San Francisco & North Pacific engine 18, built by Rogers in 1889. SF&NP was a predecessor of NWP; this loco was later NWP 101. Engineer E. H. Reynolds stops his freight at Santa Rosa for a turn-of-the-century photo, ca. 1900.
I have over the last year or so been trying in the website to “tie-in” the NWP with the California Western Railroad.
Without the NWP the line from Fort Bragg to Willits would not have made sense. The NWP line from Willits to San Francisco provided a speedy way to bring passengers to Fort Bragg and the resorts along the Skunk Line such as the Noyo River Tavern as well as send products east.
Since Mike Aplet has joined the club my job has been made much easier. Mike lives in Brooktrails which was once home to the Northwestern Lumber Company mill and the town of Northwestern.
Northwestern Lumber Company was also owned by A. W. Foster who was also the owner of NWP. The Northwestern mill was locally known as the Diamond D because of a D surrounded by a diamond logo which was stamped on all of the tools the company owned.
Before the railroad line up through the Eel River Canyon was completed to Eureka the NWP railroad originally went up into the Sherwood Valley. It passed through Northwestern on its way. The railroad carried passengers, logs and lumber products between Sherwood and the San Francisco Bay. Rail passengers could disembark the train at Sherwood where they would transfer to a stage for travel either west towards the coast or north into the Cahto Valley and Laytonville.
Foster owned a considerable amount of timber between Northwestern and Sherwood. He used his railroad to bring that timber into his Northwestern mill. Through a deal he made with C.R. Johnson and Union Lumber Company, Foster also extended his railroad beyond Sherwood into the upper Ten Mile River drainage which was too difficult to access from Union Lumber’s CWR line into Lower Ten Mile.
There was a hospital in the town of Northwestern before Charles Howard of Sea Biscuit fame built the Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital that is now in Willits.
One of the “pieces” Mike has provided to me was this fascinating article by Gaye LeBaron which was published on Sunday, March 7th, 1993 in the Press Democrat.
The title of the piece was, “This was a man who knew how to run a railroad.” Read on – it’s a great story.
“There is far more talk of trains than there are trains on the North Coast in these freeway-friendly times. Much of it is political talk. Is rail service growth-inducing? Can Joe Average be lured out from behind the wheel? And, the omnipresent rhetorical question: How could we have been so short-sighted in abandoning the rail service we once enjoyed?
Trains are a government problem now. If regular, dependable passenger service returns to Sonoma County and points north, it will be a government agency that makes it happen.
What a contrast this is with the way it was 100 years ago, in March of 1893, when a wheeling-dealing immigrant from Ireland, who lived in splendor in Marin County, bought the main line railroad from Tiburon to Ukiah and precipitated dramatic changes in our economy.
The man was Arthur W. Foster. And he knew how to run a railroad!
Foster and his partners, a Marin attorney named Sidney Smith, and Santa Rosa resident Andrew Markham bought the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad (SF&NP), which had been in bankruptcy for several years, in a court-ordered auction on the steps of the Marin County courthouse. The agreement was executed on March 25th, 1893.
Foster, who owned a SanFrancisco brokerage and was very rich before the age of 40, had established himself as one of Marin County’s power elite. He had purchased Fairhills, the former Adolph Maillard mansion in San Rafael and lived in splendor with his wife Louisiana, and his nine children.
I am indebted to a new Santa Rosa resident, Michel Rousselin, who has published a book about Fairhills, which includes a biography of Foster. Rousselin makes a case for the importance of the Marin industrialist in the development of the North Coast.
After buying the SF&NP, Foster and Markham split with partner Smith, who had thrown in his lot with Eastern investors who sought control. Foster eluded a takeover by establishing California, Northwestern Railroad (CNW), to which he leased the SF&NP. He also purchased an interest in North Pacific Coast, later the North Shore, a narrow gauge which ran from Sausalito to Duncan Mills.
San Francisco and North Pacific #18, 4-6-0, built by Rogers in 1889. Became NWP 101 when roads were consolidated in 1907
Foster was one of those aggressive businessmen who earn the title “tycoon”. Not unlike the legendary Big Four who ran roughshod over the political system to build the Central Pacific and, subsequently, Southern Pacific, Foster was not a man of goodwill where competition was concerned.
His determination to “own” railroading on the North Coast can be found in the 1905 incidents on the outskirts of Santa Rosa that became known in railroad lore, collectively, as the “Santa Rosa Stand-off” or “The Battle of Sebastapool Avenue.”
