McCloud Rails : Passenger Operations: Excursion Photos

Burney Gold Spike Special
2-4 July 1955

By the summer of 1955 any new railroad construction was cause for celebration, and major expansions such as the completion of the McCloud River Railroad extension to Burney called for a major party. The railroad would be completed in time to hold the festivities over the July 4th holiday. Burney already had a long established community event around the holiday, Burney Basin Days, which took on new meaning as the railroad completion came into focus. The community named their 1955 event the "Golden Spike Jubilee" and enlarged the event to include the railroad celebrations. The Central Coast Railway Club organized a special excursion train that would come north from the Bay Area for the event. Dunsmuir held its then tenth annual Railroad Days event two weeks prior to the Golden Spike celebrations, and the organizers of both events produced a combined souvenir program.

The trip announcement flyer for the Gold Spike Special.

The other side of the flyer.

The Gold Spike Special arrived in Mt. Shasta City in the early evening of 2 July in a driving rain storm. The McCloud River Railroad had its locomotives 28, 29, and 24 on hand, the #24 primarily to provide steam heat to the cars. During the events that evening the voting of the excursionists awarded the title of "Miss Gold Spike" to Jo Ann Theboldt Beffidge, who had been "Miss Mount Shasta".

The main event happened the next day, Sunday, 3 July 1955. The railroad gave the #25 a special gold paint scheme for the event, and 16-year old artist Woody Hansen from Mt. Shasta City painted a mural depicting the driving of the gold spike at Promontory Summit in 1869 on its tender. The Arcata & Mad River Railroad, the oldest operating railroad in California, provided a redwood tie for the event. Four spikes, two gold and two silver, would be driven into the tie during the ceremonies. The Central Coast club provided three of the spikes while the town of Burney provided the fourth. Three trains departed McCloud for Burney that morning. The #28, #29, and #25 led the first train, the Special from the Bay Area, which carried the spikes plus the ceremonial last tie on the #25's pilot. Locomotives #30/#31 led the train carrying people from McCloud while the #32/#33 powered a train carrying people from Dunsmuir and Mt. Shasta City. Upon arrival in Burney the #25 crashed through a paper barrier hung across the tracks, which was shortly followed by the spike driving ceremony. After that had been done buses and private autos carried the excursionists into Burney for a parade, rodeo, logging demonstrations, and the noon meal.

The three trains departed back for McCloud after the festivities. The Gold Spike Special was on a tight schedule to return to the Bay Area, so the railroad coupled the #29, #32, and #33 to the #25 and started shoving it up the hill towards Mt. Shasta. However, just past Hooper the #29 rolled a rail, which derailed both it, the #25, and the #33. The locomotives were on the downhill side of the train at the time, and after determining the mess would take some time to clean up the McCloud River authorized the Southern Pacific power waiting in Mt. Shasta City to come over the hill to get the passenger train, which continued onto the Bay Area without further incident. The McCloud crews shortly got their power rerailed the repaired the tracks, and then settled down to running their expanded system. The #25 immediately went back to log train service out of Kinyon and then Pondosa through the rest of the summer and into the fall; it would have made for quite a sight.

SP 4-8-4 #4463 powered the Golden Spike Special from Oakland to Mt. Shasta City, it is seen here in Dunsmuir. John F. Monhoff photo.

SP added its 2-10-2 #3670 at Dunsmuir to help the special up the hill to Mt. Shasta City. John F. Monhoff photo.

The #3670 passing the special on a siding in Dunsmuir on its way to couple to the front of the train. John F. Monhoff photo.

The view out the back of the train on the climb to Mt. Shasta City. John F. Monhoff photo.

The #24 cutting off the rear of the train as it arrived in McCloud. Note the pipe used to supply steam heat to the cars draped across its pilot and "hung up" under the coupler. John F. Monhoff photo.

The Gold Spike Special rounding the wye at the north end of the McCloud yard on the morning of 3 July. John F. Monhoff photo.

The Gold Spike Special on the line east of McCloud. John F. Monhoff photo.

Looking back at the train on the line east of McCloud. John F. Monhoff photo.

The special paused for a photo run-by at Bartle. John F. Monhoff photo.

The special passing the Red Goose at Curtis. Of special note are the Fruit Growers Supply Company log flats loaded with rail on one of the sidings, FGS had stockpiled the rail at Halls Flat on the Western Pacific for use on their planned railroad to Burney but sold the rail to the McCloud companies after selling the Burney Tract timber to the McCloud River Lumber Company. McCloud burned the old FGS flats after unloading them. John F. Monhoff photo.

John got into the cab of the #25 either at Bartle or a water stop at Ditch Creek, allowing for this shot of the train on some of the newly built trackage on the descent into Cayton. John F. Monhoff photo.

At Lake Britton the passengers detrained on the south side of the bridge for another photo runby. The locomotives are pushing the train back across the bridge. John F. Monhoff photo.

A color shot of the power pushing the special across the Lake Britton Bridge.

The #29 and #28 recrossing the bridge. The #25 and the train are visible sitting on the new Highway 89 overpass in the distance. John F. Monhoff photo.

Once the diesels cleared the #25 stormed across the bridge for the benefit of the photographers. The locomotive might have gotten some help from the power of the following train to get the heavy special moving. John F. Monhoff photo.

The #25 sitting in Burney. A number of Amercian flags have been added to the top of the smokebox. John F. Monhoff photo.

The Special in Burney after the ceremonies while it waited for the passengers to return.

The mural on the #25's tender.

Another shot of the train waiting in Burney.

The #28 sitting in Burney during the layover.

The #32 and #33 powered the section of the train carrying people from Dunsmuir and Mt. Shasta City. John F. Monhoff photo.

A partial view of the #33 in Burney. John F. Monhoff photo.

The #25 doing another photo run-by at Bartle on the return trip to McCloud. John F. Monhoff photo.

The immediate aftermath of the derailment that evening.

The drivers of the #25 on the ground.

Detail shot of the rear driver resting on the ties.

A close up of the rolled rail on the other side of the #25.

The Central Coast club and others involved in the Special made a mailer available that riders could send, postmarked from Burney.

The envelope for the mailing.

The first of two enclosures contained in the envelope. The other was a small tri-fold brochure detailing the Burney area.

Front of the small brochure.

Back of the small brochure.

Another momento of the event was this small golden spike pin.