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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway Company

In this age of electricity there is no department of activity that has not benefited directly or indirectly by the application of electricity, transforming old methods of performing duties so completely as to make what was once a difficult task a delightful pleasure. In the multitudinous ways that electricity has been applied in the largest sense, reference is made to the modern mode of transportation, which is literally making the whole world kin, by bringing together the residents of city and country, each gaining a knowledge of and sympathy for the other thereby which formerly was unknown. Among the various electric roads that have threaded their way across the country in California and assisted in this general transformation is the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway, whose system is one of the most modern and up-to-date extant.

The history of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway dates from the beginning of the twentieth century, but the actual work of construction was not commenced until the fall of 1903. However, well-laid plans made it possible to push the work rapidly, and in the fall of the following year the road was completed between Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and the life of the country through which the road passed immediately took on a new aspect. The trolley system is employed, and the equipment throughout is the best that could be secured. Sixty freight cars are now in use on the system, twelve passenger cars, four electric locomotives, besides express and baggage cars. Rats for passenger service are on the basis of two cents per mile, while freight is carried on the basis assigned in the Western classification. The destiny of the entire thirty-five miles of country through which the road passes seems to have hung upon its establishment, for from the first day that the road was in operation it has had a patronage that speaks more forcibly than can words, of the appreciation of the citizens. Up to the present time the road makes regular trips for passenger and freight service between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, touching at Sebastopol and from there running north to Forestville, besides tapping numerous towns on the way, but this is but a fraction of the road which the promoters have under way. When their plans for extension of the service are a reality a road will run south to San Francisco with numerous lateral branches, which will represent between two and three hundred miles of steel rails.

The Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway Company was incorporated in 1903, with a capital stock of $1,000,000, the direct outcome of the energy and perseverance of A. D. Bowen. The general officers in charge of the management of the road at the present time are as follows: E. M. Van Frank, president and general manager; John A. McNear, vice-president; Thomas Archer, secretary and treasurer; and B. H. Dibblee, Rudolph Spreckles, Francis Cutting, Thomas Archer, E. M. Van Frank and John A. McNear, directors. Among managers in this part of the state Mr. Van Frank is conceded to be one of the best, possessing a wide experience and marked executive ability, all of which, taken in connection with the fact that he has a personality that makes a friend of every one that he comes in contact with, has made him an invaluable acquisition to the upbuilding of the road.

Of all the towns tapped by the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway, probably none has benefited by it more directly than has Petaluma herself. Here are located the shops of the company, wherein fifteen men are in constant employment, while eighty men are employed on the entire system, the greater part whom are residents of this city. Besides the electric roads owned and managed by the company, it also operates two steamers between Petaluma and San Francisco, the officers and crew of which number forty men. The general offices of the company are also located in Petaluma, which is destined to be one of the largest and most popular cities in this section of the state, if its record of progress during the past few years may be taken as a criterion.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011