Friends of No. 9, the organization formed by the MV Historical Society, Friends of Mt. Tam, Marin History Museum and others who collectively purchased the Engine No. 9, continue to do the heavy lifting needed to restore and relocate the massive, 36-ton locomotive.
It’s the only surviving piece of the once world-famous Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway that brought passengers from the Mill Valley Depot to the surrounding natural park areas from 1896 to 1929. Thomas Edison himself filmed the railway in 1898.
The group has also been working with City of Mill Valley officials, as well as train and history buffs, to identify a place where the No. 9 could live going forward as “a crown jewel of local history and arguably the most important remaining, intact artifact from Marin’s early days,” says Eric Macris, president of the MV Historical Society.
The aforementioned organizations hope that location is an extension of the Depot Plaza into what is now part of the intersection of Miller and Sunnyside Avenues. This expansion would provide multiple benefits: more pedestrian space, improved pedestrian safety and a more attractive and people-first downtown – with no loss of parking spaces.
“To that end, the Mill Valley Historical Society and the Friends of No. 9, are hosting an event on Saturday, July 23, 11am-1pm at the Depot Plaza to unveil a proposed design concept for expanding the plaza and displaying Engine No.9. “We are looking forward to presenting the design, answering questions, and hearing your thoughts about the project,” Macris says. “Also joining us will be folks from Mill Valley’s own world-class landscape architecture firm, RHAA, who are helping with the project design. The event will include displays and details about the design as well as historical photos and artifacts. We will also have some fun things for kids to see and do.”
The Mill Valley Chamber supports this effort, believing that the placement of the No. 9 Engine could add to the vitality of the expanded Plaza if at least part of it were safely interactive for children and adults, consistent with the way everything else on the Plaza can be physically enjoyed, such as the Gravity Car, chess tables, benches and picnic tables. The coalition proposing the No. 9 placement has agreed to support the Chamber’s goal of making the No. 9 display as engaging, and supportive of community vitality, as possible – to be engaging and not strictly viewed from afar.
“We very much like what we have seen in the proposed design concept,” says Jim Welte, the Chamber’s Executive Director. “We love the idea of a newly restored historic element of our town drawing both local families and guests to our community.”
In recent years, the Chamber has worked diligently with City of Mill Valley officials to experiment with an outdoor business use program that allowed for nimble application processing for use of both public and private space, including temporary parklets, street closures and converting outdoor spaces like parking lots into safe, convenient dining and gathering areas. City officials have extended that program through October 2022.