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The Intriguing History and Future of the Muir Woods Railway's Engine, Engine No. 9

Campaign underway to bring home the last surviving full-size piece of the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway.

Tamalpais No. 9 pauses at Double Bow Knot for a souvenir panoramic photo of the train and its passengers.

THE ABOVE PHOTO features Engine No. 9 of the Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway, also known as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World.”

Engine No. 9, built in 1921 in Erie, Pennsylvania, was part of that famed railroad until 1924, when it was sold to the Siskiyou Lumber Company after the Tam railway suffered financial problems. And for the next 26 years, it hauled redwood trees throughout Humboldt County before being acquired in 1953 by the Pacific Lumber Company. After all its hard work, it was placed on display outside the Scotia Museum in Scotia, California, where it sat for 65 years.

Then, this February, word reached Marin rail historian Fred Runner that because of lead paint, asbestos and rust issues, Engine No. 9 would be up for auction, minimum bid $25,000. Runner and others, who’d been tracking No. 9 for over 50 years, were energized. Working with the Mill Valley Historical Society and Friends of Mt. Tam, he engineered a winning bid of $56,240, and now No. 9 is awaiting its next move into restoration and hopefully back to Marin. “It’s the only full-size piece of the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway remaining,” Runner says. “We’ve got to bring her home.”

Runner’s plans don’t lack for ambition. His and his many cohorts’ first challenge is to get the 36-ton relic 33 miles down Highway 101 from Scotia to Willits on a flatbed truck, where restoration will be done by Baldo Locomotive Works, and then another 120 miles south to Marin — its former seat of locomotive power. But the effort needs funds, only about $20,000 of the estimated $500,000 needed has been raised. Those wishing to push the effort along are urged to send contributions labeled “No. 9” to the Mill Valley Library at 375 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941.

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