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City to Mark Mill Valley's Railroad History in Saturday Ceremony

Mill Valley Rotary and the Mill Valley Historical Society team to reinstate historical railway medallions to the city-owned building, commemorating its history as a train station.

Most Mill Valley locals think of the Depot Plaza as home to rollicking children, socializing parents and a host of community events.

In a ceremony Saturday, city officials, history buffs and local residents plan to gather at the plaza to celebrate the downtown hub's history, honoring Mill Valley's railroad history with the placement of restored circular “Northwestern Pacific” medallions on the city-owned Depot building.

"We forget about our local history," said Dick Spotswood, the former Mill Valley mayor and longtime Mill Valley Rotary member who spreaheaded the project. "What is that place for a newcomer? You had to be around that time to know. This will help fill in some of that history.”

The building, which was constructed in 1929 in the mission-revival style, was built by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NPR), and served as a terminal for the Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Scenic Railway.

The first train arrived in downtown Mill Valley in 1890 and the last NWP electric passenger train to utilize the station departed in 1941. The building later served as a Greyhound Bus depot and now is home to the  and the .

During its heyday as a railroad station, the depot featured circular “Northwestern Pacific” medallions at each of its gables. Over time, these historic plaques, also known as “heralds” in railway terminology, have vanished.

Spotswood and the Mill Valley Rotary approached Mayor Garry Lion and the City Council earlier this year with a proposal to have the medallions reinstalled in order to preserve and share the building's diverse cultural history. The effort to reinstate the railway-age heralds has been a joint effort between the Rotary Club and the Mill Valley Historical Society, which is led by president Tim Amyx.

Spotswood approached Amyx more than a year ago about the project. When the Historical Society received a donation from the trust of Mill Valley philanthropist Fred Drexler, the stars aligned for the project to move forward, Amyx said.

“When I brought the idea up again nearly a year later he (Spotswood) pulled out all these papers and files,” Amyx. "The logos for the medallions were ready to be ordered."

The costs will be covered completely by the Rotary Club and the Historical Society and the reinstallation project will have no fiscal impact on the city’s budget.

Lion will lead Saturday's ceremony in conjunction with the Rotary Club and the Historical Society at 2 p.m. in the Depot Plaza to dedicate two historic features of the Plaza: The Depot Building with restored Northwestern Pacific Railroad medallions and a historic plaque, and the Gravity Car Replica, which was built by a group of Mill Valley volunteers in 1990 and moved to the plaza more recently in 2009.

Railroad Historian and expert on “The Crookedest Railroad in the World” Fred Runner will provide an update on efforts to return one of the original locomotives to the top of Mount Tamalpais.

A  hosted by the Mill Valley Art Commission follows the ceremony at 3 pm.

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William Kent August 25, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I liked the plaza better when it was filled with hippies, skateboarders, hackiesackers, and vagrants. This new breed of inhabitants are not as fun.
Rico August 25, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I totally agree about the Plaza, and I think that they should call the SMART train "The Crookedest Railroad in the World".
Anne Tique August 25, 2012 at 07:55 PM
William, me, too! My kids, too - who, as teens, were shooed away by the yoga moms of toddlers. Richard - sadly funny!

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