Tag Archives: Railroads

Horse Lake Station

Horse Lake Station, 1915. Courtesy of Nevada Historical Society
Horse Lake Station, 1915. Courtesy of Nevada Historical Society

It was originally a Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad station and later a Southern Pacific Railroad siding that operated from 1930-1961. In a way it is a bit of misnomer, since it is located five miles east of Horse Lake and near Snowstorm Ranch.

In 1913, the Shumway Post Office at Horse Lake was discontinued. In 1916, Horse Lake residents attempted to re-establish the post office and have a mail drop off at the NCO Railroad’s Horse Lake siding. The postal authorities denied the request. They stated they did not need a mail drop as that there were only four permanent families residing in the area. In addition, it was cited, the NCO was an unreliable operation, with irregular train service, and since there was no attendant at the Horse Lake Station, there was no way that the mail could be protected.

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Building Westwood

One of the nice features using this forum, instead of traditional print, some photographs will not print well. The above is a perfect example, yet it is an interesting photograph. This is at 501 Main Street, now Uptown Cinemas. This caravan of equipment is headed to Westwood while the first sawmill was under construction. Courtesy of Marcella Mathews Searles.
One of the nice features using this forum, instead of traditional print, some photographs will not print well. The above is a perfect example, yet it is an interesting photograph. This is at 501 Main Street, now Uptown Cinemas. This caravan of equipment is headed to Westwood while the first sawmill was under construction. Courtesy of Marcella Mathews Searles.

When the Red River Lumber Company finally decided, or actually more to the point Fletcher Walker demanded the Mountain Meadows location or otherwise he was going to quit, there were numerous hurdles to overcome.

During the initial construction phase of 1912-13, everything would have to be freighted in, while the railroad was under construction, and it would not be completed to Westwood until February 1914.

Highway 36 Fredonyer
The road over Fredonyer as it appeared in 1914.

The bulk of the machinery was shipped by rail on the Western Pacific to Doyle. Smaller shipments also went by the Western Pacific to Keddie. In either instance, that is still a long haul for all the machinery to build one of the largest electric sawmills. In addition, all the auxiliary items needed to build a company town. This is before paved highways no less, and the truck traffic certainly made its imprint on the roads, though not in a favorable way.

Hopefully, bringing you this information, it might give you a tiny incentive to part with five dollars a month to keep things running.

Fernley & Lassen Railroad

This cut is just west of Susanville at Miller Road.
This cut is just west of Susanville at Miller Road.

Since today is Lassen Land & Trails Trust annual Rails to Trails festival, it is only fitting to share a few scenes of the construction. In September 1913 work began on the construction of the line from Susanville to Devil’s Corral. This segment provided railroad officials with numerous challenges, since there were hardly any physical barriers to contend with the segment from Fernley, Nevada to Susanville. Time was also of the essence, since the railroad had a contractual obligation to complete the line to Westwood by February. With that in mind, over 1,000 men were hired for this construction phase.  On December 12, 1913, the construction train crossed the Devil’s Corral, and all appeared well, until Mother Nature unleashed a fury of storms, which is a topic for another time.

Construction train in the Susan River Canyon.
Construction train in the Susan River Canyon.

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Rayl

Rayl
The Rayl Hotel. Courtesy of Tom Armstrong

Long before Herlong came into existence, there were several attempts to establish a town there. One of these was Rayl, for Stanley Rayl who in 1915,  investigated the premises. Since the location was at the junction of the Nevada-California-Oregon (NCO) & Western Pacific (WP) railroads, it was an attractive spot for entrepreneurs. In the summer of 1915, Rayl filed rights to an initial 40 acres and constructed a combination two-story hotel and general store. Continue reading Rayl

Susanville – Richmond Road

Richmond Road
Richmond Road, 1906

Prior to the Fernley & Lassen Railroad’s arrival in 1912, Richmond Road, just across the Susan River was a bucolic dirt road. It consisted primarily the homes of the Cains and Winchesters, with their apple orchards. Though during the 1890s, along the Susan River was the town’s first Catholic Church, its Chinatown and of course the iconic landmark Arnold Planing Mill. Continue reading Susanville – Richmond Road

Omira

Omira351
Omira. Courtesy of Philip S. Hall

Omira was a station on the Western Pacific. On April 12, 1909, the townsite was recorded on land owned by R.E. Rhodes. The railroad named the town after a woman who promised to build a church there. Originally, the plan was to make this a division point for the railroad. Grading for the yards and turntable was done and that was the extent of the development as the Western Pacific decided to change the division point to Portola. The town consisted of section houses, water and fuel tanks, and a two-story store with a restaurant—rooms were rented on the second floor. In addition, that building housed the post office that operated from 1910-1918 with Stella Stiles as first postmaster. In 1926, the Western Pacific consolidated many of its smaller stations, Omira Station was closed and operations moved to Doyle.

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New Standish

Litchfield
A town is born, Litchfield. Courtesy of John M. Gibson

Even before the first rails were laid on the Fernley & Lassen Railroad, those along the right of way knew exactly where it would be located.  B.F. Gibson and his associate, Los Angeles promoter, B.F. Jackson had an initial plan for a new townsite, not too far from Standish. The new railroad was going through Gibson’s Ranch and its location in that part of the Honey Lake Valley made it a ideal place for a  combination townsite and railroad shipping point.

As Standish was less than three miles away, Gibson offered that community free lots for those willing to relocate, which he dubbed his enterprise, New Standish. However, his offer was not well received, so Gibson named is his new town, Litchfield, in honor of pioneer settler and his father-in-law, Andrew Litch.

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Amedee Lime Kilns

Amedee Lime Kiln
Amedee Lime Kiln, 1975

In the early 1890s, when the railroad town of Amedee came into prominence, led to many interesting developments. One of these was the discovery of lime deposits, then a key ingredient used in cement. In 1893, a lime kiln was constructed on the hillside above Amedee. However, due to the nation’s economic depression and the NCO Railroad’s refusal to lower freight rates the enterprise abandoned.

In 1913, with another railroad at Amedee and a surging economy, Susanville businessmen fired up the abandoned lime kilns. After over a year in operation, this they discovered was not the most prudent business investment, and once again the kilns were abandoned.

If you don’t succeed the first time, try again and again. In the 1920s, Janesville resident William B. Hail operated the lime kilns. In 1927, he used the lime for construction of the Bigelow Apartments in Susanville. After that it they were finally abandoned once and for all. Hail stated it was due to the poor quality of the lime.

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Lassen’s Most Influential Person

railroad
The Fernley & Lassen Railroad under construction, February 1914.

On January 29, 1912 a contract was signed in San Francisco that would forever change Lassen County. On that historic date, T.B. Walker signed an agreement with the Southern Pacific for the construction of the Fernley & Lassen Railroad.

T.B. Walker with his need for a railroad transformed Lassen County in countless ways. It brought an era prosperity that has seen before or since. The huge influx of population provided a huge market for the local farmers and ranchers. Take for instance, there was not a single dairy, by 1920 there fifteen.

Of course, if opened the door to the timber industry, and transformed Susanville in a major lumber manufacturing center. What was thought with sustained yield and other forestry practices it was believed that it would remain the dominant industry for well over a hundred years if not more. Within fifty years, the writing was on the wall, and Lassen County’s citizens sought a new industry—prisons.

In future posts we will explore those exciting times, as well as T.B. Walker.

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