McCloud River Railroad : Along the Line

Great Northern's Hambone Branch

The lumber company initially built the first parts of this line in the early 1920s, first as log spurs into the Red River timber tract purchased in 1919 and then the mainline built to tap the U.S. Forest Service Lava Beds timber sale in the Porcupine Butte area. All of those spurs would have been abandoned by the middle 1920s. Then, in 1928 the lumber company purchased the harvesting rights to Red River's 82,000 acre White Horse Tract, mostly located in southwestern Modoc county. This sale neatly bridged the eastern end of McCloud's operating area with the projected alignment of the Great Northern-Western Pacific line between Klamath Falls, Oregon, and Keddie, California, and within weeks of the sale announcement GN leased track materials to the lumber company for use in building their mainline from the eastern end of the McCloud River Railroad to GN's planned route, along with a ten year option to purchase the line. The McCloud River Lumber Company built the Hambone to White Horse stretch between 1928 and early 1929, mostly on existing logging railroad grades to the Porcupine area and then on new construction beyond that, and then completed the White Horse to Lookout Junction section in July and August 1930. The steel gangs finished the line on 25 August 1930.

The Great Northern exercised its purchase option in stages, acquiring the Lookout to White Horse trackage on 1 October 1930, and then the balance of the branch on 15 September 1931. GN ownership ended 2,100 feet east of Hambone, and the McCloud River Railroad granted GN trackage rights over 6,477 feet of their mainline so that GN could reach the joint terminals. The lumber company retained the rights to run their own log trains over the line, subject to a seven cents per loaded car mile charge. GN hired the McCloud River Railroad to operate and the line as their agent and maintain the tracks at GN's direction. The lumber company initially established Milepost 0 at Hambone, but GN reversed the numbering when they acquired the branch.

The McCloud River Lumber Company continued operating their log trains to Hambone until sometime in the middle to later 1940s, at which time they moved their interchange with the McCloud River Railroad to Spur 526. Log trains ceased after the lumber company finished logging the White Horse tract in 1951. McCloud River Railroad and then McCloud Railway continued operating and maintaining the branch for GN and successors Burlington Northern and BNSF until BNSF replaced the line with a haulage agreement struck with Union Pacific. McCloud Railway ran its last train to Lookout on 16 December 2003, and BNSF salvaged all but a little shy of the first six miles extending west from Lookout Junction in 2005. BNSF let this last segment languish until 2020, when it patched the line back together in preparation for using it to store idled freight cars.

Hambone-Milepost 50.17 (1929-1939), then 49.46 (1939-1955), then 31 (1955-2008). As described in the Young Spur to Hambone section, the lumber company first established a log camp named Camp 2 and then Pondosa at this spot that operated from around 1919 until 1927, when the camp and the name moved south to the present Pondosa location. The site sat idle for about a year, until the lumber company broke ground on the main line east to the White Horse country.

The McCloud River Railroad reached Old Pondosa in 1929 when it purchased the lumber company line from Slagger to the site. The railroad established a section gang headquarters and applied the present name, which the railroad borrowed from a nearby butte and water well. The Hambone name reportedly originated with a ham bone nailed to a tree to mark a water location; the name probably dates back to the Mayfield Wagon Road, which passed through the vicinity in the 1880s/1890s. The McCloud River, Great Northern, and Western Pacific railroads chose Hambone as the interchange point between the three railroads, primarily because it was one of the few places with enough flat land to build the needed interchange yards and locomotive servicing facilities. However, once GN evaluated the logistics of operating a branchline from nowhere to nowhere in the middle of nowhere, they hired the McCloud River to operate the line east of Hambone for them, which negated the need for the planned facilities, though the ownership point remained at this spot. GN did station several administrative employees and a section gang out of Hambone at least until the end of the 1950s

In 1934, the Elkins Cedar Mill moved their sawmill from Bartle to here and built a small community to support it. The camp and the sawmill remained in operation and provided a steady business to the railroad until 1942, when Elkins sold the mill. The new owner operated the mill until a fire destroyed the plant in 1944, after which the camp was demolished. The railroad retired the Elkins spur in 1946. Another small sawmill also operated next to the depot area for a short time in the late 1940s/early 1950s.

