Tag Archives: Logging

Piute Logging Railroad

Map of the line, showing spurs. 

The completion of the Western Pacific’s highline in 1931 was not the only railroad development to make news. In the 1930s, Red River’s most unusual railroad logging line, the Piute, came to fruition—so named as it followed Piute Creek in its approach to Susanville.

Red River owned a large swath of timber west and north of Susanville. While they had already logged over its easily accessible timber in Mountain Meadows and Lake Almanor, the Piute line was not intended to service Westwood. The Piute was built to generate much needed revenue to sell timber to other parties, such as Fruit Growers and Lassen Lumber & Box. However, they had a back-up plan; should Red River’s timber sales fall flat, they could mill the timber at Westwood. Continue reading Piute Logging Railroad

A sawmill burns down . . .

The mill engulfed in flames. Courtesy of Fred Lendman
The mill engulfed in flames. Courtesy of Fred Lendman

Susanville’s Paul Bunyan Lumber Company was located in the current neighborhood of Wal-Mart. It was built in 1936 and originally referred to the Cedar Mill, as it was operated by the Springfield Cedar Company.

In 1945, during the long dissolution process of the Red River Lumber Company, one family member, Kenneth Walker continued to carry on in the family business and he took over the Cedar Mill. He also retained Red River’s company Paul Bunyan logo, and he named his new enterprise the Paul Bunyan Lumber Company.

However, it was not too long when disaster struck. A little after midnight on May 22, 1946, Charles Bannerman, the night watchman, signaled the fire alarm. By dawn the mill had been completely destroyed. Like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, Walker would build a new mill, which was placed into operation on February 16, 1947.

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Lassen County – Conklin Sawmill

Conklin mill, circa 1918. Courtesy of Lola L. Tanner
Conklin mill, circa 1918. Courtesy of Lola L. Tanner

In 1889, Albert J. Conklin purchased 338 acres consisting of the territory known as Jacks Valley, located between Susanville and Willow Creek Valley.  In1907, demand for lumber approached record levels. The rebuilding of the San Francisco Bay area from the devastating 1906 earthquake, along with a new mining bonanza in Nevada were contributing factors. In the spring of 1907, to meet the local lumber needs, Conklin built a sawmill. The mill had a maximum daily capacity of manufacturing 15,000 board feet. Conklin continued with this enterprise until 1920, when he sold to W.J. Johnson. In 1923, after only three years of operation, Johnson sold out to the Red River Lumber Company who closed the mill and removed the machinery.

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Bayley Creek Sawmill

Logging at Bayley Creek, 1915.
Logging at Bayley Creek, 1915.

There were two different sawmill operations on Fredonyer Peak, north of Eagle Lake. The first one was on the Horse Lake side operated by the Shumway family. The second one, and much later in time was on the north side near Bayley Creek reservoir, the  latter which was constructed in 1899. It should be noted, that many maps misspell it as Bailey, but it was so named after Likely rancher George H. Bayley.

In 1912, H. T. Risdon established the Eagle Lake Lumber Company and constructed a sawmill at Bayley Creek.  Risdon encountered problems finding skilled labor. In time he leased it to Thomas Coulter and Frank Spencer, who in 1919 bought it outright from Risdon. The mill remained in operation until 1942, when it closed for good.

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Shay’s Hole – Lassen County

It was one of those days, that I had a lapse of better judgment should have, but did not take a picture of Shay's Hole. However, about a mile down the road, we stopped to take pictures of these old railroad ties still in place.
It was one of those days, that I had a lapse of better judgment should have, but did not take a picture of Shay’s Hole. However, about a mile down the road, we stopped to take pictures of these old railroad ties still in place. August 18, 2016.

Back in August on one of several excursions, it was the intent to check out Camp Harvey east of Poison Lake. Well, we did not quite make it there and found ourselves first traveling through Pine Creek Valley and onwards to Champs Flat.  At Champs it was decided to follow a particular road, to see whether it would take us north towards Camp Harvey.

Anyhow, following an old railroad grade of  the Fruit Growers Supply Company we came upon Shay’s Hole that was used to supply water for the Shay locomotives, that were an integral part of railroad logging.

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McCloud River Railroads

The cover of Jeff Moore's epic volume.
The cover of Jeff Moore’s epic volume.

Signature Press has recently released Jeff Moore’s book McCloud River Railroads. All, I can say is, “Wow.” It is an impressive work about logging and railroads, including the little known Pit River Railroad. Of course, the Red River Lumber Company and the Fruit Growers Supply Company influenced operations at McCloud.

The deluxe 368 page hardcover book is available through your favorite local bookstore. Now, excuse me, since I am spending a portion of the Thanksgiving weekend happily reading Moore’s work which he spent a decade to produce.  Thank you Jeff for your hard work in preserving a portion of Northern California’s heritage.

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Railroad, no more

Looking east near the Leavitt Station, November 19, 2006
Looking east near the Leavitt Station, November 19, 2006

This month marks ten years since the last segment rails of the Fernley & Lassen Railroad, between Susanville and Wendel, were removed. The historic event went largely unnoticed. Yet, it was the railroad that had one of the most significant impacts on Lassen County. It was this particular line that created the communities of Litchfield and Westwood. Of course, it brought about the development of the timber industry. Two years prior to this event, the last lumber mill, Sierra Pacific Industries at Susanville shut down for good.

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Ox Teams

Amedee, 1907.
Ox teams at Amedee, 1907. Courtesy of Lola L. Tanner

Oxen, it should be duly noted, played a major role in the westward expansion of the United States. Many may have heard or read accounts of people crossing the plains and using ox teams. While oxen are not known for their speed, they can haul heavy loads of freight in difficult terrain. Locally, during the late 1800s oxen were primarily used in logging.

The last major use of ox teams in the Honey Lake Valley occurred in 1907, when the Lassen Mill & Lumber Company had major contracts for lumber for Nevada mines. Ox teams were used to haul the lumber from the sawmills near Janesville to the boat dock on Honey Lake near Buntingville.  They were also used at Amedee from the boat dock to the NCO railroad station and shipped to Nevada. Thede French, Bill Wilson and Charles Randrup handled the ox teams. The oxen were needed because the ground near the boat docks was too soft for horses.

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