Wendel has had many names over the years. In the 1860s, it was referred to as Upper Hot Springs to distinguish from the Lower Hot Springs. In 1890, when the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad (NCO) extended its line to Amedee, the Lower Hot Springs took on the name of town established next to it. Upper Hot Springs simply became known as Hot Springs. In 1899, the NCO extended its line further north and at Hot Springs established a new station named Boyd. When T.F. Dunaway became General Manager of the NCO in 1900, he renamed the Boyd station to Smithon. Two months later, in January 1901, he again renamed it to Hot Springs. It would be another fourteen years before the place became known as Wendel.
One of the biggest issues T.B. Walker had against the Red River Lumber Company’s location at Westwood, was it lacked a railroad link directly to California. For a time there was a glimmer hope with the Indian Valley Railroad.
On June 30, 1916, the Indian Valley Railroad (IVR) was incorporated to build a line from Paxton on the Western Pacific Railroad to the Engel Copper Mine near Taylorsville–a distance of 21 miles. Sixteen months later the rail line was completed. It should be noted, that it was originally proposed as a narrow gauge line, but Willis Walker of the Red River Lumber Company objected. After all, Walker was keen enough to see the possibilities for a link to Westwood, and with that would force the Southern Pacific Railroad to be more competitive in their rates.
Early on the IVR had its sights on Westwood. In 1918 a survey to extend the line to Westwood was conducted, There was speculation that the IVR would extend its line to Westwood, and in 1918 the IVR did survey a line to that place. With Red River’s main branch railroad logging extending along the east shore of Lake Almanor to Canyon Dam, there was not much territory separating the two lines. In 1927 a request was sent to the Interstate Commerce Commission to put in this proposed line to be known as the Northern California Railroad. It was rejected. However, in the works was the Western Pacific and Great Northern Railroads to connect their respective lines with a new railroad from Keddie, Plumas County to Klamath Falls, Oregon. This was approved in 1930, and Red River Lumber Company would finally have a second railroad connection it had always sought.
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In the fall of 1915, Robert Strahorn brought new life to the project. Strahorn had a reputation for developing these type of projects. One of the biggest changes was the line would start at Flanigan, Nevada, on the eastern edge of the Honey Lake Valley and its terminus at Cedarville, California. By the spring of 1916, it appeared real progress had been made with right-of-ways secured from the Department of Interior and many of the landowners. In addition, it was announced that Lakeview, Oregon would be the new terminus. For those familiar with the country the railroad now had the daunting task to to cross the Warner Mountains at Fandango Pass. First a grandiose three-mile tunnel was proposed, but was reduced to a 4,820-foot tunnel, which still alleviated 700 difference from the top of the summit. Continue reading Surprise Valley Railroad – Part II
In 1903, the Western Pacific Railway was incorporated with its main goal to build a 810 mile line from the San Francisco Bay Area to Salt Lake City. They were successful in one aspect. On November 1, 1909, the last spike was driven on Western Pacific’s line at Spanish Creek Bridge near Quincy, California. When the railroad was incorporated, it proposed to build twelve branch lines. These “feeder” lines were extremely important to generate rail traffic, which would provide necessary revenue for the fledging railroad. One of these proposed lines called for a Surprise Valley Railroad. Continue reading Surprise Valley Railroad – Part I
Lassen County was rather fortunate that it was not hit as hard as other places throughout the nation during the great depression of the 1930s. Yes, times were tough, but then again there were no Hoovervilles either. While the majority of the lumber mills on the West Coast closed, Lassen’s three mills-Fruit Growers Supply Company, Lassen Lumber & Box Company and the Red River Lumber Company remained open, though operations were curtailed. Those company executives understood the value of their employees. Sooner or later the economy would rebound, and they did the best they could under the circumstances to retain their skilled employees, rather than having to start all over again to re-train new ones at a critical time.
In Big Valley it was boom times. They were at the center of one of the last major railroad construction projects in the country. This was the Northern California Extension wherein the the Western Pacific extended its line north from Keddie to Bieber, to meet with the Great Northern who built their line south from Klamath Falls, Oregon. This opened a whole new rail corridor completed in 1931. In the future, I will do a piece on the Golden Spike Ceremony at Bieber.
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Daily life got crazy in Susanville when the railroad arrived. Numerous discussions were held to make the town “dry.” It was the belief of some that if there was a ban on alcohol, that it would rid the town of certain elements. The City was not so keen on the other hand, as it received most of its operating revenue from liquor licenses. Continue reading Those Rowdy Camp Followers
It was the last of three towns established on the Madeline Plains. It was reported that the end of February 1910, that the new station of Ravendale was rapidly being built and rumor had it that it was to become a division point for the NCO railroad. It was also stated that J.H. Williams and G. Horton were surveying a town plat. Whatever the case may be, it was not until November 15, 1913, the official town plat of Ravendale, on lands owned by Jim Coe, was surveyed and recorded with the County. According to Madeline Plains historian, Don Garate, the name Coeville had been suggested for the new town, but Laura Coe already chosen a name—Ravendale.
By the way, in Susanville you can purchase Don Garate’s book Red Rock to Ravendale at Margie’s Book Nook.
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1907 was a a most interesting one in certain circles. There was a national financial crisis, but California and Nevada were experiencing a building boom. For the Golden State it was still in the midst of rebuilding the San Francisco Bay region from the previous year’s earthquake. For the Silver State, a mining bonanza it had not experienced since the discovery of the Comstock. These two episodes created a lumber shortage. Lassen County’s timber resources had basically remained untapped due to the lack of a railroad infrastructure to develop it. Continue reading Harrison’s Traction Engine
Occasionally, for fun, I thought I would do some now and then photograph studies. The railroad community of Wendel went through some epic boom times, especially when the Southern Pacific took over the NCO Railroad and broad gauged the tracks, from the previous narrow gauge. The Wendel Store and Station burned down in 1936.
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Gerlach is Becoming a Metropolis. The town of Gerlach on the end of the Western Pacific is already the metropolis of northern Washoe County and is growing so rapidly that it will have a voting precinct of its own this fall.
It will be the old Salt Marsh precinct, but a change will be made of the polling place to that point. The Buffalo Meadows farmers are kicking about the additional twenty mile drive to the polls, but as they previously had to go thirty-five miles, it is thought that the extra distance will not hurt them.
There is a strong attraction possessed by Gerlach, which now boasts four saloons and more coming.
Long Valley, some forty miles to the north, is also settlig up rapidly. There is a reclamation scheme in progress there and it is forecasted that the valley will be thickly settled and prosperous before many years pass.
Gerlach is now the freight division point for the Western Pacific and is the shipping place for the southern end of Surprise Valley, California, to which place a county road was recently constructed.
Source: Lassen Advocate, 2 September 1910