North Western Pacific's Ferries
The products of the Union Lumber Company (ULC) Mill in Fort Bragg could not have got to markets that could not be reached by schooners loading from the ULC’s wharf without the Northwestern Pacific’s (NWP) line from Willits into the Bay area and beyond. C.R. Johnson’s (the founder/owner of the ULC) vision was much wider – C.R. saw the Bay Area as a source of tourists to Fort Bragg and the Noyo River Tavern resort that the ULC built at Northspur.
How did tourists get from Oakland and San Francisco to Willits to pick up the Skunk train? There was no Bay Bridge, no Golden Gate Bridge and no Richmond Bridge you could drive over. The only way was by ferry across the Bay to NWP’s Terminal at Sausalito. There were lots of them ….. see the map.
We have no numbers of ridership on the NWP’s ferries but those of Southern Pacific do provide an insight as to how busy the NWP ferries were in their heyday. In 1920, there were 22,657,418 passengers carried by the Southern Pacific on their ferries across the Bay. This compared to 9,937,488 in 1938, even though the population in East Bay Cities and San Francisco increased 50 percent. As bridges around the Bay were built and people found they didn’t want to take the time for those wonderful rides across the Bay. This was the beginning of hurry up!
The beginning of the line to Eureka for Bay area passengers was the Tiburon Terminal. On pages 51 through 53 of the May 1960 Model Railroader there is a short article entitled NorthWestern Pacific Terminal and it is about the Tiburon terminal. Included in the article is a schematic of the actual layout of the Terminal. The article points out that the Terminal was more than just a Terminal – it contained locomotive repair shop, car rebuilding shop and a complete maintenance of way department. The photo below gives you an idea of what the Terminal looked like.
Amazingly one of the gracious ladies who plied the Bay still exists – she is the Eureka and is moored at the San Francisco Museum quay. If you have time to spare pay her a visit – one peek at the enormous walking beam engine that powered her makes the visit worthwhile.
The pictures below, give a notion of what you would have travelled on to start your journey from the other side of the Bay to visit the Noyo River Tavern and the Skunk Train.
You would have started your journey at the San Francisco Ferry Boat Building. That’s Market Street stretching through the middle of the left hand picture.
The entirety of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historic Society’s Spring/Summer 1995 edition is about the NWP ferries. Every ferry the NWP owned is displayed along with her vital statistics. Click on the cover and you will be able to read an e-book of this issue. A pdf version can be downloaded here
San Francisco Bay Ferryboats
by George H. Harlan
Published in 1967 Library of
Congress Card 67-20998
A great primer on the Bay ferries.
Excellent text with a lot of information
on the first through the last ferries on the Bay.