Mayor Jim Wickham and Vice Mayor Urban Carmel, along with members of Friends of No. 9 and the Mill Valley Historical Society, have proposed a 5-year agreement to place historic locomotive “Engine No. 9” in front of City Hall in Downtown Mill Valley.
Engine No. 9 is the only surviving piece of the rolling steam rail stock used to push gravity cars and passengers’ cars to the top of Mt. Tamalpais from 1896 to 1929, carrying over 1,000,000 visitors.
Engine No. 9 is a key piece of transportation history, and opened up formerly inaccessible areas of Mount Tamalpais, inspiring conservation efforts that spurred the national environmental movement that continues today. The ride to the top of Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods lead to local and national leaders to establish the public lands we enjoy today, including the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods, State Parks and Marin Water open space. It all began in Downtown Mill Valley, steps away from Engine No. 9’s new proposed home.
Members of Friends of No. 9 have sought a location for the refurbished locomotive since acquiring it in 2018. In late 2022, the City conducted a survey to determine community ideas for the use of a new, expanded corner of the Downtown Plaza. There were over 1800 individual responses to the survey. While many supported the idea of placing Engine No. 9 on the Plaza, it was also deeply polarizing, with more than half of the respondents against the idea.
Since then, City officials and Engine No. 9 supporters have met and discussed several locations around town. They arrived at a proposal to place the 30-foot engine at City Hall - in the open space formally used as a driveway for the former police station, currently home to the City Manager’s office. Owners of Mill Valley Market, Sweetwater and representatives from the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce support the location and its connection to the history of City Hall, fire station and train maintenance yard that once serviced the trains.
“As a fourth generation Mill Valley resident, I understand the importance of honoring our history,” Mayor Jim Wickham said. “We are happy to have been able to find a temporary home for the locomotive that will help future generations learn about Mill Valley’s rich past.”
Restoration of the engine is underway and has been paid for entirely by Friends of No. 9 and its supporters. Friends of No. 9 will continue to raise funds to cover the costs of moving and installing the engine. They will also cover the costs of maintenance and insurance for the 5-year agreement. They estimate that they will be able to complete installation by the end of 2024.
“We are pleased that so many community leaders, both public and private, understand how critical it is to bring Engine No. 9 home to Mill Valley,” Mill Valley Historical Society Past-President Eric Macris said.
The 36-ton steam engine is 30 feet long, 9 feet wide and 11 feet tall. It was built at Heisler Locomotive Works in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1921 and shipped to Mill Valley soon after. It was used on the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad, the fabled “Crookedest Railroad in the World,” until 1924.
The City Council will consider the recommendation and agreement for the location of Engine No. 9 at an upcoming Council meeting in June.