The replica Gravity Car is a reproduction of the open-air cars that were used to shuttle up to 30 people down Mount Tamalpais in the heyday of the Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway between 1896 and 1930.
The repairs are expected “to take some time since most of the floor boards are rotted and many pieces have broken off from people climbing on it,” according to the City. In doing the repairs, “consideration is being made as to how repairs to the Gravity Car will allow it to better withstand weather damage and young climbers.”
The City doesn’t yet have a projected completion date because it hasn’t yet determined the full scope of the repairs. In the meantime, the Gravity Car will be moved to the City’s corporation yard, under cover, to protect it from winter weather conditions.
City staff is in conversation with the Town of Ross’ historian Richard Torney, who is an expert on local rail car history, as well as former Mayor Mill Valley Garry Lion, who worked to have the replica Gravity Car relocated to the Depot Plaza from its former home in Old Mill Park in 2009. Fred Runner, historian of the West Point Inn, will weigh in on the repairs as well.
The City of Mill Valley will provide updates to the repairs and estimated completion date as more information is made available.
The wooden, 10-by-12-foot structure had been at the Old Mill Park playground since its debut at the 1990 Memorial Day parade. The car was last repaired by the City in 2008 after years of deterioration from the park’s damp conditions and repeated acts of vandalism.
Starting in 1896, the Mill Valley & Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway made the eight-mile trip up to the East Peak of the mountain several times a day. In 1907, a spur line opened up that took passengers down to Muir Woods, and the name was changed to the Mount Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway. Known as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World,” the steam train took about one hour to travel eight miles up the steep slopes of Mount Tamalpais, by way of 281 hairpin curves. The ride from Mill Valley took a little over one hour to reach the top, winding through groves of redwood forests before coming out into the open high country of Mount Tamalpais.
After a trip up the mountain, visitors had the option to coast down into Muir Woods or back to Mill Valley in a “Gravity Car,” an open-air train car manned by the “Gravity Man” working the brakes and powered solely by gravity.
Another replica gravity car is kept in a Gravity Car Barn and museum that was spearheaded by the Mount Tamalpais Interpretive Association (MTIA) at the East Peak of Mount Tam. The Gravity Car Barn opened in May 2009
Questions about the repairs? Contact the City’s Operations Superintendent Denise Andrews at (415) 384-4708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s some footage of the old Gravity Car: