Lassen Mail – March 14, 1930 – Wendel Promises A Big Boom
Shades of the days of forty nine or of the oil fields are about to be created and materialize in the near future if current rumor and certain things that are more then rumor prove to be true. The scene of the séance is to be at Wendel, and from the evidence it is a good place to hold one.
There is much to be said in favor of Wendel. During the past week there have been eighteen engines in one day, three new men added to the force in the roundhouse, and an extra telegraph operator put on. Everything indicates a big boom which will do its booming in the near future.
Certain people may prefer to scoff at Wendel as a possible metropolis of the plains, but the fact that there is more than sagebrush down there has been proven throughout the past two weeks. There is a good future in Wendel, and farsighted people will soon be watching this place to see what happens.
Awhile back I received an inquiry about the status of my research on the Western Pacific’s Highline. For those not familiar it is a 200 mile stretch of railroad between Keddie, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Western Pacific would construct a 112 mile stretch from Keddie to Bieber, Lassen County. The Great Northern Railroad would construct the segment from Klamath Falls to Bieber. The rail line was completed in November 1931 with a golden spike ceremony at Bieber.
As to the question at hand, the project literally got derailed. In future posts, however, we will explore some of the history of this line, which someone Western Pacific’s dubbed the line the Mountain View Route, but it was never adopted.
In 1912, when an agreement between the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Red River Lumber Company was reached to build the Fernley & Lassen Railroad from Fernley, Nevada to Westwood time was important consideration. The Southern Pacific had two years to construct the line.
The demise of the railroad was a slow, lingering process. In 1963, a 60 mile segment from Fernley to Flanigan was abandoned. In 1978, the segment between Mason Station and Susanville experienced the same fate, though it would be rehabilitated into the Bizz Johnson Trail. It should be noted this segment had not been in use since 1955 due to extensive flood damage and the Westwood mill closure, Southern Pacific deemed it was not in its best interest to make costly repairs. In 2006, the tracks between Susanville and Wendel were removed.
A month ago, we examined the NCO Railroad proposed railroad line for the west side of the Honey Lake Valley that was abandoned. By 1905, hope was on the horizon with the Western Pacific Railroad when survey crews came through the community. The Western Pacific had looked at two sites to cross the Sierra—Chilcoot or Fredonyer. Alas, Chilcoot was selected. Enter the Red River Lumber Company who wanted a branch line from Doyle to their lumber town of Westwood. It became close to a reality after the Chilcoot Tunnel caught fire in May 1912, but almost does not count.
By 1887, residents of the west side of the Honey Lake Valley were excited when railroad surveyors showed up for the NCO Railroad. For Milford and other communities this would be a wonderful opportunity for growth. A year later they were snubbed, when feisty Erasmus Gest, the railroad’s manager abruptly changed plans to abandon the west wide of Honey Lake for the barren east side. Later management was quoted about this bypass as “one of the most monumental blunders I have ever known a sane man to commit.”
It is interesting to note how the local newspapers made caustic remarks when Japanese farm laborers were brought in to work the sugar beet fields on the east side of the Honey Lake Valley. While there was a local work force available, those workers refused to do that kind of hard labor. During this same time period when the Western Pacific Railroad constructed its line through the lower of end Honey Lake Valley the bulk of its workforce was Hindus and Greeks.
You would nearly have to be hermit living off the grid to escape all the coverage about today’s eclipse. One of the best places to view the solar eclipse of January 1, 1889 was the Honey Lake Valley. On that date, the NCO Railroad (then the N&C) ran a special excursion train from Reno to its new terminus of Liegan (near present day Herlong) to view the eclipse. Forty people took advantage of the offer.
The Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad had many names. Until the end of 1892 the N-C-O was still subject to operating under the names of the Nevada & Oregon and Nevada & California Railroad due to the fact that some old bonds had not been paid. On January 1, 1893 the name was officially changed to the Nevada-California & Oregon Railway. The initials N-C-O, became a target for criticism of the railroad’s poor service. The N-C-O received such dreadful titles as the Narrow Crooked & Onery. the Never-Comes-Over Northern California Outrage and the Nevada-California Occasional. J.M. Tremain, editor of Susanville’s Lassen Weekly Mail called the N-C-O a “tri-weekly.” “It goes to Reno one week and tries to return the next.”
The Western Pacific Railroad’s Highline also referred to as the Northern California Extension went from Keddie, Plumas County north to Bieber, Lassen County where it connected with the Great Northern Railroad. A major disappointment to many was that regular passenger service was never instituted. Continue reading The Snowball Special→
Construction of the line was stalled during the early 1930s, while Red River went through its financial reorganization. Finally, in July 1933, construction began at the west end near Hog Flat. A station was established where the Piute line connected with the Southern Pacific, and named Blair, after Kenneth Walker’s wife. At Hog Flat, Red River established logging camp #2. That summer Red River logged eight million board feet of timber and sold it to Fruit Growers. The following year the line was extended further east to Big Springs, and Camp #8 was established.
The year 1935 was a pivotal one for the Piute. Early in the year it was announced Red River would complete the line to Susanville—a distance of twelve miles from its terminus at Worley Ranch to the Fruit Growers plant. Continue reading Piute Logging Railroad – Part II→