The McCloud River Railroad completed a major line change bypassing the entire site to the north in 1956. Some foundations, many railroad grades, lots of trash, and one or two more modern structures mark the spot of the original camps.


McCloud River Railroad
- Section cabin, 13'x29', purchased 1929.
- Small platform, purchased 1929 and retired 1934.
- Telephone booth, purchased 1929 and retired 1934.
- Livestock yard, 48'x116', 4 pens, single chute, built 1932 and retired circa 1956.
- Depot building, 12'x16'x8', moved from Car A 1934 and retired 1946.
- Bath and toilet facilities, built 1947 in the body of retired caboose #015.
- Shed from original camp moved to new 1956 alignment for use as a section shed.

Great Northern Railway
- Depot building, 12'9"x49'6", probably purchased from the lumber company in 1931. Used by GN interchange clerks and car inspector.
- Wood platform, 13'x17' (may be same platform listed in McCRRR section).
- Section foreman's house, 20'x27', donated by the lumber company to GN.
- Two carbodies, 9'5"x36'8", placed on ground 1933 for use as bunk houses and removed 1943, though pictures show at least one of the bodies remained in existence into the late 1940s.
- Hand car house, 11'x16', built out of old ties and with paper roof, likely built or bought by GN in 1931 and probably retired in 1933.
- Two cabins, 11'4"x15'3", abandoned by lumber company and placed in Hambone yard in 1933 by a lumber company crane for use as motor car and tool and supply storage. Removed 1939.
- Carbody, converted from condemned coach GN #530, placed on ground in 1939 for use as a tool and motor car storage house.

In addition to the above, photographs show several additional cabins, sheds, outhouses, and other outbuildings that are not recorded in valuation or other records for either company.

Water Tower- Joint GN-MR Facility
Water had always been a problem at Hambone. The lumber company initially shipped all water to the camp by rail until the company could drill wells and tap into some spring sources on Bear Mountain. The railroads purchased the water tank in Hambone (wood tub, 17'8" diameter by 13'6" high) in 1929 and the Bear Mountain water supply system in 1931. Facilities on Bear Mountain included 6 wells drilled to an average depth of 60 feet, a Fairbanks-Morse 20-horsepower gas engine on a concrete foundation, 4 pumps, a belt drive system complete with all fixtures and belts, a 30'x30'x10' engine house, and 11,088' of 4" and 6" wood and iron pipe. The railroad immediately had to pile additional dirt on the pipeline to keep it from freezing in winter months. In 1932, the railroad added a dwelling for the pumper (38'x26'), complete with plumbing fixtures. In 1941, the railroads developed water in camp by drilling a 315' deep well and equipping it with a 10'x15' pumphouse, a 8" turbine powered by a Ford V-8 engine, and 100' of pipeline connecting it to the tank. The Bear Mountain pumping plant burned to the ground in 1944, and the railroads retired the pumper's dwelling in 1946.

Side Tracks
- Several yard tracks, including one balloon track.
- Industrial spurs serving Elkins Cedar Mill and one smaller sawmill.
- 1,032' siding, built 1956 on new alignment that survived until abandonment.

GN Junction-Milepost 50.57 (1929-1939), then 49.86 (1939-1955), then consolidated with Hambone station in 1956 at Milepost 31 on new alignment (1956-2008). Official eastern terminus of McCloud River Railroad and McCloud Railway Company.

Chippy Spur-Milepost 4, then BH-30. According to legend, the lumber company had a camp in the area in the Red River/USFS era that employed a cook whose orphaned niece engaged in prostitution until company officials caught on and put an end to her practice. The camp got its name from that incident. The lumber company built a 948-foot long spur on the grade of an abandoned log spur at the time of construction. GN records indicate the spur was a construction spur for ballast materials. A 1967 line change shortened the spur to 720 feet, which remained in place until abandonment. The spur was last used to store caboose #029 that railroad employees used as a weekend retreat and hunting lodge.

