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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tamalpais Scenic Railway

The engine pictured on the front of this card is a Shay.
A Class B Shay engine had 3 cylinders, which you can clearly see on the side of this engine and two trucks. It is one of 1,480 Class B Shay engines built between 1878 and 1945. They were built by a company that changed names three times before it finally became the Lima Locomotive Works, Inc. in March of 1916. This particular engine was known as Number 646 by the Lima Locomotive and Machine Company as it was known in 1901. This locomotive was finished on April 15, 1901. The three cylinders were 10 inches in diameter with a 10 inch stroke. The wheel diameter was only 28 inches. It ran on coal, of which it could carry almost 2 tons, and it could hold 1238 gallons of water. It weighed 61,810 pounds when it came off the assembly floor. It worked at the Tamalpais Scenic Railway as Engine #3 until 1915. It changed ownership 6 more times before it was sold for scrap on October 10, 1929.

During its time a trip on the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad was a favorite city getaway for San Franciscans. The railway was an immediate success when it opened for business in 1896 and was dubbed by locals as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” because of its 281 curves in just over eight miles of track. At the Mill Valley train depot this Shay steam engine’s whistle signaled the beginning of the train ride to the top of Mount Tamalpais. Passengers breathed the fresh mountain air from open cars as the train climbed to an elevation of 2,500 feet at a speed of 10 miles per hour. At the summit people marveled at views of the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Locomotives were positioned on the downhill end of the train and pushed the passenger cars uphill, allowing for unobstructed vistas. Watching the engines push from below was an added spectacle for riders, who could see the train’s gears and engineer at work. Ridership declined in later years. By 1920, automobiles could drive to the mountain summit on twisty roads. A fire on Mount Tamalpais in 1929 left many of the rail ties damaged or destroyed. Rail managers lost hope for profitability and abandoned reconstruction efforts. The last train traveled up the mountain on October 31, 1929. Tracks were pulled up in 1930, signaling the end of travel to Muir Woods on the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway.

This post card was published by M. Rieder from Los Angeles, California. It is number 4002 in their series of post cards. It was printed in Germany (so, again, before the beginning of World War One - see last week's post). This card is postmarked June 18, 1909 so we know how old it is.

The writer is telling the receiver of the post card that he is receiving $2.50 per day for 8 hours of work per day. "Easy Money", he writes.

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