Nano (nee “Starrose Lady”) …

Starrose Lady — Marin Humane Society Photo

… from the Marin Humane Society on January 26, 2000 … just shy of three months after my wife Sandy had died of breast cancer … this was a difficult time for me, emotionally … and over the next year, Nano provided a measure of emotional support and comfort for which I can never fully repay her.

Nano -- 2000

Nano — 2000

Of the dogs available for adoption at that time, I picked Nano because I wanted a medium-sized dog who could go running with me on the trails of Mt. Tam … part whippet and part who-knows-what, Nano fit the bill perfectly …

Nano Running on Mt. Tam Trail

Nano Running on Mt. Tam Trail

… and eventually did run thousands of miles with me on the mountain and other open space trails.

The night I brought her home, however, she was shaking like a leaf the entire trip … and didn’t really stop shaking until we went to bed … at which time she crawled under the covers and curled up at my feet … which proved to be her favorite sleeping place for several years.


Not only did Nano love running … she also loved chasing and catching any ball that I would throw for her … for several years she went with me to work at my brother’s company, A&J Electric Cable Corp., in Hayward … and we would go out a couple of times each day to play catch in the long driveway … I would throw a ball as far as I could and she would go tearing after it … bringing it back and begging for me to throw it again … over & over … until she was panting and my arm was tired!

After I moved to Novato, we spent a lot of time on the Wild Horse Valley fire road … and playing catch out on the street … an uphill run for her to chase the ball.

The last few years, though, she has slowed down … at first, we would go out to play ball and she would run up the hill a few times … then come down once and instead of bringing me the ball, would turn into the driveway and head for the house! Hint … I’m tired … enough ball-playing for the day!

Eventually, she would not chase the ball at all … and would just watch it roll down the hill if I threw it. We lost a few that way until I finally got the message … the ball-throwing & chasing days were over.

Nano has a sweet personality … loves everyone she meets … most other dogs …

Nano & Cairo

Nano & Cairo

especially her long-time friend Cairo

Nano, Samantha & Macavity

Nano, Samantha & Macavity

… and even the cats who have invaded her space since Candy moved to California in 2007.

These days, she particularly likes visiting with my daughter Risa & her husband Jeff Thomas … and their two dogs, Bailey (a mini-dachshund) and Blue (an American blue pitbull).

Here are some more pictures of Nano … doing the things she loves the most …


Relaxing on the Couch

Exploring a Mt. Tam Ridgeline

Exploring a Mt. Tam Ridgeline …


… and Running on a Mountain Slope.

Nano -- 2005

Nano — 2005

Nano 2010

Nano 2010

Except as Otherwise Noted, all Photos Copyright Jim Reilly 2014

Running …

… it was 34 years ago today that I began my adult running career … coincidentally, at age 34 … after having not run at all for more than 10 years.

Spent the next five years in heavy training and road racing …  in the process dropping from a high of 183 pounds to 139 … my college wrestling weight! … and often doing major training runs with fellow deputy DA (and later judge) Dave Carter … Superior Court Judge Jim Smith … and my best running friends, DDA Doug Woodsmall & county engineer Al Nestlinger … until I moved to Northern California in 1985…

Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County

Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County

… at which point I got into trail running … mostly on Mt. Tamalpais … and did very little racing.

During the 5 years of frequent racing (1980-85), I managed to run my first sub-5:00 mile since college (4:55.39 in 1984) …

March of Dimes 5K 1st Overall

March of Dimes 5K … 4-29-84 … 16:28 … 1st Overall

… finished 1st overall in a 5K race … The March of Dimes Run for the Gold 5K in 1984 …

… and ran lifetime PRs of 32:59.14 for 10K (in 1985) … 1:14:37.40 for the half-marathon (1983) … 2:40:33 for the marathon (at the 1982 Fiesta Bowl Marathon) … and — also in 1985 — 54:41.8 for a 10 mile run … what I consider my best race ever, averaging 5:28.18 per mile.

