Petaluma to Forestville and Santa Rosa

The Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad

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Looking east toward a cement factory on this short siding. To the left of the photo is the walk/bike trail that used to be the former line. Photo by Andrew Laverdiere, October 2008.

The Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad was incorporated in 1903 to establish interurban and freight service between its namesake towns. The track was laid in 1904 and service started soon after. In 1928, the P&SR was purchased by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, with cessation of trolley service coming in 1933. The line was abandoned in 1984, with only remnants preserved in Petaluma to serve local industries.

An interesting story that involves the P&SR was a mild battle between the it and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1905 involving a grade crossing in Santa Rosa. The NWP had already established service between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, so when the P&SR tried to establish service between the same two cities, the NWP protested by preventing the P&SR from crossing their line in Santa Rosa. When the P&SR attempted to install the crossing in a "sneak attack", the NWP was already prepared with awaiting steam locomotives ready to blast boiling hot water on any trespassers. At one time during the battle, the P&SR actually laid their tracks over those of the NWP, a solution that didn't last long. And for a time, when an eastbound P&SR trolley would reach the crossing, the passengers were required to disembark and board another trolley on the other side of the crossing to continue eastbound, and vice-versa. A court ruling finally allowed the P&SR to install their crossing, putting an end to the 3-month conflict.

There are still small bits of rail buried on/in some driveways along Roblar Road. There may be either a telegraph pole or wire hanger pole (made that up) north of Petaluma on the north side of the big pumpkin patch next to 101.

Richard Fries
Petaluma, CA
10/18/2010

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I think the map is mistaken as to the route between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. There were two parallel railroads. The Northwestern Pacific ran from the Santa Rosa train station to Sebastopol along the indicated route. A little before Petaluma Ave., it curved up to the existing old train cars, and continued on to the apple-packing district.

The Petaluma and Santa Rosa did not connect with the NWP tracks in Santa Rosa. It curved off of Main Street in Sebastopol to what is now the Joe Rodota Trail, and then ran right next to the NWP route to about Fulton Rd., where it ran down the side of what is now Sebastopol Avenue to Olive Street, where it curved up to what is now Railroad Square, and then turned right on to Fourth Street, where for a number of years their streetcars ran all the way to McDonald Avenue. The famous "Battle of Sebastopol Avenue" was literally on Sebastopol Ave. where that street crosses the NWP railroad tracks.

Oz Childs
Santa Rosa, CA
2/24/2011

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There is a Pacific Fruit Express freight carriage sitting on what appears to be original P&SR track in a downtown Sebastopol parking lot, right adjacent to the old P&SR station building.

Ken
SM, CA
7/3/2011

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I have an old calendar from the 1920s from the p/sr railroad. does anyone know any info on this? It came out of the old bank building in petaluma on the corner of pet blvd and washington st. Thank you.

lisa coleman
sonoma, CA
2/17/2012

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Most of the P&SR's fleet of interurban cars was built by Holman Car Co. of San Francisco in 1904. #63 survived, with the car body used as a residence. It was purchased by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, who completed a beautiful restoration. You can ride this car today at the Western Railway Museum on Rt. 12 east of Fairfield in Solano County.

Robert
Oakland, CA
2/25/2013

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I'm curious about the Fitzgerald Building, located where the old train line crosses Roberts Ave. in Roseland, headed west but still a little east of the Joe Rodota Trail head on Dutton Ave. The building has the date 1928 over its front entrance. Across the former R&SR track is an old concrete plant with an old railroad spur, rails still running through it. What was the commercial function of the Fitzgerald Bldg?

Daniel Kerbein
Santa Rosa, CA
3/12/2013

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Oz Child's comments are partly correct. The original Petaluma and Santa Rosa route ran in the middle of Sebastopol Road from Santa Rosa to just west of present-day Wright Road. From there the P&SR followed the route of the present-day Joe Rodota Trail to Sebastopol.

The P&SR station in Santa Rosa is the present-day Chevy's Mexican Restaurant. The P&SR station in Sebastopol is the West Sonoma County Museum.

The Northwestern Pacific Sebastopol Branch ran on the alignment of the present-day Joe Rodota Trail from its connection to the NWP main line in Santa Rosa, until the vicinity of Wright Road; from there it ran approximately where Highway 12 is today.

So there once were two parallel railroads between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

After NWP acquired P&SR and discontinued passenger service, the street trackage on Sebastopol Rd. was no longer necessary and it was abandoned. At the same time, the State wanted to build a highway between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. So NWP abandoned its own route west of Wright Rd., deeding it to the State, and built a connection to the P&SR. That's why the "jog" in the route, as shown on the map where the marked route crosses Sebastopol Road. The single combined route was operated as the NWP until abandonment in 1985.

I was aboard one of the last revenue trips on the line. The train had one freight car: a load of perlite that went to Graton.

Gene Poon
Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, CA
3/20/2013

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