McCloud Rails History: Part IV
The Red River Lumber Company was established
by a man named Thomas Barlow Walker. Red River
was born in the vast pine forests of Minnesota, and for several years it
operated a large sawmill in the town of Akeley,
Minnesota. Mr. Walker could see the imminent
end to the timber supply available to him in the area, and in the late 1800’s
he sent his sons out west to look for a new home for the company. After much investigation the family chose the vast
forests of northeastern California as the next area of operations for Red
River. Red River set about purchasing timber
lands in the area starting about 1894. At the
maximum Red River’s California holdings totaled more than 1.25 million acres. Red River did not move into the California holdings
until 1913, and when it did the company built a new sawmill in the new town
of Westwood, CA, located many miles south of McCloud and towards the southern
end of the Red River holdings in the area.
The McCloud River companies reached
the western fringe of Red River lands not far east of Bartle. For many years
McCloud logging operations were limited to any further eastward expansion
due to the Red River land ownership east of there.
California-based electricity giant Pacific
Gas & Electric entered the scene in the late 1910’s with an ambitious
plan to build a series of dams and powerhouses to produce electricity along
the Pit River, located about 23 miles south of Bartle. The McCloud River Railroad at Bartle was the closest railhead to the project area,
and the utility was quickly in discussion with the railroad over the best
way to get the needed supplies to the construction sites.
The easiest way to get the materials in was to construct a new
railroad from Bartle. The
railroad was to be owned by the power company, but built and operated by
the McCloud River Railroad under contract. Construction
of the railroad started in early 1921, and by September of that year the
line was opened to the first of the powerhouse sites.
The actual project included construction of two large powerhouses,
one large dam, power transmission lines, and many miles of pipe.
The route as it was laid out left the
railroad’s mainline just east of Bartle. The first 4.2 miles were over a lumber company spur
leased to the railroad for the project. An additional
18.8 miles of new railroad were built from the end of the log spur to a point
above the community of Peck’s Bridge, where the line split. One branch followed the Pit River upstream from there
to the site of the Pit 1 powerhouse, while the other line went downstream
past the site of the Pit 3 dam to the site of the Pit 3 powerhouse. Most of the line was built over Red River lands,
and one of the clauses in the right-of-way agreements specified no common-carrier
use of the new railroad.
The Pit River project consisted of a
number of dams and associated powerhouses, with Pit 1 being the farthest
project upstream and the numbers increasing as one moved downstream. Initially the projects were assigned odd numbers
only to allow for flexibility in adding more powerhouses later. Pit 1 project actually consisted of a small dam on
the Fall River in the Fall River Valley, with the water piped underneath
a small mountain range to the powerhouse, where the water was released into
the Pit River. Pit 3 was located several miles
downstream from Pit 1, and it consisted of a large dam holding back a sizeable
reservoir (named Lake Britton). A large pipeline
was constructed to move the water several additional miles downstream to
The McCloud River Railroad became interested in the possibilities of common-carrier service over the new line, and in 1921 the railroad entered negotiations with PG&E and the Red River to determine if arrangements could be made. Deals were struck, and the railroad commenced handling revenue freight over the line in addition to the contract operations. However, the new line did not generate enough new business to keep it in operation after the end of the PG&E operations, and about 1929 the line was abandoned.
|Steam locomotive #25 leads a water car and a log train. The McCloud River Railroad purchased six of these
large modern prairie type locomotives in the mid-1920's as part of a modernization program. Travis Berryman collection.
As noted above, the eastward expansion
of lumber company operations was limited by the ownerships of the Red River
Lumber Company and the United States Forest Service.
About 1919 the McCloud River Lumber Company purchased 25,000
acres of timberland from Red River, and a few years later purchased a huge
Forest Service timber sale adjacent to the newly acquired lands. The lumber company immediately started construction
of a rail line into the new area from the north. The
new line branched off of the old mainline to McGavic
at a point known as Slagger Camp, then circled
into the new holdings from the north. The railroad
made its first eastward expansion into the new holdings in 1923, when a
branch of the common carrier railroad was built. The
branch left the Bartle-McGavic mainline at a
point known as Santa Claus Junction about four miles northeast of Bartle. The first short
portion of the new line to a point known as Car A became part of the McCloud
River Railroad, and the line east of there was lumber company trackage. The lumber company
trackage reached a point referred to as
Camp 2 (one of several such points known by that name) where a logging camp
was established. This camp was re-named Pondosa camp by the lumber company about 1925. Extensive railroad yards and a repair shop were established
at this location.
The western terminus of the railroad
received a new name in 1922. The memories of
Justin Sisson were by now vague, and the name of the town was changed to
Mt. Shasta City by popular vote.
