The Many Lives of an Old Railroad Car

by Laurie Thompson

In 1931, during the early years of the Great Depression, the citizens of Pt. Reyes station took a creative approach to establishing a library branch for their community.

Pt. Reyes Library Branch, circa 1932. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

A railroad car which had been “retired” by the Northwestern Pacific in 1930, was donated to the Marin County Free Library and customized to become one of the system’s most unique branches.

For 21 years Lavinia Adams was the librarian for the Pt. Reyes branch. In 1967, Marin historian Jack Mason wrote:

Interior of the Pt Reyes library branch, early 1930s. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

“A remarkable library was hers, with its gleaming mahogany paneling and velvet seat cushions. At the end of the car stood an oil heater which husband Jessie lit at 5 am -never completely satisfactory: When the doors at each end opened simultaneously, the wind whipped the heat out in a jiffy.”

By 1954, the Pt. Reyes branch of MCFL had outgrown its space in the old railroad car and the library moved to new quarters in Frank Truttman’s shopping center on Fourth Street.

The railroad car, however, had several more reincarnations. In a Feb. 6, 1984 article in the Coastal Post, Jack Mason continues its story:

Marin County sold the the car to Mike Contos as a dining room for patrons of his trout farm south of town, but that didn’t work out and the car fell prey to vandals and the elements until Toby Giacomini took pity on it in 1975, bought it and moved it back to Fourth and B, intending to restore it. That didn’t work out either, and ownership passed into the hands of the Millerick Brothers Boat Building Company of Sebastopol. It stood in Millericks’ boatyard until Arnold Wallen, long a railroad buff, took over in June of 1983.

After the railroad car was restored by Wallen to its original splendor, it was moved to Duncan Mills near the Russian River.

Originally published at



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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room

The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library