When the decision was finally made by the Red River Lumber Company to locate a mill at Mountain Meadows, there was still the obstacle of a railroad. Actually, the selection process was a volatile one, which one can read in Red River: The Early Years. On January 29, 1912, Red River entered into a contract with the Southern Pacific Railroad to construct a 125 mile railroad from Fernley, Nevada to Mountain Meadows, to the town that would be named Westwood. As an incentive, Red River guaranteed the Southern Pacific that all their freight would be handled by this line for a period of five years. In addition, it was understood that once Red River was ready to expand north, the Southern Pacific would extend its line to Klamath Falls, Oregon. However, that is another story, though Red River gave serious consideration to build a second mill near Lookout. Continue reading Westwood’s First Train
In the mid-1920s, Red River had two hydro-plants in operation to generate power. This abundant power supply created an unusual man-made landmark. Red River was able to conserve its sawdust/wood waste pile, which took on a life of its own as it started looking like a small mountain. This created a nice reserve of free fuel that was readily available at any time should there by interruptions from the hydro-plants. To comprehend just how large it was, a Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” column once designated it as the world’s largest waste pile. In 1941 it lost its status to Portland General Electric Company who reported having a 130-foot high pile of sawdust.
Anything of this magnitude created its own hazards. One of the first lessons learned was how to prevent it from spontaneous combustion. A conveyer belt, along with a steam shovel and caterpillar tractor were employed to constantly work on the sawdust pile—whether adding to it or feeding the conveyer belt to the power house. It was not unusual for a worker to get trapped in a sawdust pocket where one could easily die from suffocation. While no fatalities of this nature occurred, there was one death attributed to the sawdust pile. On the morning of January 20, 1925 Alexander Kollinkoff was killed when he was struck by a large piece of frozen sawdust while operating a steam shovel.
Red River also explored other ways to utilize this enormous wood waste pile. When the mill operated at full capacity it produced 400 hundred tons of sawdust and wood chips in a twenty-four period, over half of which was used to fuel the boilers in the powerhouse. In February 1927 Red River installed an interesting piece of machinery, one that manufactured the modern day version of briquettes. This impressive device was capable of compressing a ton of wood waste into briquettes every hour. About a third of the wood waste which it compressed into briquettes could be used for home use, camping or even at the plant itself.
Red River operated numerous logging camps from 1913 through 1944 when it sold to Fruit Growers. The camps were assigned numbers, though in no particular order. The majority of the camps were short lived and only had a span of one to maybe three years. One of the more interesting camps was Camp 33, but referred to as Town Camp, as it was located less than a mile west of Westwood. What made it unique was that Red River’s company town of Westwood would experience from time to time a housing shortage for its employees. On occasion, this camp was used to house mill workers instead of loggers.
When the Red River Lumber Company established its company town of Westwood in 1913, it had to provide numerous amenities due to its remote location at the time. It was necessary to not only attract employees, but to retain them, as the lumber industry experienced a high turn over rate in labor. The Westwood Club was one of several facilities designed to meet the recreational needs of its employees. It included a restaurant, lunch counter, soda fountain, cigar and newsstand, barbershop, reading room and a billiard room.
On early Friday morning, March 31, 1944 a fire broke out in the Westwood Club though the cause, was never determined. Within twenty minutes the whole building was engulfed in flames. The heat so intense, that Nick Kannier’s automobile which was parked in front of building, burst into flames. Even neighboring buildings from across the street were smoking, on the verge of spontaneous combustion, which with quick action by the fire department prevented the same.
The J.R. Bartlett Company were the concessionaire of the Westwood Club, which included the clubhouse, cafe, pool hall, bar and lounge. There were four other tenants in the building—Ehorn’s Pharmacy, Quitman’s Apparel, Westwood Market and Kilpatric’s Used Furniture department. Estimated loss for all parties was placed at $125,000.
Having spent a good portion of my youth working in the woods with my father, Leroy W. Purdy, this topic comes naturally to me. In addition, I have authored several books on the topic, such as the Fruit Growers Supply Company and the Red River Lumber Company. Over the years I have gathered considerable material on not only those companies, but the smaller mills that existed prior to these large lumber outfits. In a future post, I will explore the 1907 logging bonanza of the Honey Lake Valley region. It was the first major exportation of lumber, as prior to that date, must lumber produced was for local consumption. Believe or not Honey Lake played an important role and finished lumber was shipped across the lake from near Buntingville to Amedee for shipment on the NCO Railroad. Stay tuned.