McCloud River Railroad History

McCLOUD RIVER RAILROAD HISTORY

A Summary Report

From: PHASE I ENVIRONMENTAL SITE ASSESSMENT[1]

The locations described are referenced with milepost numbers.  All of the mileposts count outward from McCloud.  Mileposts between McCloud and Mt. Shasta have a M- prefix, mileposts between McCloud and Hambone have no prefix, mileposts on the Bartle-Burney section have a B-prefix, and mileposts on the Sierra branch have an S-prefix. 

McCloud to Mt. Shasta City

The town of McCloud is the operational center of the McCloud Railway Company. McCloud was established in 1897 as Vandale and was created on the site of a former small sawmill camp. The Siskiyou Lumber & Mercantile Company chose the site as the location of a large sawmill, named the McCloud River Lumber Company, established in late 1896/early 1897. The McCloud River Railroad Company to McCloud was completed in July 1897 and service began in August 1897.

The railroad built a large switching yard in McCloud as well as a roundhouse and a complete shop facility. A second yard, known as ‘the runaround,’ is located approximately 1 mile east of the main McCloud yard. The huge McCloud River Lumber Company sawmill was built to the east of the railroad facilities.

McCloud was a classic company town from 1897 until 1963, when the McCloud River Lumber Company was taken over by U.S. Plywood Company. U.S. Plywood kept the sawmill and railroad but quickly disposed of the company town.  The sawmill stayed open until it closed in 1979. P&M Cedar Products purchased and reopened a portion of the mill complex, primarily to produce pencil stock. The sawmill was closed on May 30, 2003.

Hooper at M.P. M-5 is the location of a former water tank. The platform still stands, but the tank was pulled down in 2002.

Signal Butte at M.P. M-S.1 is the location of one of the last switchbacks left on any railroad in the United States. Trains gain elevation by reversing direction here. The switchback tail track is 2,861 feet long.

Pierce at M.P. M-7.2 is the summit between McCloud and Mt. Shasta City. A double-ended siding 1,717 feet long is at this location. Pierce is used to reassemble trains that have to be doubled over the hill due to tonnage or the length of the switchback.

Big Canyon at M.P. M-11 was originally bypassed by another switchback. A large fill was constructed in 1902, eliminating the switchback. The original fill stood until New Year’s Day in 1996, when massive flooding washed out the fill. The fill was later rebuilt.

Howard at M.P. M-12.5 was the home base of a section crew for many years. A large water tank was used to feed steam locomotives. The water tank stood into the 1980s when it was torn down and relocated to McCloud.  Burk near M.P. M-14 once originated carloads of logs, but the station was abandoned and the site is difficult to find today.

Mt. Shasta City was reached through a line change in 1907. It replaced Upton as the interchange point between the McCloud and the Southern Pacific.

McCloud to Hambone

Dry Creek near M.P. 11 had a 171-foot siding entered from the west. This spur is the last remaining remnant of the last rail logging spur operated by the McCloud River Lumber Company. The spur ran due south from the railroad, crossed Highway 89 and the McCloud River, and then climbed up to a reload in the hills south of the river. Most of the old grade is easily drivable today. The U.S. Forest Service’s Cattlecamp campground is located immediately adjacent to the old grade and a large forest service unit for the campground is located next to the dirt road that formerly was the road grade.

Swobe is located between M.P. 12 and M.P. 13. Swobe is named for Dwight Milt Swobe, president of the McCloud River Railroad from 1921 until his death in 1943. The original site of Swobe was bypassed by a line change affected in 1960.

Kinyon at M.P. 13 was the site of the last permanent log camp established by the McCloud River Lumber Company. Kinyon was named after Kinyon Young, a logging superintendent with the lumber company. Kinyon was established in 1948 and served as the base for loggers and railroaders working for the lumber company both directions from Kinyon. A small engine house was constructed to house first the steam locomotives leased from the railroad and later the lumber company’s #1, a General Electric 70-ton, 600-horsepower diesel electric switcher. The last operations out of Kinyon were to the Dry Creek spur, 2 miles west down the McCloud River Railroad mainline. Rotting ties, a few cement foundations, and the old railbus mark the spot today.

Algoma near M.P. 15 was, in the early years, the site of a spur to a Bridgeford-Cunningham sawmill, a customer of the McCloud River Railroad. The Algoma mill burned to the ground in around 1910.

Bartle, located at M.P. 18, is a community that dates to about 1887. The Bartle Brothers established a ranch and hotel at this location, and a post office existed here briefly during the late 1880s. The McCloud River Railroad reached Bartle in 1905, and the community became the railhead for the agricultural areas to the south. Bartle became an important junction with lumber company log lines. The railroad operated a hotel in Bartle for several years as well. The extensive yard facilities and balloon track no longer exist. However, the site still has the mainline that points east, a 1,328-foot passing siding, a section shed, and a water tank. The line splits approximately 1 mile east of Bartle at the Bartle Wye, with one line going east to Lookout and another line dropping south to Burney.

McIntosh Vista lies at M.P. 23. This point is named for the McIntosh family, who bought out the Bartle Brothers ranch operation in 1909 and has held it since.

Car A at M.P. 26 was the eastern terminus of the railroad for several years. The site was the junction point between the common carrier railroad and the many spurs of the lumber company. Car A gained additional importance with the opening of Pondosa in 1927, as the railroad’s branchline. The new-line into Pondosa completed in 1951 eliminated this junction.