Spirited doubleheader welcomes the Fourth of July in 1904. No. 6 and another 4-4-0 blast past the station at Preston, just north of Cloverdale. It was California Northwestern Railway at that time (the successor to SF&NP after 1898). Looks like an excursion headed for Santa Rosa.
Foster was in a rate war of sorts with the newest rail line in the known as the Petaluma & Santa Rosa (P&SR), which was owned by a consortium of businessmen including Petaluma’s John McNear and Santa Rosa Banker, Frank Brush. The P&SR had already made inroads into the CNW’s poultry, eggs and fruit business when in 1904, it made application for a grade crossing over the CNW track near the Santa Rosa depot. The (P&SR) electric line’s plans included a fleet of those interurban trolleys so popular at the turn of the century. They promised customers they could board in front of their south and west county ranches and ride all the way to the courthouse in the centre of Santa Rosa on the same electric car.
Foster declined permission for a grade crossing suggesting curtly that the new railroad could tunnel under or build an overpass over his tracks. Both options were, of course, far too expensive to be taken seriously.
San Francisco & North Pacific No. 5 “Santa Rosa” takes water at Fulton, where the Russian River line branched off. The 5-Spot had been born in San Francisco, as indicated by cast lettering on the front of the smoke box. It reads “H J Booth & Co., Builders, S.F. Cal. 1873.
Santa Rosa’s merchants were outraged. Spurred on by Brush, 92 of them signed a document threatening to boycott the CNW unless Foster relented. Foster responded by ordering two of his steam locomotives rigged with special nozzles to shoot steam in any direction. Then he waited.
The P&SR manager, Alfred Bowen, acting in the same frontier spirit, ordered tracks built to the edge of the CNW line, had a grade crossing built in his shops and loaded on a flat car. He then sent crews to install it. The flat car arrived at the crossing site, which was south of the P&SR terminal (now a Chevy’s restaurant) and began sawing through steam line’s rails to slip in the crossing. Foster gave a signal and his engines, loaded for “war” came rolling from opposite ends, spraying steam and boiling water. The P&SR workers ran for their lives.
San Francisco & North Pacific first train over the new Petaluma Creek Bridge, 1902 near Petaluma. Loco 16, was formerly #4 on SF&NW.
For the next attempt, Bowen sent a trolley car. As it approached the track, crews of workers jumped out and built two barriers across the tracks to keep the steam engines at bay. Then, with a team of mules, they pulled the trolley across the main line, bumping over the tracks without a crossing to the P&SR tracks on the town side.
But that was only the first skirmish. To get to the street railway tracks, the trolley had to cross another CNW line, a spur track which served Grace Brothers Brewery. Foster went to court and got an injunction forbidding the trolley to cross. For two months, the trolley car sat idle between the tracks.
Foster’s injunction expired on the first of March, 1905. The P&SR brought back the grade crossing and again, Foster was ready. He had gondolas full of dirt and men with shovels, covering the electric line’s tracks with dirt. The steam engines came back. But the P&SR workers were determined. As soon as the tanks were empty they went back to work.
A crowd gathered, mostly to cheer the P&SR in what turned into a giant mud fight. Steam, dirt, rocks and insults were flying in all direction. When the P&SR parked wagons on the tracks to keep the steam engines back, the engines crashed through them, showering the crowd with splinters and wagon parts. Brush threw himself across the track in front of one of the engines. And, finally, police intervened. The CNW shovel brigade was ordered to cease and desist. On Foster’s orders, they continued and many were hauled off to jail.
The battle waged all through the day, until a telegram arrived at 5 p.m. saying that a San Francisco court had ruled in favour of the P&SR. The electric line crews worked all night. Shortly before sunrise , the stranded trolley car rolled smoothly over the new grade crossing and all the way to the courthouse. Foster had suffered a rare defeat.
This was his last railroad battle. He had actually sold his California Northwestern rail empire in 1902 to Southern Pacific, but agreed to stay and run the company for two years. And he remained involved – in timber, in banking, in resort property and ranching – in Sonoma and Mendocino counties until he died in 1930 aged 80. His great wealth had pretty much vanished with the decline of lumber prices and the onset of the Depression. So had the awe he had inspired when he was at his entrepreneurial peak. The new automobile had given merchant and traveler a new independence. Men like Foster were the old way. The North Coast, negotiated to bridge the Golden Gate, was rushing toward the new age of transportation.”