The Snowball Special

The Snowball Special at Norvell, 1938.

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.

However, from 1938 to 1941, the Western Pacific ran the “Snowball Special” from the San Francisco Bay to Norvell, located thirteen miles north of Westwood and the highest point on the line. On Saturday, February 12, 1938 the inaugural run was made when a fully equipped passenger train, which included a dancing car and a special bar car, departed from the San Francisco Bay at 7 p.m. The train made stops at Sacramento, Marysville, Oroville, Greenville and Westwood. The train arrived at Norvell Station at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. The 250 passengers were delighted to find eight feet of snow for winter pursuits. After five and a half hours of skiing, tobogganing, sledding and just playing in the snow the train left Norvell at 1:30 p.m. and arrived back in the bay area at 11:50 p.m.


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