Hambone is at two mileposts numbers: M.P. 31 and M.P. BH-34. The McCloud River Lumber Company first moved into this area in about 1920 after purchasing a large amount of timber from the Red River Lumber Company and securing a USFS timber sale. Most of the activity was to the north and east of the site of Hambone, and the resulting log lines bypassed this point to the north. The first line into Hambone came from the north, consisting of a branch off of a branch. This changed in 1923 when a new shorter line from Bartle was built through the area, bypassing much trackage to the north. The original line into the camp from the north then became the lumber company’s mainline to the east.

The lumber company established a camp after the arrival of the rails. It was known initially as Camp Two, but was renamed Pondosa around 1925. The lumber company built a large switching yard and repair shop at the site. The camp lasted until 1927, when it was moved to the current site of Pondosa and the old site was renamed Hambone. The McCloud River Railroad reached Hambone in about 1930 when it acquired the lumber company mainline from Car A to this point. Hambone was selected because it provided a flat area large enough to construct the switching yards and locomotive servicing facilities that would be necessary to accommodate the proposed interchange between the Great Northern and McCloud River Railroads. The railroad through Hambone was realigned in 1956, bypassing the site of the old camp. A 1,032-foot passing siding, a shot-up station sign, and a small section shed are all that remain on the current railroad alignment.

Bartle to Burney

Bartle at M.P. 18 is the official start of the Burney branch. The branch actually leaves the McCloud-Hambone line at the Bartle Wye at M.P. 19, 1 mile east of the Bartle station point.

The line from Bartle to Curtis was constructed by the railroad in 1950 as part of the new line into Pondosa; Curtis is at MP B-25. At one time, Curtis maintained a three-track yard so trains that needed to double or triple the hills in either direction could be reassembled. One of the sidings remains somewhat intact, but the current spur is useable only for about the first 100 feet.

Obie at M.P. B-31 was once the site of another three-track yard. Trains coming from Burney had to climb almost 20 miles of continuous 2 to 3 percent grades, and Obie was built at the top of that grade as a place for trains to reassemble if brought up in more than one cut. One 1,717-foot-Iong passing track remains.

Bear Flat at M.P. B-31.4 was once the site of a huge yard and a wye off of the mainline. The trackage from Curtis to Bear Flat was constructed by the lumber company in 1950 as part of the new line into Pondosa. The railroad had trackage rights to get from Curtis to Bear Flat, and from Bear Flat it was 1/2 mile to the Pondosa Upper Yard, to which the railroad had access. Bear Flat remained as the junction with the Pondosa branch after log hauling ended.

Spur 408 at M.P. B-36 was the 137-foot-long remnant of one of the many lumber company log spurs that branched off the lumber company mainline from Bear Flat to the Clark Creek drainage cutting area. The line from Bear Flat to Ditch Creek (M.P. B-41) was built by the lumber company during the 1940s. Operations over this stretch were based out of Pondosa. The destination for this line was in the large tracts the company held in the Clark Creek drainages. The last logs hauled by the McCloud River Railroad in early 1964 came off the Ditch Creek spur.  A 435-foot remnant of the spur remains today.  The trackage from Bear Flat to Ditch Creek was purchased by the railroad from the lumber company as part of the building of the of the Burney extension in 1954; the line south of Ditch Creek to Cayton uses portions of the PG&E Railroad and logging spur 700. The line from Cayton to Burney is all new construction.

Cayton at M.P. B-47 is on the fringe of Cayton Valley. The railroad reached Cayton in August 1954, and a reload area was immediately set up to ship and receive freight. A passing siding nearly 2,500 feet in length was built but was reduced to 1,740 feet in recent years. Cayton gained much significance for the railroad in 1986 when Dicalite Corporation started shipping diatomaceous earth from Cayton. The reload was active up until removal of the rails and produced 5 to 6 cars a week for the railroad.

Lake Britton at M.P. B-SO is located where the railroad crosses both Highway 89 and Lake Britton on two consecutive bridges. A 82-foot spur existed at the site until the mid-1990s.

Arkrite at M.P. B-52 was the site of a small mining firm that shipped carloads of diatomaceous earth on the railroad in the 1960s. The siding is gone, and a concrete slab is all that remains of the loading facility.

Lorenz at M.P. B-54 is the site of a 10,000-foot-long spur that ran north from the mainline to the former site of the Lorenz Lumber Company sawmill The Lorenz mill was built in 1955, the same year that the railroad reached Burney. During the early 1980s, the mill was the only shipper using the railroad. A local construction company owns the site now and did receive occasional carloads of construction materials and supplies.

Berry at M.P. B-58 was the operational center of the Burney area from 1955 until 1963. A three-track yard existed at the site, and the daily freight from McCloud would swap empty cars for loads with the Burney switcher daily. A wye remains at the start of the Sierra branch.

Burney at M.P. B-61 is the official end of the Burney branch. At one time a yard existed here, but most of the yard tracks were removed in around 2000 to make way for the Big Valley Lumber Company reload and a power-boosting station for a fiber optic cable that was being built through the area. From 1955 to 1963 the railroad based a switcher out of Burney to work the sawmills and the logging railroad lines that went into the harvest areas south and east of Burney. The Burney switcher would also make occasional trips as far as Ditch Creek if needed. A small engine house is located at the Burney terminus.

Sierra Branch

The Sierra Branch was built as a 7 -mile branch that ran from Berry and looped around to the southwest of Burney to the Scott Lumber Company sawmill. The mill was eventually purchased by Sierra Pacific Industries.

 


[1] PHASE I ENVIRONMENTAL SITE ASSESSMENT, MCCLOUD RIVER RAILWAY, by VESTRA Resources Inc., 5300 Aviation Drive, Redding, CA 96002, February 2011, pp. 16 – 19