Point Reyes Historic Lifeboat Station Slated this Summer for Critical Repairs

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Date: July 22, 2005
Contact: John Dell’Osso, 415-464-5135

Point Reyes National Seashore announced today that it has received $1.8 million in federal funding this year to rehabilitate the historic Lifeboat Station railway system on Drakes Bay. The National Park Service proposes to begin rehabilitation this summer and complete the project in early 2006. The contract this week was awarded to Triton Marine Construction, Corp. of Bremerton, Washington. Superintendent Don Neubacher stated, "Since 1890 at Point Reyes, the Life-Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard have conducted their critical mission of protecting lives and property at sea and onshore. This project helps to tell their story of public service, hard work, dedication, and heroism."

The Drakes Bay facility is the last remaining example of a lifeboat station with an intact marine railway for launching rescue boats directly into the Pacific Coast. The Lifeboat Station, attached railway system, captain’s house and outbuildings were designated a National Historic Landmark in January 1990; one of only 2,000 structures that have been nominated and approved for landmark status in the United States.

The Lifeboat marine railway was constructed in 1927 and was used by the U.S. Coast Guard for emergency sea rescues until 1968. The Boathouse and crew were involved in many dramatic shipwrecks at the Point Reyes Headlands including the Hartwood (1929), Richfield (1930), and Munleon (1931). Because the design of the Lifeboat railway did not meet the launch needs for the new Coast Guard boat designs, the property was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) in 1969. The last time the steel railway was replaced was in 1946. The NPS completed temporary emergency repairs to the launch way in both 1975 and 1988. A condition assessment was performed in February 2002 and concluded the Lifeboat railway system is no longer structurally sound and was in danger of collapse. Repairs will ensure the rail system would survive future severe wind and wave conditions, typical in this location.

The NPS proposes to rehabilitate the Lifeboat railway to the historical glory and configuration. The boat launching railway system and winch will be made operable by repairing structural members and installing a new track system. New wooden piles, structural members, and doweled footers will be constructed to provide added stability to the deck portion of the railway. The water and electrical utilities and historical lighting will be replaced. A two-handrail system will be constructed to allow public access to the deck area and all decking boards will be repaired. The design is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitating Historic Structures and all construction will incorporate code upgrades, such as seismic, OSHA and Uniform Building Codes.

The Lifeboat Station Marine Railway is located on the Point Reyes Headlands and receives an annual visitation of approximately 300,000 visitors. The Lifeboat Station is used for interpretive programs and also provides overnight lodging for educational groups. The long-term goal is to conduct living history interpretive programs demonstrating the launching of the 36-foot motor lifeboat used for rescues. The National Seashore acquired one of the original lifeboats used at the station and has restored it to its original condition.

This project is part of the National Seashore’s cultural resource management program to preserve the historic features of the Point Reyes peninsula. Last year, the program made major repairs to many historic ranch structures, stabilized Coast Miwok archeological sites, and conducted lens repairs on the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse.


Last updated: February 28, 2015

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Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


(415) 464-5100
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