The Northwestern Pacific Railroad,the 'Redwood Empire Route', played a major role in the growth of Northern California. The line was created in 1907 through the consolidation of six separate picturesque railroad companies held by the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads. At its height, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad was an amalgamation of some sixty different companies. Some of the forerunners built extensive and substantial operating lines. Others, were short lines such as he many logging lines in the Humboldt Bay region. Nearly a third consisted of companies which incorporated but never laid a foot of track. All of them contributed, in some fashion, to the rich heritage of the NWP.
Diversity was a key word in the history of Redwood Empire railroading. Gauges varied from the Sonoma Prismoidal, an early wooden monorail, to the broad-gauged logging lines, many built to accommodate their four-legged motive power. In between lay the two foot Sonoma Magnesite RR, the first-class narrow gauge North Pacific Coast and, of course, the more common standard gauge lines. Power was supplied by horse, mules, oxen, steam, electricity, and internal combustion engines, both gas and diesel.
The NWP, with its affectionate 'Nowhere in Particular' nickname, operated standard gauge, narrow gauge, ferry steamboats and car floats, electric 3rd rail and overhead trolley interurbans, a streamlined 'name' train along with unusual connectors such as funiculars and scenic tourist railways. This transportation network in the pre-World War II years many claimed was too far ahead of its time. Rarely is so much fascinating diversity found in the origins of one company.
Since 1929, when Southern Pacific bought the Santa Fe's equal interest in the line, the NWP has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of SP. In 1984, the trackage for Outlet, near Willits, north to Korblex was sold to a new company, the Eureka Southern RR, later named the North Coast RR. In 1996, the North Coast RR and the former "south end" of the Southern Pacific RR became the "new" Northwestern Pacific Railroad under public ownership. The new NWP's goals include handling more freight by rail along the Highway 101 corridor, establishing passenger excursion trains, and eventually providing regular passenger commute service.