McCloud River Railroad : Passenger Operations: Excursion Photos

The Return of the #19
30 April-1 May 1994

The McCloud Railway Company did not initially include passenger operations in its plans. However, the new company was receptive to proposals for excursions from outside parties, and in 1993 Trains Unlimited Tours of Portola, California, opened talks with the railroad. There were many obstacles to mounting any sort of an excursion revival, especially any involving steam. The water towers had fallen out of repair, and the railroad owned no passenger equipment. The Great Western Railroad Museum still had its collection stored in McCloud, but relationships between the museum and the railroad had not gotten any better in the years since the lawsuit settlement. However, the fromer McCloud River #19 had been in regular operation on the nearby Yreka Western, and the plans started falling into place for a grand excursion.

Trains Unlimited set the excursion dates for 30 April and 1 May 1994. Volunteers from several organizations poured into McCloud in the weeks before the event to repair the Bartle tank and refurbish and paint the railroad's fire car. Trains Unlimited leased a two-unit articulated former Southern Pacific coach for the event. They wanted an open air car for the trip, but could not find any available cars that could be leased at a reasonable price on the west coast. Malen Johnson, McCloud Railway's senior engineer, pointed out the road had a number of work flats on the property that weren't doing much, and suggested one of them could be set up for passenger service instead.

The Yreka Western at the time only operated its freights on Tuesdays, which was also the only day Southern Pacific ran up the south end of the Siskiyou Line to make the interchange. The YW used the #19 to get its outbound cars to the interchange in Montague, where the entire excursion hit a snag that almost killed the entire trip. Trains Unlimited had arranged for the SP to tow the #19 from Montague to Mt. Shasta City, but nobody had informed the SP train crew that day of the arrangements and they initially refused to add the #19 to their southbound train. A few quick phone calls got that situation sorted out. The SP delivered the #19 to the McCloud interchange in Mt. Shasta City at almost dusk, where the YW crew relit the fire, and for the first time in eight years a steam whistle echoed off the surrounding mountains.

The trip generated a lot of excitement in the railfan community and sold out almost immediately. A lot others showed up to chase the special. The train went to Burney on the first day. The #19- temporarily relettered to McCloud River using a magnetic patch- led the trains, followed by the fire car, the railroad's four ballast hoppers, caboose #101, the passenger flat, the two-unit coach, McCloud Railway diesel #39, and finally the VIP caboose #553. The #39 provided all of the power for that first day pushing from the rear of the train, though the #19 did do a few photo runbys with the freight consist. On the second day the #19 pulled the fire car and the passenger consist by itself from McCloud to Hambone, putting on a tremendous steam show climbing Bartle Hill in the process. McCloud Railway dispatched a Lookout job shortly after the #19 cleared town, and it caught up with the excursion at Hambone. After a few photos the freight added the passenger cars to the end of its consist and departed east for Lookout while the #19 left the fire car on the Hambone siding and headed back to McCloud. McCloud and the SP returned the #19 back to home rails the following Tuesday.

The success of the trip sparked a lot of speculation that it would be repeated in future years, but it proved to be a one-off event. The excursion did however clearly demonstrate the allure the railroad still had for the railfan community, and it paved the way for the McCloud Railway excursions that followed.

The #19 warming up in front of the shop.

The #19 backing down towards the depot. McCloud Railway pilot engineer Carol Julien is on the caboose steps, and conductor Michael Zetocha is in the caboose door.

The #19 dropping down towards the depot.

The #19 coupling onto the excursion consist at the depot.

The #19 at Truck Shop road on the eastern edge of McCloud.

Arriving at the Bartle tank.

A photo runby at the Bartle tank.

The #19 passing the photo line at Bartle.

The caboose next to the Bartle tank.

Taking water at Bartle.

Near Obie.


Bear Flat.

Arriving at Cayton.

A photo runby at Lake Britton. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The runby at Lake Britton from another vantage. Wayne I. Monger.

Watering the #19 from the fire car at Berry.

Coming off the Lake Britton bridge.

The #39 pushing on the rear of the train at Lake Britton.

The #19 crossing Highway 89. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The #19 doing another photo runby at Bartle on the return trip. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The #19 rounding the wye above the shop so that the train could be backed into the depot area. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The #39 still pushing the train as it arrives back into McCloud. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The #19 on the way to Hambone on Sunday morning. Wayne I. Monger.

The #19 nearing the top of Bartle Hill at McIntosh Vista. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The #39 departed McCloud with a Lookout bound freight an hour or so after #19. It is seen here passing the Bartle tank. Keith E. Ardinger photo.

The #39 passing the #19 at Hambone. Wayne I. Monger.

The #39 at Easter Curve with the returning excursion from Lookout. Wayne I. Monger.