The lumber company had for many years
used mobile logging camps that followed harvest operations. Camps consisted of portable buildings that remained
in one place until that area was logged out, then the camp would be moved
to the next area of operations. The lumber company
would traditionally use multiple logging camps at once.
In the late 1920’s the company decided to go to permanently
located logging communities. By this point many
of the loggers had families, and a community would be better suited to meeting
the needs of the families than the portable camps. The
site selected for the first camp was about eight miles south of Car A along
the banks of Bear Creek. A new railroad line
was built by the lumber company from Car A to the site of the new camp, and
the railroad was granted trackage rights over
the new line. The new camp was named Pondosa. The loggers moved
in to the camp in late 1927. To eliminate the
name duplication, the Old Pondosa camp was re-named
was closer to Burney and the Fall River Valley than Bartle,
and before long the interchange of freight bound to and from these regions
was being handled through Pondosa.
|From the Glen Comstock collection.
The railroad had offered passenger service
over the line between Mt. Shasta City and Bartle
essentially since the commencement of service. The
first real challenge to the railroad’s grasp on passenger service came from
an auto stage line that started offering service between McCloud and Mt. Shasta
in 1916. The railroad responded in 1927 by canceling
passenger service west of McCloud in favor of it’s own bus line (which immediately
brought a flurry of lawsuits and complaints of illegal competition from the
bus line owner). The railroad bought the bus
line out in 1928 and entered the passenger business by highway under a subsidiary,
the McCloud Transportation Company. Passenger
trains after that date west of McCloud were run only for special occasions
or when the busses could not run. Passenger traffic
east of McCloud continued to be offered for several years afterwards, but
by the 1940’s it was essentially dead as well.
not remain as the only permanent camp for long, as in 1928 the lumber company
acquired the White Horse tract, about 80,000 acres of timberlands located
primarily in western Modoc County, from the Red
River Lumber Company. Pondosa
was closed as the lumber company hurried to tap the new acquisition. A new railroad was built eastward out of Hambone
through some of the areas logged previously to reach the new timber. One camp (Camp Two) was established and operated
for about a year. The main camp in the new tract
was White Horse, which was established between 1929 and 1930. White Horse became the base of operations for the
loggers and logging railroaders, and over the next several years a spiderweb of logging railroad spurs were built in
just about all directions from White Horse.
The Great Northern Railroad completed
it’s transcontinental line from the Twin Cities west to the shores of Puget
Sound in the latter part of the 1800’s. The Hill
family that built the road long dreamed of extending their line south to
California, and through the early 1900’s they attempted to do just that, but
found their was blocked at every turn by Edward Henry Harriman, who at that
time was in control of both the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads
and had no intention of letting the Great Northern into California. The Hill family tried coming down through western
Oregon, but managed to push a GN subsidiary only
as far south as Eugene before they found their way blocked. In the early 1900’s the family tried a second route
east of the Cascades, and the result was one of the last major railroad wars
in the western United States as a Hill road and a Harriman road fought each
other for passage through the Deschutes River
Canyon into central Oregon. Eventually an agreement
was reached that allowed both roads access over the same track, and the community
of Bend, OR was reached in 1912.
The Great Northern remained at Bend
until 1926, when it continued it’s southward push towards California. Klamath Falls was reached in 1927 (primarily over
trackage rights obtained across the Southern
Pacific between Chemult, OR and Klamath Falls). In 1930 the GN continued
construction south of Klamath Falls towards the area of Bieber, CA, where a connection would be made with
the Western Pacific Railroad building north from Keddie,
CA. The GN was anxious
to develop revenue along it’s new route, and by this point the end of the
White Horse extension of the lumber company railroad was within a few miles
of the new GN grade. A
minimum of new construction would give the GN
access to the lumber traffic generated by the McCloud mill as well as give
the lumber company access to new markets and an improved ability to bargain
for rates and services. The GN was interested, and by the end of 1931 a deal was
worked out. The McCloud River Railroad Company
took title to the lumber company trackage between
Car A and Hambone, where sufficient room for yards were located. The lumber company then sold the line east of Hambone
to the Great Northern, and the GN built a short
connection between Lookout Junction and the former lumber company railroad. The GN eventually decided
not to operate the new line themselves, and they made an arrangement with
the McCloud River Railroad to operate the line for them.
The Western Pacific also had trackage
rights over the GN line from Nubeiber through Lookout to Hambone, but they never
used them. Consequently most of the traffic over
the new line went north and east over the GN. The lumber company was able to continue to use the
new line for their purposes as well.
|The Depression did take its toll on
both McCloud companies, but both were able to survive.
There were periodic layoffs and slowdowns in all operations,
but those who were temporarily un-employed were given free room and board
in McCloud until they could be put back to work again.
Most timber companies that survived the Depression could see
that the economic storms would not continue forever, and many of these companies
did everything they could to retain workers until better times arrived.