McCloud River Railroad
The McCloud River Railroad became one of the state's most well
known lines. The line was chartered on January 22, 1897 and eventually
grew into a 115-mile system, which moved a variety of freight.
However, it was always primarily based in the movement of logs and
timber, notably Redwoods, and began service on a 18-mile stretch between
Mount Shasta and McCloud. At its peak it reached Bartle, Hambone, and
Bieber where it connected with the Great Northern. Until 2005 the
railroad continued to service the lumber mill at McCloud although by the
time it also handled other timber freight such as particleboard and
plywood. Today, part of the system is still in use although no longer
under the original name.
West Side Lumber Company
The West Side Lumber Company was perhaps the most fabled operation in California, over the years numerous books and model railroads have been dedicated to its history. It began operations in 1900 as the West Side Flume and Lumber Company, started by Thomas Bullock, and William and Henry Crock who purchased a ranch near Tuolumne. Additionally, they purchased 55,000 acres of nearby virgin timber and constructed a vast mill complex nearby. To move the logs to the mill a narrow-gauge steam railroad was built. Interestingly, however, after just a few years of operation it was sold to Wisconsin interests in 1903 who vastly expanded the operation but renamed the business as simply West Side Lumber Company. After 1925 the operation was owned by the Pickering Lumber Corporation. At its peak the railroad featured Shays, Heislers, and small O-4-0T Porters. Including a few standard gauge locomotives overall the company owned a fleet of 20 locomotives. West Side has the distinction of being the longest operated narrow-gauge logging railroad in the country when operations were finally discontinued in 1968 after a second fire destroyed the mill. Today, much of the original railroad remains as it was 50 years ago, dormant and not in use.
The Sierra Railroad, founded by Thomas S. Bullock, was not a true logging line although timber traffic did make up a large staple of its revenue. The railroad began service on November 8, 1897 where it connected with the Santa Fe at Oakdale and hauled a wide range of other traffic from ore and regular passengers to live stock. Today, the company is still in operation as both a tourist operation and regular short line.
Pacific Lumber Company
The Pacific Lumber Company was one of the state's largest operations and owned vast timber acreage around Eureka. The earliest history of the company dated back to 1863 although it did not charter its first railroad until November, 1882, the Humboldt Bay & Eel River Railroad. It began operations in 1885 and served the company's large mill at Scotia, moving finished timber to Humboldt Bay and loading onto sailing ships. In 1903 Pacific Lumber was taken over by the Santa Fe, and merged with its San Francisco & Northwestern Railway, although it continued to operate as a timber company in the region. The HM&ER became part of Santa Fe's Northwestern Pacific Railroad in January, 1907, and the original route remained in use through the 1970s.
Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad
This operation was owned by the Caspar Lumber Company located in California's Mendocino County, which had a history that dated back to 1880 although a sawmill had been situated along Caspar Creek since 1861. However, Caspar did not charter its first railroad until 1903, the Caspar, South Fork & Eastern and for the 20+ years prior to that mostly relied on crude early rail line that utilized light steam donkeys and regular horses and oxen to move logs on strap rail (the rail line dated back to the mid-1870s). The CSF&E was meant to connect to the Northwestern Pacific at Willits but never reached the town for interchange purposes. However, it was able to complete about 15 miles of railroad picking up logs from what became known as Camp 1 along the South Fork Noyo River to the sawmill. The milling operations remained in use until the mid-1950s but a labor strike closed it ten years earlier in December, 1945 at which the railroad shutdown permanently. Over the years the railroad owned seven locomotives including Shay #6, Climax #4, and an 0-4-0, 0-4-2, and 2-6-2 tank engines. Most impressive of the fleet were two 2-6-6-2 Mallets built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, #5 and #7. The entire fleet was scrapped by 1958.
Yreka Western Railroad
The Yreka Western Railroad was not really a logging railroad
although it inadvertently became one. The line began as the Yreka
Railroad of 1888, established by the town of Yreka to provide the city
with rail service to the nearby Southern Pacific, which had chosen to
link the area with the rest of its system. In January, 1889 the
railroad opened although it was only a few miles in length from Yreka to
a connection with the SP main line. While the railroad had vast
expansion hopes costs precluded such and for the next 40 years it
languished in financial trouble. In 1915 it was renamed the Yreka
Western Railroad and in 1928 was sold to the Klamath River Holding
Company. By the 1930s the railroad was again in financial trouble but a
construction boom of new sawmills in the region finally saved the
company from bankruptcy. By the late 1950s some 13 mills were located
along its lines. The growth, however, was short-lived as regulations
had put many out of business by the 1980s. In 2000 the property was
purchased by the Rocky Mountain Mining & Railway Museum and today is
operated as a tourist railroad.
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