Entries tagged with “North Pacific Coast Railway”.


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A row of flowerpots now parades down the raised section of sidewalk on the main street of Point Reyes Station (between C and D streets). The story behind this array of flowerpots is intriguing.

The town was born in 1875 when the North Pacific Coast Railway opened a narrow-gauge line from Sausalito to Cazadero with a stop in Point Reyes Station. What started as a whistlestop in a cow pasture owned by Mary Burdell became a town subdivided by her husband Galen, a dentist. Soon there was a depot on the main street, but it was turned 180 degrees when tracks east of town were converted to standard gauge in 1920. 

Back in the days of the narrow-gauge trains, the building housing Cabaline Saddle Shop and the Bovine Bakery housed a general store, the Point Reyes Emporium. The train tracks went up the the middle of the main street, which was not yet paved, meaning that in wet weather, workers transporting cargo from a boxcar to the store had to slog through mud.

The raised sidewalk with two people sitting on its edge in the way many did until recently.

Their solution was to build a sidewalk as high as the floor of a narrow-gauge boxcar. When a train stopped in front of the Point Reyes Emporium, workers stuck sawhorses in the mud, laid planks on top of them, and then had a level, dry passage from the floor of the boxcar to the door of the store.

The narrow gauge up the coast shut down in 1930, and the standard gauge east of town closed in 1933. The line had never been profitable, and the Great Depression, along with the advent of competition from trucks, brought about the end of West Marin’s railroad era. The former Point Reyes Station depot is now the town post office.

The raised section of sidewalk flowered this year. The Bovine is to the left of Leona’s. 

The town was left with a raised section of sidewalk which became an unexpected problem during the pandemic. The already-popular Bovine Bakery became even more so as out-of-towners escaping the monotony of sheltering at home frequently chose West Marin for an escape, stopping by the Bovine for a snack. In order for the bakery to maintain proper  social distancing, customers for now don’t go inside but get their pastries at the door.

Many of them had taken to eating their pastries sitting just outside on the edge of the raised section, and as inevitably happens when people eat pastries beside the street, birds show up for the crumbs some folks throw them. Before long, Leona’s next door began finding an overabundance of people and birds nibbling at the door. Messy. The solution? Flower pots so folks can’t use the edge of the raised section for a bench.

When I moved to Point Reyes Station in 1975, the town’s postmaster was a short, thin, friendly man named George Gallagher. His identical twin Bob ran North Bend Ranch just east of town along the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road.

Sadly, that historic ranch is now for sale. Scott Stevens of Leading Edge Properties two weeks ago told The San Francisco Chronicle the 300-acre ranch is listed for $5.5 million.

The ranch got the name North Bend because Papermill Creek makes a northward-pointing arc as it crosses the property. In 1913, the twins — who both died in 2002 at the age of 89 — were born on the ranch, which their grandfather bought from the Shafter family in the 1870s.

The old Gallagher house is unoccupied but is now being cleaned. Photos by Leading Edge Properties, (707) 695-4448.

Bob and George grew up in a white, two-story Victorian house, watching the North Pacific Railroad’s narrow-gauge trains rumble through their front yard, sometimes hopping aboard for a trip into San Francisco.

“There’s something about a train — you can live right by it every day, and still when one comes by, you can’t help looking up,” Bob Gallagher recalled in a Point Reyes Light interview 11 years ago.

“You could always keep time by the trains runnin’ by there,” his brother George added. “Like clockwork five or six daily trains passed by on schedule from dawn to dusk.”

While the young twins rode a horse and buggy into town to attend Black District School, their older siblings rode the train to high school. “They used to get the train up to Tomales High and get there by noon,” George said. “Then they’d have to catch another train back at 3 p.m. That cut into their learning some, but they turned out just fine.”

The cattle-feeding barn with the ranch’s old barn at right.

The tracks ran right between the Gallaghers’ front door and their barn. “The dairy was on one side, and the house was on the other,” Bob said. “We had to cross the those tracks. [The train] always whistled before it got there, but comin’ one way, it came right out of the woods.”

The Gallagher children weren’t the only ranch residents who had to be careful. Sometimes turkeys and cows got dangerously close to the tracks while foraging in the right-of-way.

George Gallager (left) and Bob Gallagher in 1997.

Bob told of a time when a young ranch dog followed him and George as they ran across the tracks to beat a speeding train. The twins made it across safely, but the dog disappeared under engine. However, after the train had passed, the dog — which had crouched under the cars — got up and was able to walk away although it no longer had a tail.

The trains made it possible for the Gallaghers to take quick trips into San Francisco. Both Bob and George fondly remembered playing cards on one trip with Jackie Coogan, the child actor whose well-known roles included starring with Charlie Chaplin in The Kid. As it happened, Coogan had a grandfather in West Marin whom he frequently visited.

It was easy to catch the train as it ran through their ranch, Bob and George noted. “You’d just wave down the conductor, and he’d stop and give you a toot-toot,” George said.

The brothers would then board the train and ride it to Sausalito, where they would transfer to a Northwestern Pacific ferry. They’d reach Fisherman’s Wharf in about 90 minutes — less time than it takes most commuters today.

The main ranch house, where Kevin and Katie Gallagher live, was built in the 1960s and has three bedrooms.

There is much more that could be said about the ranch.

• To the south, it borders on federally owned land within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In the 1980s, the GGNRA’s boundaries were extended to include North Bend Ranch. This means the Park Service has Congressional permission to buy the property; however, the Park Service hasn’t had the funds to do so. The Park Service has also discussed extending the Cross Marin through the ranch, and on Oct. 14, 2001, bicyclists took a trial run. But nothing has come of that idea either.

• Another government agency, North Marin Water District, has a well on the property. It’s one of several wells along Papermill Creek for the water system that serves Point Reyes Station, Olema, and Inverness Park.

•  The Gallagher family hadn’t wanted to sell the property but needs the money to help pay for retirement and medical bills, real estate agent Stevens told The Chronicle. The owners of the ranch are George Gallagher’s sons Kevin and Paul, along with Bob Gallagher’s son and daughter Dan and Maureen.