Siding #2/Spur #513-Milepost 7, then BH-26. Location of a 1,636' siding built by the lumber company and then retained by them following the sale of the mainline to the GN. Spur 513, which eventually extended south to the Wiley Ranch area, left the mainline at this location. Turnouts re-laid as part of track upgrades in 1939.

Porcupine-Milepost 9, then BH-24. Named after the nearby Porcupine Butte, which is likely named after the animal species. The lumber company first harvested this area in the early 1920s as part of the U.S. Forest Service Lava Bed sale. The new line the lumber company built into the White Horse Tract in 1928 originally had a 258' spur at or near this location used to hold water cars for U.S. Forest Service firefighting efforts. GN removed this spur in 1934. Core samples drawn from a small un-named butte next to the tracks showed that it contained vast quantities of high quality volcanic cinders that would make fine ballast material, and by 1937 the lumber company built an 850-foot long spur next to the butte and started quarrying operations, which provided nearly all ballast material used on the McCloud railroads for the next seventy years. The spur remained until the end of operations.

Lakin-Milepost BH-23. Probably named for long-time lumber company superintendent Bert Lakin, an especially popular manager of the lumber company at the time. The site sits in the middle of a lava flow originating on the southeastern flank of the Medicine Lake Highlands. Great Northern built a 2,112-foot long siding (20-car capacity) at this location in 1934 using materials salvaged from abandoned spurs at Porcupine and construction spur #518. At the time the lumber company operated log trains into Pondosa that often had to be doubled up Powder House hill, causing delays and increased costs to GN as the log trains forced delays to road freights. The siding allowed log trains and freights a place to pass each other. The GN relayed the turnouts in 1939 as part of mainline upgrades, extended the siding to a thirty-car capacity after 1942, and cut the siding back to a spur by removing the east switch in 1970. Most of the siding remained intact up until abandonment, with only 325 feet of it useable.

- Telephone booth, not recorded in any documents but foundation of which is still present.

Lava Spur-Milepost 12, then BH-22. Site of a 323'-long spur built by the lumber company during construction of the line, specifically to store water cars for U.S. Forest Service firefighting efforts. Spur removed 1939.

Burn Spur-Milepost 14. Site of a short construction spur removed in 1931.

Camp No. Two/Siding #1-Milepost 16, then BH-17. The lumber company railroad reached the edge of the White Horse tract at this location, and the company operated a logging camp here from roughly 1928 to 1929. Trackage built by the lumber company included a two-track yard and one or more spurs; by the time GN assumed ownership, the middle portion of the middle track had been removed, leaving one 2,697' siding, two stubs of the middle track, and a 253' set out track off the west end of the siding. GN relayed the turnouts in 1940 as part of upgrades to the main line. Photographic evidence suggests that, by the early 1940s, the middle siding had been rebuilt and the outer siding and set-out track removed. GN removed the east switch in 1970 and cut the siding back to a 260-foot spur that survived until abandonment.

White Horse-Milepost 23, then BH-11. In 1870, surveyors reported seeing white wild horses in the valley, giving it the present name. The lumber company built a substantial logging community here that lasted from 1929 until 1945. The camp included many large buildings, a 140'-long enginehouse, a shop, and numerous dwellings to house employees and their families. Train crews employed by the lumber company also called the camp home. The camp closed in 1945 after all of the available timber had been cut, though the GN section gang responsible for maintaining the east end of the Hambone-Lookout trackage remained stationed at the camp until 1956, when the gang moved to Lookout Junction. Very little remains to show the camp location.

Structures (GN property only)
- Carbody, 9'x37', placed on ground by GN about 1933, initially for use as a motor car house, then as a depot. Retired circa 1975.
- Tool and motor car house.

- Hand car house.

