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McCloud Rails - Passenger Operations: Excursion Photos: Steam Locomotives #25/#19: Pondosa 1962

McCloud Rails : Passenger Operations: Excursion Photos

Steam Locomotives #25/#19:
Pondosa 1962

McCloud River Railroad steam locomotive #25 entered its 30th year of service facing a very uncertain future. Four Baldwin diesels delivered to the railroad between 1948 and 1953 essentially eliminated all steam power on the mainline. However, five prairies, including the #25, remained active on the McCloud River Lumber Company logging railroads, with the #20 and #21 assigned to Pondosa and the #24 and #25 assigned to Camp Kinyon. The #22 served as the relief locomotive for both operations.

Two events in 1955 would upset this balance. The first was the completion of the new line to Burney, which converted what had been the primary log lines worked by the Pondosa based railroad crews into a mainline of the McCloud River Railroad. Suddenly the railroad could handle much of the rail hauls that the lumber company crews formerly did. A few spurs remained close enough to keep the trains rolling out of Pondosa, however. The second event involved the delivery of McCloud River Lumber Company #1, a 70-ton, 600- horsepower diesel electric purchased new from General Electric. The lumber company assigned the locomotive to Camp Kinyon, which displaced both the #24 and #25. The lumber company promptly transferred the pair to Pondosa, where they replaced the #20 and #21.

The #25 took a break from log hauling duties to play a starring role in the grand excursions and celebrations marking the completion of the Burney extension. As soon as the event passed the locomotive found its way back to Pondosa, where it continued to do the work the railroad bought it to do. However, the reduced demand for Pondosa based crews coupled with two more diesels added to the railroad roster meant that the lumber company needed only one locomotive in Pondosa. By the end of 1955 the #25 remained as the last example of steam on the property.

The McCloud River Lumber Company finally ended railroad operations based in Pondosa in 1956. The #25 returned to McCloud to await its fate. Railroad president Flake Willis, along with many others, came to feel that this last example of McCloud steam ought to be preserved, and the railroad stashed the locomotive away in a shed instead of sending it to the scrap yards of South San Francisco.

The #25's slumber would last for six years. By 1962 several excursion operations using steam locomotives were operating up and down the west coast, and many who knew of the #25's existence started asking the McCloud River Railroad to bring the locomotive back. The railroad was willing, and work on the #25 began in the spring of 1962. The #25 celebrated its returned to service on 9 June 1962 by leading a long excursion train from McCloud to its former haunts at Pondosa and return. The Northern California Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and the California-Nevada Railroad Historical Society jointly sponsored the excursion, and they arranged for the #25 to have some help in the form of Yreka Western's former McCloud River steamer #19. The two locomotives put on a fine show that day, and in the process they launched the modern railfan excursion era on the McCloud that has lasted on and off until the present day.

All photos by and courtesy of Joe Fornero.

The excursion approaching the bridge over Highway 89 on the way to Pondosa.

In 1962 Pondosa was still a bustling camp. The McCloud River Lumber Company continued to base its loggers and other woods employees out of this camp, with buses used to transport those employees out to the harvest areas. The Cheney-Grant Lumber Company sawmill also continued to run. Upon arrival in Pondosa the excursion went around the balloon track that circled the camp, with a stop at the double water tank for photographs.

A side view of the #19 in Pondosa. Parts of the Cheney-Grant sawmill complex can be seen behind the locomotive.

One final view of the two steam locomotives posed next to the water tanks.

After taking on water the excursion departs for McCloud. It is seen here passing the old shop buildings.

Out on the Pondosa branch.

The excursion passing Joe.

Back at the McCloud depot building at the end of a long day.