Northwestern Pacific Railroad Network

Dedicated to Sharing the Heritage of Redwood Empire Railroading

  Can anyone tell me the dates that are at the entrance? I remember in the 60's when kids were playing with fire and caught the tunnel on fire. It cost a firefighter his life. What ever happened to the fire starters?

Views: 360

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Richard:  this topic has been discussed multiple times on here.  Myself or another interested member may be able to help find that information, however, in the meantime you may be able to find answers yourself using the search box in the very top-right.

Some tidbits here:,119624,119624#ms...

Posted by:  Railpax71

December 30, 1961 Independent Journal

Tunnel Fire Boy Sent For Treatment

One of the boys aged 12 and 13, who set the disastrous railroad tunnel fire in San Rafael last July has been sent to Clearwater Ranch, a private treatment center in Mendocino County, Chief Probation Officer Walter Busher disclosed yesterday. The 12-year-old left Marin Juvenile Hall this week for an indeterminate stay at the Clearwater Ranch. The 13-year-old, who is still at Marin Juvenile Hall, will be transferred to the juvenile hall in Sonoma County next week because his parents have moved to that county, Busher reported. His placement has not been decided as yet. Last September Judge Richard M. Sims Jr., juvenile judge, ordered both boys to be placed in custodial institutions for psychotherapy. The fire, set inside the Northwestern Pacific railroad tunnel at Puerto Suello Hill just north of San Rafael, destroyed the tunnel and claimed the life of an Alto fireman. Fireman Frank Kinsler and his truck were sucked into the blazing tunnel when pavement collapsed from under them


Posted by:  Railpax71

Quite an amazing story of the conflagration that engulfed the tunnel, collapsed the streets, swallowed an apartment house, and broke the water mains. From the July 25 IJ:

Two employees of Northwestern Pacific Railroad entered the 1,858-foot Puerto Suello Tunnel north of San Rafael. Their visit was routine but it was an annual inspection. So it was by one chance out of 365 that Frank E. Gladwin and James Dermit Ireland blundered on two Santa Venetia boys who had just fashioned and ignited torches made of rags, paper and sticks picked up nearby. These lads, aged only 12 and 13 years, had started several fires in the tunnel structure. Gladwin and Ireland easily put out two, then conquered a couple of others—but the fifth blazed out of their control.

A lot of information here too:

Somebody should be able to find photos of the portals.  I still need to check some of my books and videos.

There was considerable discussion on this topic on this site previously, but when members quit the site all their content goes into the bit bucket.  I think that's what may have happened.

Thanks for checking Dave. The last time I checked the south entrance had two dates. I couldn't read the north entrance. There was too much overgrowth. That was about three years ago. Would a rebuilt railroad tunnel have three dates?  

Richard:  I finally had a chance yesterday evening to again view the DVD "NWP Railroad Tunnels" by Gus Campagna, item #1115, available here:

The video is essentially a lecture given in 2010 by Mr. Campagna at Monroe Hall in Santa Rosa, consisting of still photos of many NWP and North Shore tunnels with Gus' comments.  Over the south portal of tunnel #4 two dates are visible in the video:  1872 and 1959.  Of course, the tunnel completely collapsed in 1961 due to that arson fire, and then reopened in 1967 after a year's worth of reconstruction following SP's losing battle to close the line.    The photo shows the first revenue train heading railroad west after the tunnel was reopened.  If additional dates we placed over that portal, it was after this first train.

Then, as we all know, the tunnel was rehabilitated yet again during the 2014-2016 time period prior to the start of SMART service to San Rafael.  When the Cal Park Hill tunnel was reconstructed, the year 2010 was added to each portal.  Don't know if Puerto Suello received a similar adornment.  Will need to go out there and check!

BTW:  In the video, Mr. Campagna mentions that he is in possession of a ton of photographic prints and slides of this tunnel.  If you're doing research on Puerto Suello he might be a willing resource.  :)

I was at the archive yesterday and noticed there is a binder full of 8x10 photos by Charles Neal on the fire damage/repair. Not yet scanned or cataloged.


© 2019   Created by Mark Drury.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service