One hundred years ago this month, the Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Scenic Railway took delivery of a brand-new Heisler steam engine — the ninth engine since the railway’s inception in 1896. Engine No. 9 turned out to be the last locomotive the company would purchase before the railway’s demise and dismantling in 1930, and today Engine No. 9 is the last remaining piece of the railway. 

On Sunday, April 18, the Friends of No. 9 host a virtual event to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the engine’s arrival in Mill Valley. This live, online event will be short — only about 15 minutes — but memorable, and you can watch it here.

The event will include the first sounding of No. 9’s recently recreated steam whistle, which can be heard over long distances stretching miles – served as a means of communication, alerting people of a train’s location and activity.  But, more than that, the sound of the whistle also defined a train’s character. Some types of whistles, including No. 9’s, even enabled the train engineers to develop their own personal whistle-blowing style, as the engineers could “bend” the individual tones of the whistle by varying the amount of steam passing through it. In the right hands, the sounding of a train’s whistle imparts soul, much like with a musician playing a musical instrument. The distinctive sound of the whistle has become symbolic of the bygone steam engine era.

More than three years ago, a coalition of local organizations embarked on a long-shot plan to bring the Heisler No. 9 – the last remaining locomotive from the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” that ran from Mill Valley to the top of Mount Tam – back to Mill Valley for the first time in nearly 100 years.

Friends of No. 9, the organization formed by the Mill Valley Historical SocietyFriends of Mt. TamMarin History Museum and others, submitted a winning auction bid of more than $56,000 to acquire the engine that ran from Mill Valley to the top of Mount Tam until 1924. Since then, the group has focused on raising the money required to move, restore and relocate the massive, 36-ton, aging locomotive. 

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