McCloud River Railroad : Along the Line

The Scott/Sierra Branch

The railroad and the Scott Lumber Company jointly built this 7-mile long branch in 1955 to reach the Scott Lumber Company mill on the west side of Burney. The branch ran from a connection with the railroad at Berry (Milepost B-58) to the sawmill (Milepost S-7). The branch changed names with the sawmill ownership, from the Scott branch to the Publishers branch and finally to the Sierra branch. The branch crossed Burney and Goose Valley creeks on two timber trestles. The branch also handled sporadic carloads of wheat harvested by Goose Valley Ranch and loaded onto railcars spotted on the branch. The railroad built no sidings or spurs off of this branch other than the switching trackage in the sawmill complex.

11/2002. Immediately after leaving Berry the Sierra Branch crosses Black Ranch Road. The #36 and #37 lead a long train of lumber and woodchip loads onto the crossing in 2002. Jeff Moore.

A few hundred feet beyond the crossing the railroad crossed Burney Creek on a wood trestle. Jeff Moore.

#25 with a caboose hop on the Burney Creek bridge in the 1960s. Jeff Moore collection.

One of the biggest construction jobs on the branch was a large cut through a lava rock escarpment. The construction forces were making very little progress using a steam drill and piecemeal explosives work until an explosives salesman showed up and offered his expertise if the railroad bought the powder from him. The railroad agreed, and the salesman engineered a single enormous blast that cleaned out the cut. The cut was thereafter known as the "Million Dollar Cut" and sometimes "Rattlesnake Cut". Jeff Moore.

#25 with a caboose hop crossing the Goose Valley Creek bridge. C.G. Heimerdinger Jr. photo, Jeff Moore collection.

A typical scene on the Sierra branch as it winds through the mixed conifer and oak woodlands. Jeff Moore.

The Goose Valley Ranch wheat loader. Trucks would dump grain through the grate and onto a conveyor that would lift it to be dumped into the top of hoppers. Trains almost always operated caboose first on the branch, and they would couple onto loaded grain cars at this spot and shove them the rest of the way to the mill. Empty grain cars would be placed behind the caboose when leaving the mill and would be cut off when they reached the loader. Jeff Moore.

The last several miles of the branch burned over in the 1992 Fountain Fire. Ten years later a healthy train of outbound loads is skirting Goose Valley. Jeff Moore.

An aerial shot of the Scott Mill from a 1955 booklet celebrating the completion of the Burney Extension. This photo predated the railroad reaching the mill. Sierra Pacific Industries would eventually build an entirely new mill complex on this site, located primarily where the buildings and drying yards are just to the left of the center of this image. Jeff Moore collection.

#37 spotting empty centerbeams at the mill's loading dock in June 2006. Jeff Moore.