VIGNETTE > Alto Tunnel

Alto Tunnel North End – [click to enlarge]

In 1875, the North Pacific Coast Railroad (NPC) began passenger and freight service to and from Sausalito to Corte Madera and stations as far north as the Russian River. The track crossed Richardson Bay to Strawberry and climbed up over Collins Summit, now highway 101, to Corte Madera.  In the early 1880’s, NPC began construction of new track along the marshy west edge of Richardson Bay, now the Sausalito-Mill Valley multi-use path, and a 2172-foot tunnel blasted through Corte Madera Ridge by Chinese workers. The track exited the tunnel in Corte Madera’s Chapman Park and continued north to Larkspur, where it joined the original 1875 track. Though most all the NPC track would be double-tracked by the early 1900’s, the Alto Tunnel was too narrow. An elaborate safety signal system controlled one-way tunnel traffic.   Regular service began in April 1885.  In 1889, NPC constructed a spur line from Almonte to the depot in downtown Mill Valley. Passenger service ended in 1941, but sporadic freight service continued. On November 23, 1971, a final special run passed through the Alto Tunnel to Sausalito. Since then, part of the tunnel has collapsed. The “Friends of Alto Tunnel” is currently working to get the Alto Tunnel reopened for bicycles and pedestrians.