Also ran in some interesting races …

The 1983 Boston Marathon -- Finisher's Medal, Pin & Patch

The 1983 Boston Marathon — Finisher’s Medal, Pin & Patch

… including the 1983 Boston Marathon (2:43:05.83 when I died in the last three miles after running sub-6:00 mile pace for the first 23) … a 24 hour track run (covered 75 miles) …the Lake Tahoe 72 Mile Run (dropped out after 43 miles and 6.5 hours, due to a combination of altitude sickness and severe shin splints) …  the Bay to Breakers several times (best time 44:54.69 in 1983) …and finally the Dipsea Race across Mt. Tam from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.

And ran in some other interesting non-race settings …the Humboldt National Forest redwoods in Northern California … Muir Woods National Monument in Marin … Point Reyes National Seashore … the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

The Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

… down & up the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon … down & up the Sandia Peak Trail in New Mexico … around the rim trail of Walnut Canyon National Monument in Arizona ..

Meteor Crater, Winslow Arizona

Meteor Crater, Winslow Arizona

… and around the Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona … to complete this loop, had to run past signs prohibiting visitors from going any further … sh-h!

And hundreds of runs on Mt. Tamalpais here in Marin … with, at one time or another and with some frequency, sons Doug & Matt, Toby George, Eric Nygren & Tom Hurst … and four-legged friends Cairo, Oski & Nano

Nano on Mt. Tam Trail

Nano on Mt. Tam Trail

… all of whom proved worthy training partners … eventually, I was able to run every trail on the mountain at least once from end-to-end in each direction … all 160 trails covering more than 200 miles … 

Tamalpais Trails by Barry Spitz

… all carefully documented in one of my copies of Barry Spitz’ excellent book, “Tamalpais Trails” (of which I own six copies) … and the origin of my personal email address “RunTam”.

Age, a knee injury and the dysfunction of my thyroid gland eventually put an end to my running career … but I credit the tens of thousands of miles that I’ve run with my relative good health … and, in my mind, I often re-run my favorite Mt. Tam trails … Matt Davis TrailNorthside TrailSouthern Marin Line Fire Road … the Dipsea Trail … and my personal favorite …

Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway

Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway

Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway Patch

… the Old Railroad Grade, once the course up & down the mountain of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway.


The Piggy Bank 10K, January 27, 1983 --- 10K PR 32;59.14

Piggy Bank 10K … 1-27-85 … 10K PR 32;59.14

Finished 4th Overall & 1st in 35-39 Age Group

4th Overall & 1st in 35-39 Age Group

Age Group Piggy Bank Prize

Age Group Piggy Bank Prize

Collection of Race Pins

Collection of Race Pins

Farewell Gift ON Leaving DA's Office ----- Running Art by DA Investigator R. Skelly

——–  Farewell Gift on Leaving DA’s Office in 1985  ——– Running Art by DA Investigator R. Skelly

Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway 117th Anniversary


Today (Sunday, August 18, 2013) is the 117th Anniversary of the founding of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, which wound its way up the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California.  The Mt. Tam railroad, often referred to as “The Crookedest Railroad in the World”, had 266 curves over its 8.19 mile distance!  The railroad operated until the summer of 1930, then shut down and the tracks were torn up.

Parts of the old route in downtown Mill Valley, and the nearby residential neighborhoods, were built over and partially paved to create Fern Canyon Road and upper Summit Avenue.  What is left of the railroad grade is now a fire road and was one of my favorite places to run in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  I ran part or all of it with most of my running partners in those days, including sons Doug & Matt, Eric Nygren, Tom Hurst and Toby George.  On one occasion, my friend and running partner from the Orange County DA’s office, Doug Woodsmall, visited Mill Valley and we ran the full length of the railroad grade from bottom to top and back.








For more information on the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, see this Wikipedia article:

And for an interesting short documentary about the railroad produced in 1976 for the Marin County American Bicentennial Commission, see this YouTube video:

And here for additional video footage of the railroad from the Marin County Free Library: