Sausalito’s first hybrid transportation arrived nearly 100 years ago.
Not a car, but Steel Electric class car ferries. These vessels were powered by hybrid diesel-electric engines.
“Wonderful New Ferry Boat, Redwood Empire, In Service,” was the headline of an unsigned editorial in the July 20, 1927 Sausalito News. The paper acknowledged that it hadn’t always been so kindly to the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, operator of the newfangled ferry. In March of that same year, the News reported: “For years the people of Marin County have chanted complaints against ancient rolling stock, slow trains, slow ferries and not enough of them, delays in schedules, neglected stations and the like.”
But the Redwood Empire was something else, according to the later editorial:
“The Sausalito News has only one object—that is to serve the people of Sausalito and the people of the North Bay Counties. It looks at the service that the railroads and the ferry companies give through the eyes of the people. Our ferry service was rotten. The News said so! The third rail is still bad and dangerous—The News still says so.
“But the ferry service has been improved and the rates have not been raised. And The News believes that the Northwestern Pacific has turned over a new leaf in its official attitude and that as long as it gives concrete evidence of a desire to serve the public that it should be commended.
“The Sausalito News thinks that the three new ferry boats in the N. W. P. automobile ferry service are excellent. It believes that they offer the safest and most dependable and most pleasing transportation of any automobile ferry boats on the bay.
“It appreciates the fact that during the day the people of Sausalito are receiving practically fifteen minute service from the Northwestern Pacific. The News believes that when a fight is won—that the hatchet should be buried. The News believes that if those people who have ‘enjoyed’ a grudge against the Northwestern Pacific—and there are many of them—will ride on the new boats and lunch at the counter of their electric kitchen restaurants—that they will very likely forget their old grouch in a delicious cup of coffee.”
After a decade of service on San Francisco Bay, Steel Electric-class ferries were idled by completion of the Bay Bridge in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. They were sold in 1940 to Puget Sound Navigation Company. The Redwood Empire was renamed the MV Quinault, serving P.S.N. until Washington State Ferries acquired and took over operations in 1951.
On November 20, 2007, the entire Steel Electric class was withdrawn from service due to hull corrosion issues. The Quinault was already out of service by that time.
In 2009 Washington State Ferries sold the Quinault and the other Steel Electrics for $200,000.00 to a recycling firm. That August she was towed out of Eagle Harbor to Ensenada, Mexico and was cut up for scrap, closing the chapter on another Sausalito first.