McCloud River Railroad : Along the Line

Burney Extension

In 1954 the lumber company purchased the timber standing on the 80,000 acre Burney tract from Fruit Growers Supply Company, corporate successor to Red River. The sale required the lumber company to build a common carrier railroad to Burney, and the company agreed to finance extending the McCloud River Railroad to the town. The McCloud River Lumber Company built the first part of what would become this line, from Bear Flat to Ditch Creek, as part of their Spur 400 main line. Part of that line lay on grades originally built for the Pit River Railroad. The railroad built new construction beyond Ditch Creek.

Bear Flat-Milepost B-31.2. Start of line. When construction of the Burney line started this site originally had a large wye, but the railroad removed the east leg of the wye in 1956.

404-Milepost B-34.1. Not an official station point. Used by the railroad in later years to refer to the place where the road to Harlow Place crossed the grade. Former logging spur #404 crossed the same road a short distance west of the crossing, giving this spot its name. The lumber company built a wye track, likely to turn logging equipment, just north of this point.

Spur 408-Milepost B-36. Junction with a log spur built in the 1940s on the old Pit River Railroad grade towards Cayton Valley. A 10-car capacity remnant of the spur existed in 1956, later cut back to 137' that remained until the end.

Ditch Creek-Milepost B-41. The new construction to Burney split from the former lumber company trackage at this point. The lumber company once operated an extensive network of lines into the upper reaches of the Clark Creek drainage from this spur. As trucks took over the spur was cut back to a truck-to-rail reload site established a mile or so in from the mainline. The last logs hauled by the railroad came off this spur. A 435' spur remained until the end. The lumber company had a water tower (steel tank, unknown capacity) at this station, but the railroad had no other facilities.

Cayton-Milepost B-47. Named after William M. Cayton, who lived with the local native population in a part of the adjacent valley in the late 1860s. Around 1870, Cayton moved south to Burney Valley, but left his name on this valley. Cayton Valley became home to a large ranching operation that continues to the present day; it also had a small dairy operation supplying milk to much of the surrounding countryside in the early part of the 1930s. Harry Horr operated a sawmill on the north end of the valley from 1924 until 1930, primarily to support the construction needs of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company's Pit River project. The Pit River Railroad passed along the west side of the valley, with a branch to the mill skirting the north side of the valley.

The McCloud River Railroad reached this spot in 1954. The company promptly built at least one siding that served as a reload for logs harvested out of the Burney tract and other freight shipments until the rest of the line could be completed. The railroad also built a small section shed. The siding initially measured approximately 2,500 feet in length, later cut back to 1,740 feet. Dicalite established a reload here and shipped diatomaceous earth from 1986 until 2006, using both an underground pressurized pipe system to load covered hoppers and a former Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe boxcar body set on cinder blocks to facilitate loading bagged product into boxcars. The boxcar body disappeared sometime between 2011 and 2012, though the section shed remains.

Lake Britton-Milepost B-50. Site of the largest two bridges on the railroad, a smaller overcrossing of Highway 89 and the impressive seven span structure over Lake Britton. Station named after the lake, which is named after John A. Britton, a vice president and general manager of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company from 1907 until his death on 6/29/1923. A 282-foot spur existed here until around 1995, when the railroad pulled the switch and abandoned most of the spur. The spur had been used to store maintenance-of-way equipment and had been used as a place for helper locomotives operating from McCloud to meet trains returning from Burney that needed extra help getting up the grades to the north.

Arkrite-Milepost B-52. Named after the nearby Arkright Flat, which may be named after Manuel Arkright, a man recorded in the Burney census in 1900. The railroad built a sixteen-car spur at this spot by 1956 to serve a small diatomaceous earth processing company. The mining firm eventually folded, leaving only a concrete pad to mark its loading location. The railroad cut the spur back to eight cars by 1969 and retired it a few years later.

Lorenz-Milepost B-58. In 1955, the Lorenz Brothers built a large sawmill north of the railroad. The railroad built a 7,834' spur running from this point into the sawmill. The sawmill gradually expanded under a succession of owners through the years and eventually included a plywood plant. The sawmill closed about 1989. The spur remained in place until the end, although the sawmill had been torn down the site occupied by a construction contractor. The railroad used the spur to store long lines of incentive per diem boxcars through much of the early 1990s. In the late 1990s and early 2000s the McCloud Railway delivered a small number of Sulfate carloads to the construction company.

Berry-Milepost B-58. Named after Raymond Berry, an attorney in Burney. Mr. Berry purchased a one-half interest in the Scott operations, and then deeded his share to the Scott Lumber Company when it formed in 1938. Berry then managed the Scott mill up until 1969, when Publishers Forest Products took over. This was the operational heart of the railroad in the Burney basin, and the company maintained a three track yard here serving as the meeting point between the Burney switch job and the daily road freight that came down from McCloud. The railroad continued to use the yard to store empty cars after the company abolished the Burney switch job in 1964. The railroad removed one of the sidings by the early 1970s, leaving one 2,697-foot long siding that remained in place until the end. The Scott/Sierra branch started at the Berry Wye (also known as Goose Valley Junction), which lay immediately south of the siding.

Burney (PVA)-Milepost B-61. Physical end of the railroad. In the late 1850s, a man by the last name of Predmore located a ranch site in this valley. In March 1859, the local natives killed a man named Samuel Burney and a Sacramento Valley Indian boy, who had been living on the ranch. The spot became known as "The Valley Where Burney was Killed", later shortened to Burney Valley, and finally to just Burney. D.R. Johnson, a later settler, applied Burney's name to a number of local features, including the volcanic mountain immediately to the south of the mountain, the creek that flowed north from the valley to a confluence with the Pit River, and the 129-foot tall waterfall over which the creek plunged about halfway between the town and the river.

Burney got its first post office in 1872 under the name Burney Valley. The community survived on agriculture and as an important stop on the stage and auto routes until 1936, when two sawmills turned the community into a timber town. The community always hoped that the vast tract of timber owned by Red River immediately south of town could be processed locally, but these hopes were dashed when Fruit Growers Supply sold the harvesting rights to the McCloud River Lumber Company.

The railroad built a modest yard, a number of section sheds, a two story depot building, and a single stall enginehouse on the very eastern edge of town after completing the line in 1955. The railroad named the yard PVA after the P.V.A. Lumber Company, who operated a sawmill in the Burney area that loaded lumber cars in the yard. At least two small manufacturing plants also operated in the yard area in the 1960s. The station and the enginehouse served as the base for the Burney switch job, which worked the lumber company logging railroad trackage to the south of town and the other industries in the area up until 1964, when the company abolished the job following the closure of the logging railroad trackage. The railroad continued to employ some administrative positions and a section crew based in the Burney depot and yard. The administrative positions lasted until the early 1980s, and the section crew lasted until around 1996. Fruit Growers Supply continued to use the depot building as an office until a tree fell into the structure, inflicting significant damage.

The yard had been used often for shipping or receiving miscellaneous freight through the years, such as the inbound pipe movements in 1960 and 1992, construction supplies for various other PG&E projects (principally the Pit 6 and 7 construction projects in the early 1960s), occasional carloads of inbound construction or agricultural equipment, the inbound hog fuel in the early 1980s, the outbound sugar beets in the mid-1990s, and outbound lumber from the Big Valley Lumber Company Burney mill around 2000. The railroad demolished most of the remaining section sheds and pulled up most of the yard trackage in 2000 to make way for the BVLC reload and a power optic cable boosting station.