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McCloud Rails - Miscellaneous Page - Pit River Railroad

McCloud Rails: Pit River Railroad

When the Pacific Gas & Electric Company set out to build a series of dams and associated hydroelectric power plants along the Pit River in the early 1920’s, transportation was the biggest hurdle faced. The company had just completed two power plants along Hat Creek that were a lot smaller than the ones to be built as part of the Pit River project, and hauling all supplies and materials in proved to be a very time consuming and expensive task. PG&E decided a railroad was needed for the Pit River project.

The nearest railhead was the McCloud River Railroad at Bartle. The McCloud River was approached about building the new railroad, and deals were quickly worked out. Two surveying crews, one led by a McCloud River Railroad engineer and the other led by a PG&E engineer, started from opposite ends of the proposed line during the winter of 1920-1921. The survey crews worked in the snow in drifts up to 15 feet deep. Despite this obstacle, the survey was completed and construction began as soon as conditions allowed in the spring of 1921. Construction was completed to the site of the Pit 1 powerhouse, 30 miles from Bartle, by that September. Construction of the Pit 1 project took about 1 year to complete. PG&E then focused on Pit 3, and a second line was built from a junction with the original line in Cayton Valley 10 miles downstream to the site of the Pit 3 project. Several additional spurs, mostly to gravel material sites, were also constructed as part of the project.

The new railroad was officially known as the Mt. Shasta Power Corporation Railroad, but it was also known as the Pit River Railroad. The entire line was built as a private railroad, but it was built, operated, and maintained by the McCloud River under contract. The McCloud River provided the equipment needed to run the railroad, but the power company did purchase a couple Baldwin 2-6-2 steam locomotives for use on the line. Most of the right-of-way was built over lands owned by the Red River Lumber Company of Westwood, and one of the stipulations in the r-o-w grants was that no common carrier service would be allowed over the line. A new president, D. M. Swobe, came to the McCloud River in 1921, and he made establishment of common carrier service a high priority. Agreements were worked out, and the railroad was soon offering common carrier service over the line in addition to the contract operations. The new line was in close proximity to the Fall River Valley, a rich agricultural area that had long sought a rail outlet. The Mt. Shasta Silica Company shipped carloads of diatomaceous earth over the new line, and some agricultural traffic was generated, but the traffic needed to support the line after the end of the power company traffic was not there. The line was scrapped about 1929.

Most of the grade is still in evidence today and can be easily traced. It crosses back and forth under highway 89 many times between Bartle and Lake Britton. The rails were the only things taken when the railroad was picked up, as ties, spikes, joint bars, and bolts were all left in place.

(Picture #233-236) Remains of a trestle near Clark Creek on the line from Cayton Valley to Pit 3.

(Picture #237) Ties on the old grade in Cayton Valley.

(Picture #238-239) Cuts on the old grade in the vicinity of Pit 3 dam.

(Picture #240) An old junk pile adjacent to the grade near Pit 3 dam.

Partial Roster of Locomotives owned by the Mount Shasta Power Corporation and used on the Pit River Railroad:

#1 – 0-4-0T



#4 2-6-2 BLW c/n 56728 (1924) sold to Oakland Terminal Ry (#4), then to AT&SF #2447, then to ME&T # 9 - scrapped 1952

#5- 3-truck, 70-ton Shay, c/n 3263 (1924). Mount Shasta Power Corp. #5, Bartle , CA ; Pacific Gas & Electric Co. #5, Bartle, CA; Yosemite Lumber Co. #5, Merced Falls, CA; (11-27-1929) Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Co. #5, Merced Falls, CA; (5-8-1943) M. Davidson (D), Stockton, CA; (5-8-1943) For Sale as is where is (Merced Falls); (1-30-1945) Northern Redwood Lumber Co. #5, Korbel, CA; (1957) Simpson Redwood Co. #5, Korbel, CA; (1957) Learner Steel Co. (D). Oakland , CA ; Scrapped 1957.

Roster information courtesy of Martin Hansen and Cyrus Gillespie;
Information on #5 from and Titan of the Timber
by Michael Koch.