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Gravity's Railroad: 1921

Gravity's Railroad: 1921

Marin County, California, circa 1921. "Mount Tamalpais Tavern and Gravity Car with REO auto." 6½ x 8½ inch glass negative. View full size.


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Cleverest Title Ever

It's so good I keep Pynchon myself!

Wide Load

The track seems to be spaced wider than standard gauge railroad track.

[It was standard gauge. -tterrace]

It burned

It wasn't the steam engines that caused the fire, but an accident in the Tavern's kitchen in 1923. Replacement opened in 1924 and was torn down in the 1950s. Remnants of the foundations are still visible.

Safety Last

Apparently nobody cared enough to post some signage about how passengers should KEEP LIMBS INSIDE CAR and DO NOT STAND DURING RIDE. Incidentally: I found that picture so fascinating that I just spent thirty minutes reading up on what was billed as "The Crookest Railroad in the World. I would have LOVED to have had a chance to visit that Tavern. Especially by rail rather than automobile.

Felicitous Juxtaposition

I think I'd need an hour or so in the tavern before you'd be able to get me on that conveyance.

Still There (Sort of)

The Friends of Mount Tam have built a barn and gravity car as a interpretive display. Sadly the tracks are gone.

Steam Power

This footage from 1898 shows a Steam Engine pulling out from the Tavern (hence the soot stains on the arch).

The Gravity Cars apparently came later.
Wonder how they came back up the hill, Anti Gravity Cars?

Gravity Cars

There is an interesting article on this railroad in Wikipedia. Apparently these gravity cars were hauled up to this point (the end of the line) by locomotives and then let go one by one for a ride back down the mountain by gravity. There was a brakeman on board that manually controlled the car's brakes to keep the speed down.

It must have been quite a ride.

Designated Driver

I imagine the train ride sobered you up pretty quickly after enjoying a few pints in the tavern.

No one under 50 allowed

Except for the front row.


I love the brick/tile work on that arch. And I bet they get great water pressure from that tank up the hill!

[Those are shingles, same as the ones on the tavern. -Dave]

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