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VIGNETTE > The Railroad on Miller Avenue

In 1889, a branch line railroad was constructed to facilitate the development of Mill Valley. A steam locomotive pushed and pulled passenger coaches back and forth between the Sausalito ferry terminal and Mill Valley. Imagine living in the 1890s on what is now inbound Miller Ave. Every fifteen minutes a noisy train passes by belching black smoke. In 1903, the railroad was electrified. No more smoke and less noise for residents along the line. The electricity was generated 150 miles away at the Colgate hydroelectric powerhouse on the north fork of the Yuba River. The Alto powerhouse on the bay converted 50,000 volt  AC to  the 600 volt DC for the third rail.  Commuting from Mill Valley by train and ferry to San Francisco took 50 minutes. The Golden Gate Bridge doomed the electrified railroad.  In 1940, a noisy Greyhound bus belching diesel exhaust replaced the train.

Main Points
MV to SF in 50 minutes by train/ferry; electric trains, third rail, Alto powerhouse, Colgate hydroelectric powerhouse on Yuba river; steam engines before 1903; Greyhound bus in 1940.

Alto Powerhouse > click to enlarge

Alto Powerhouse > click to enlarge

Want  more info? Read the History of Homestead Valley article “Alto Powerhouse“.

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