GN relocated one of the section sheds to Lookout in 1956. GN employees assigned to the White Horse section lived in houses owned by the lumber company up until the time the camp closed.

Water Tower
The lumber company built a large square water tower in the camp at the time it opened. Size and capacity are not preserved in available records. The tank probably lasted until the section gang moved out in 1956.

Side Tracks
The lumber company built a two-track yard (2,980' long) adjacent to the mainline, plus two spurs into the camp area and three into the enginehouse and service facilities. The lumber company removed the middle track from the yard by the late 1930s, and in 1941, the GN built a 1,800' siding on the grade of the former yard track. GN removed a spur and shortened the siding 300 feet in 1969, then removed the east siding switch and shortened the siding to a 850' spur in 1970 that remained in place until abandonment.

Construction Spurs-The lumber company built two short construction spurs between White Horse and Lookout, one 237' long (no number assigned) at Milepost 27 and one 648' long (Spur 518) at Milepost 28. Construction spur removed 1933 and Spur 518 removed 1934.

Spur 526-Milepost BH-2. Turnout for spur originally installed 1940. Spur developed into the lumber company mainline to the Widow Valley logging camp, which the lumber company operated from roughly 1945 until 1951. Widow Valley had the usual assortment of buildings needed to house and feed employees, plus a small enginehouse and servicing facilities. Prior to moving the camp from White Horse to Widow Valley the lumber company had delivered loaded log cars directly to the McCloud River Railroad at Hambone, but the distances became too great after the lumber company moved to the new camp. The two McCloud companies interchanged cars at a three-track yard built not far off the spur switch until the camp closed. The lumber company abandoned the spur after the camp closed except for a 195' remnant, which remains in place at present. The Lookout based section crew responsible for the Lookout-Hambone trackage used the spur to store equipment and materials.

Lookout Junction-Milepost BH-0. Named after the nearby small town of Lookout, named after a nearby prominent hill reportedly used by the Pit River Indians as a lookout when the neighboring Modocs to the north came south on raiding and wife-stealing expeditions. The Red River Lumber Company purchased the land at this location for a sawmill site, but never built it. The Great Northern and Western Pacific railroads initially planned to meet at this spot to complete the "Inside Gateway" and purchased the land from Red River to accommodate the planned facilities. However, the two railroads later shifted the junction point several miles south to Nubieber. Great Northern owned all facilities at this station. The McCloud-employed (but paid for by both railroads) section gang responsible for maintaining the Hambone- Lookout trackage moved from White Horse to Lookout in 1956 and remained stationed there until almost the end of operations.

- Depot, 26'x104', built circa 1931 and retired in 1959.
- Two houses, both 26'x44', one a section house and the other an agent's house, both built circa 1931. Agent's house retired circa 1959; section house occupied by Fred Torez, foreman of the Lookout based crew, and razed circa 2000 following his retirement.
- Section house, dimensions not recorded, built circa 1931 and retired 1936.
- Laborer's house, 12'x34', built circa 1931 and moved to Bend, Oregon, in 1939.
- Tool house, 12'x14', built circa 1931.
- Well and Pump house, 8'x10', built circa 1931.
- Platform, built 1933.
- Buildings installed when section gang moved from White Horse to Lookout in 1956 included the depot building relocated from Stronghold, a section house relocated from White Horse, a 12'x34' laborer's house relocated from Malin, and a new 8'x10' tool house. Several other small sheds and a garage also built by early 1960s. All residences retired circa 1990, while several of the tool and other sheds survive.

Water Tower
- Water tower, moved to Lookout from Malin, OR, in 1934. Additional spout added to facilitate watering McCloud River locomotives in 1940.

Side Tracks
- Balloon track, used to turn McCloud trains.
- Construction spur, 238' long, located near mouth of balloon and removed 1932.
- Two interchange tracks, both 40-car capacity. A third interchange track was added at some point after 1940.
- Six car spur to a livestock yard and another spur built for a logging company.