Abandoned Rails of Sonoma County

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In the small town of Fulton, CA, an abandoned branch can be seeing leading away from the former Northwest Pacific line in the foreground. This branch went to Guerneville, CA, to the northwest. Photo by Andrew Laverdiere, February 2009.

As I write this, construction is continuing to restore the Northwestern Pacific Railroad main line, from Schellville to Windsor, CA. Freight service is projected to begin in Fall 2009. Also, a sales tax measure to finance a commuter rail route on the Northwestern Pacific between Larkspur and Cloverdale was approved by the voters in November 2008, with the prospect of passenger service beginning in 2014.

However, the condition of the national economy may have a negative impact on both the freight service and the commuter passenger service. We're keeping our hopes up, though, that this railroad will no longer be abandoned. If this happens, though, keep the page up, please, as a reminder of what we lost and hopefully will be lucky to regain.

Gene Poon
Rohnert Park, CA
4/9/2009

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A lot is happening along the former NWP line in Sonoma and Marin Counties as the line is being repaired and updated for resumed passenger and freight service.

Robert Talley
Marin County and SF East Bay Area, CA
4/21/2009

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As feared when prior comments were written in April 2009, several factors have slowed the restoration of railroad service in Sonoma County, CA. The moribund national economy, opposition by the City of Novato, and funding issues have pushed the proposed date for resumption of freight service to Fall of 2010. Meanwhile, plans for the commuter passenger service continue also, but with the prospect of the commuter agency running out of money before service can be begun over the entire route. It now appears that service in 2014, if it begins at all, will only cover the southern part of the route, in Marin County.

Nevertheless, planning continues and bids for a fleet of commuter trains are being solicited.

Gene Poon
Rohnert Park, CA
9/2/2010

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I'm wondering about the railroad that used to run out through Valley Ford, maybe 100+ years ago. Does anyone have any information, or suggestions where to look? I'm also interested in the Rails to Trails group. Thank you. Jan

Jan Walton
Bloomfield, CA
1/4/2011

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For a few months now, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad between Schellville and Windsor in Sonoma and Marin Counties is no longer abandoned! Active rail freight service is operating on an as-needed basis bringing grain to customers in Petaluma, CA. Typically two to four trains operate per week to Petaluma. Just south of Windsor, the anticipated inbound lumber business to Standard Structures has not materialized but the company is promoting the use of its spur as a team track for other customers and shippers. Thus far it has generated one outbound load.

Northwestern Pacific has two locomotives: a "Gen-Set" engine leased from RJ Corman, the RJC 2009; and an EMD GP-9 leased from locomotive broker Bruggere and Monson, in traditional Southern Pacific grey/scarlet paint, lettered "Northwestern Pacific 1922."

Gene Poon
Rohnert Park, CA
11/15/2011

[That's great news, thanks for sharing!  —Greg Harrison]

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