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 Caz History   Story 1  

(Northshore #15 on the Caz. turntable 1905 - Engine house to right)


Posted January 1, 2003


    As the daily locomotives began slowing in their approach to Cazadero's terminal the engineers began blowing their whistles to signal the trains' arrival to all. Those folks standing near the depot would routinely stop their conversations and turn in silent expectation toward the trains' southern approach. It was only after they saw the engines come into view with their white billowing clouds of venting steam would they resume their interrupted conversations and then move closer to the track and station house to greet the passengers. The familiar whistles also signaled wagon drivers to steady their teams and begin moving into position to unload anticipated supplies from the trains' cars, or maybe to load goods and livestock to be transported and sold in the Bay Area markets. Many of the resort owners were also queued to have their horse drawn wagons and buckboards ready to pick up their guests and luggage.

    The young children, mostly on the weekends when there was no school, always looked forward to the train arrivals; not so much to see the trains or greet passengers, but to help the crews reverse the engines on the turntable located at the northern end of the yard. The turntable was manually operated and it took a lot of heaving and shoving to turn it around. Normally there were few problems in swinging the light passenger train engines, but the heavier freight locomotives often proved to be a real task. Sometimes the table would stick under their weight and it would take every able bodied man standing idly about to get the job done. And sometimes even they couldn't get the stubborn table to budge. It was then that someone with a team of horses waiting nearby was pressed into service to get it to move. "Hey, Drake, we need your horses!" someone would call out.

    The youngsters had a grand time helping to turn the table, and sometimes a grateful engineer would allow them to ride the engine the short distance from the turntable to the opposite end of the train where it was recoupled to the cars for their return trip to Sausalito.(1) The smaller children not riding the engine were often busy assisting the conductor reverse the seats in the passenger cars. Since the cars were not to be swung around, all the seats' backs were hinged to allow the passengers to be facing forward no matter the direction of travel.

   (1)     Note: Eventually the heavy freight engines were not reversed and they backed down the line to Duncans Mills pulling their loads all the way.

    The depot was truly a busy and sometimes noisy place, from the time the trains rolled in until they finally left and all became quiet again. Eucalyptus trees planted about the depot by the North Pacific Coast railroad company when the station was first built shaded many visitors in the warm summer months when they stepped off the afternoon train. "Uncle" John Cox, an early Cazadero pioneer/settler, used to stand under one tree just waiting for the right city dude to get off the train and sit down on a nearby bench. John would then mosey over to the bench and casually sit down beside him. He would be silent at first, and then turn sideways to the visitor and slowly drawl "See that thar mountain over there?" Expecting to hear an old timer's interesting tale the visitor would almost always look at the mountain and respond with an uncertain "Uh huh." John would then slowly tell his story, "Well, it was thar when I came here." Both men would just sit there silently looking at each other for a spell; not even the slightest of a grin would cross Uncle John's face. He knew he had him though.

    Cazadero's young folks used to play games with the city slickers too. Quite often there was at least one man who stepped off the train wearing a long overcoat with tails that extended well below knee level. One of the young boys would quickly engage the man in conversation hoping that one of the many dogs that continuously milled about the depot would catch his cue. Invariably one of the curious animals would soon work up behind the stranger, sniff his coat and then lift a hind leg to initiate the newcomer. The other dogs would quickly follow suit. Much to the chagrin of the man in wet tails, the watching crowd would break out in a roar of laughter as the dogs and youngsters scurried off. Even though the Cazaderans had fun with their visitors on occasion they knew to not over do it. If the town was to prosper it would be the tourists and their dollars that would help make it possible, and they did all they could to make their stay pleasant and to encourage their return, except perhaps to tie up the dogs

Cazadero depot 1916 (Dogs at left)


    Harold F. Rodgers was Cazadero's postmaster from April 29, 1915 to June 17, 1918. Harold's wife Sarah was his clerk and was locally known as "Red Sadie" because of her flaming red hair. She was given the name to distinguish her from her sister-in-law, Sarah Nobles-Rodgers (Harold's brother Bill's wife), who was known as "Black Sadie" for her coal black hair. Since all the revenue from the post office came from outgoing mail cancellations, and since postmasters were not salaried, Harold and Sarah started an ice cream-sweet shop in the post office building to make ends meet. Ice cream was ordered from Santa Rosa and came in on the train packed in wood shavings and ice which was all tightly wrapped in burlap. No sooner had the Rodgers begun selling their ice cream when George Montgomery entered the building and demanded payment of his doing business tax (the condition of doing business from the restrictive covenant he had placed on the building's original property deed). Harold quickly contacted the U. S. Post Office Department and they told Montgomery that anything going on in a federal building was federal business and that the Rodgers were not going to be subjected to paying what could be considered extortion money.
    One afternoon when Sadie was reaching into the mail bag that Harold had just retrieved from the train she suddenly jumped back with a start. As she withdrew her hand she found a brown dripping gooey substance clinging to her fingers. She stormed out of the post office and with her red hair aflame marched across the street to the mail car at the depot. Upon entering the car she began chewing out the mail handler something fierce. Next to the mail rack was a large spittoon the handler was using for target practice at a self-agreed upon distance. On at least one occasion he overshot his mark and a large plug of chewing tobacco entered the open mail bag "Don't know what you are so upset about lady," he said. "I give myself two points for every clean ringer and subtract four for every miss. I'm ahead 40 points this trip."
    After returning to the post office and while washing her hands Sarah said to Harold, "Well, I didn't see you doing anything about it!" "Good thing the ice cream was packed tight" he responded (1)

(1) op.cit. Sarah Rodgers interview. Santa Rosa, 1974.

Rodgers' Post Office 1916 (Photo from post card; with chewing tobacco smudge?)
[Current general store site is where the
  auto is parked to right of post office building]


Rail Depot Story Sources: Harold F. Rodgers Sr.; Sarah Rodgers; John T. Rodgers; Robert Schneider Sr.; Martha Schneider; Vernon Trosper; Rhody Murray; et. al.
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