Under wraps

Work continues on the old Ocean Shore Railroad Car 1409, which could be ready for its unveiling in a year. Adam Pardee / Tribune

Pacifica Historical Society required approval from the Pacifica Planning Commission to continue work at the present location to restore its historic Ocean Shore rail car.

Car 1409 sits behind the shopping center in Vallemar in a fenced enclosure. The site was graded a bit to accommodate the rail car so PHS volunteers could work on it, said Deputy Planning Director Christian Murdock.

The original permit granted by the Planning Commission expires in September. PHS sought an extension at the June 21 hearing. The Planning Commission granted an extension of six months, with an understanding that two more similar extensions could be granted.

Despite the challenges of social distancing protocols and other health measures, PHS completed about 80 percent of the exterior restoration, said Murdock. More work is needed to make the rail car weather-tight to protect the mahogany interior and get it ready to be moved to a permanent site for exhibit, he said.

Lighting to do the carpentry restoration work is provided by a generator. The tools include drills, saws, hammers and screwdrivers. Hours of restoration work set by the commissioners will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Commissioner George Domurat asked if PHS could use an electric high-tech generator to cut down on the noise. Commissioner James Godwin said an electric battery power pack can be purchased for about $300. PHS’s Kathleen Manning said they would look into it.

Shirlee Gibbs, PHS board member in charge of lease arrangements, said PHS could not work on the car last year due to COVID-19 and is anxious to get back to the work, especially since materials were recently ordered.

“We will have it in a movable condition in a year,” she said. “We wanted to build a facade of the Brighton train station to be part of the permanent exhibit.”

Manning said she was very happy the rail car will have a home in the new Civic Center. She said to expect a lot of interest in historic trains among visitors to Pacifica’s museum in the Little Brown Church.

At PHS’s membership meeting last Sunday at the Little Brown Church, Rob Wullenjohn opened with the song “Car 1409,” a tribute to the Ocean Shore Railway. He donated to PHS two antique books from 1919 and 1920 he had that mentioned the Ocean Shore Railway. He came into possession of the books while working for the state Public Utilities Commission. The 1920 book mentions that train service would be discontinued due to lack of revenue.

Manning said workers are putting on siding and installing the 84 windows right now.

Ocean Shore Car 1409 came to PHS through John and Kristina Schmale, who discovered it in a Sebastopol backyard. PHS says it is the last of its kind, the only existing passenger car built exclusively for the Ocean Shore Railroad.

The 1909 coach was one of only five ever built. A call to Manning by the Schmales started the restoration process for Car 1409. Two cars were in Oroville but were in shabby condition by 2004 and were scrapped in 2009. There were other Ocean Shore cars in Tuolumne County. One was moved to a ranch in 1977. The other is still operational and is stored in the Sierra Railroad Roundhouse. It was built for Central Pacific in 1869 and purchased by Ocean Shore Railroad in 1912. It survives, but was not built for the Ocean Shore Railroad, PHS states. 

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