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Whistle Stops & Stations Along The Old Rail Line

The San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad was extended into Mendocino County in the late 1880s. The railroad traveled north along the Russian River. If you travel up the railroad from the County line there were six whistle stops or stations. Many of them have been forgotten about over the past 100 years or so. Starting just north of the Mendocino-Sonoma County line was Cominsky Station. On the west side of the southbound lane of State Highway 101 is Cominsky Station Road. A turnoff is paved but quickly turns to gravel. In about a quarter mile there is a fork in the gravel road. To the right is a smaller gravel road that turns north and goes downhill towards the Russian River. This part of the road is posted with no trespassing signs. Past the signs, the road crosses a sturdy one lane steel bridge complete with wooden deck and runners suitable for modern vehicles. On the west side is a steel electric gate leading to a private ranch.

I am told that this property was previously owned by Lottie Mae Berry and her family. Her son now lives on the property. Lottie's family purchased the property from the Cominsky family. The Cominskys moved to Healdsburg where they had a ranch south of town. Lottie tells me that according to her sister there once was a railroad siding at Cominsky Station along with one building. The station served as a stop for a stagecoach that traveled from the Cominsky Station up and over the hills west to Highway 128 which was not completed to Cloverdale at that time.

North of Cominsky was Pieta Station, complete with a siding and several buildings. Pieta Station is on the west side of Pieta Creek and the Russian River. Pieta is a religious word referring to a drawing of Christ. I found only one picture of the Pieta Station. It shows a siding with at least two buildings. Pieta Station may have been home to a pre-prohibition winery. State Highway 101 is east of the railroad and the Russian River. Just off of the highway today are buildings from the historic village of Pieta.

Pieta Station
Pieta Station

The Hopland Station is located some four miles north of the Pieta Station and was stretched out the length of the town now to the east of Highway 101. The station building still stands today. It was used for years as a volunteer fire department station and the office of the Hopland Public Utility District. Hopland Station had several sidings and spurs serving the agriculture industry. Pears, grapes and hops were shipped all over America from the Hopland Station.

Hopland Station, 1972 (photo by Angelo Figone)
Hopland Station, 1972 (photo by Angelo Figone)

Four miles north of Hopland is Largo Station. This is where I grew up. Largo is named after Samuel F. Long who came to the area in 1889, just about the time the railroad was completed to Ukiah. Largo was first established on the east side of the Russian River on what is now called Old River Road. As I grew up the road was called Eastside Road. Largo is the Spanish word for Long.

After completion of the railroad to Ukiah in 1889, Mr. Long moved the Largo Station to the west side of the Russian River along the newly established railroad. Sidings and spurs were added at Largo to accommodate the loading of charcoal that was processed in the hills west of the railroad. Largo had a post office and my great-grandfather was the postmaster. He owned a ranch of some 800 acres that extended from the river west to the hills.

In 1942 the railroad gave my cousin Clifford Wayne Crawford the Largo station buildings and property where the extra sidings and spurs were. One siding still exists at the Largo Station today.

Just a mile or more north of Largo Station is Henry Station. A Henry Station Road intersects Highway 101 and runs east to Russian River Estates. This property was owned by the Henry family. A dairy was located not far from the railroad. No siding exists today and I have no memory or history of why a siding would be located there. Possibly this is what is referred to as a whistle stop. My great uncle, Leslie Crawford, married a Henry family daughter, Elizabeth, and they lived there most of their life in that area.

Further north of Burke Hill Road is an El Roble (the oak in Spanish). The Johnson family lived there in the middle of some large oak trees. Again, I have no history of a siding being located there. Today the tracks are all overgrown with wild blackberry and the width of the railroad berms do not indicate room for a siding. This must be whistle stop number two. In the 1950s the Ukiah Auction Yard was moved to the Johnson property and the El Roble Auction Yard. The facility is now named the Ukiah Livestock Center. Ukiah was the last stop for many years before being extended to Eureka. The first passenger train arrived in Ukiah in 1889, after taking three years to extend the railroad from Santa Rosa. The railroad installed many sidings and spurs that still exist today. Ukiah Ice and Soda Works was built on a spur so that railcars, full of pears, could be iced for their trip east. Some 10,000 pounds of ice would be loaded into the special boxcars fitted with a compartment for the ice. I remember loading wool and I am sure other products were loaded onto railcars in Ukiah during that era.

Today the railroad is silent. The rails are overgrown with brush, trees and weeds. Street crossings in the City of Ukiah have been paved over. No more whistle stops or stations.

San Francisco and North Pacific #18, 4-6-0, built by Rogers in 1889. Became NWP 101 when roads were consolidated in 1907. Carpenter photo at Ukiah, Ca. 1901. Engineer George Bradley in cab; son Paul Bradley, right.
San Francisco and North Pacific Engine No. 18 at the Ukiah roundhouse in 1901 (photo by A.O. Carpenter).

4 Comments

  1. Carla Jaeger August 8, 2017

    Thanks for this informative article.
    I had assumed the Stations were cattle stations
    or mail stops like the Pony Express or Wells Fargo stage stops.

  2. M.lee Wachs June 13, 2018

    I would appreciate MR Dempel phoning me to help clarify the charcoal factory.Supposedly one of the roads that was a return[called the UP road]runs through my property but on some maps it is called Rosemary ranch hill road and i have done quite a bit of conflicting[confusing research all the way from a deaf mute named Rosemary Hill to rosemary being planted to stop earthquake hillside movement.
    M.Lee Wachs 463-0467 10am-10pm

  3. M.lee Wachs June 21, 2018

    WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE CALL ME WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF LARGO THE CHARCOAL FACTORY THE ICE HOUSE OR ROSEMARY HILL RANCH ROAD.
    [707]463-0467 24/7 M”LEE” WACHS

    EMAIL:MAISHATHELION@GMAIL.COM

  4. Lorenzo December 14, 2020

    Is it legal to hike along the RR line in the Cominsky and Hopland areas?? And where are good access points?

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