McCloud River Railroad : Passenger Operations:

Steam Locomotive #19

#19 taking water from the SP plug in Mt. Shasta City in 1962. Henry W. Brueckman photo, Jack Neville collection.

Few if any steam locomotives ever associated with the McCloud operations have had been as widely travelled as the #19. Baldwin built the locomotive in April 1915 for the Caddo & Choctaw Railroad in Arkansas as their #4. That company after only a few years of service sold the locomotive to the Choctaw River Lumber Company, who shortly resold it to a Mexican mining operation. The McCloud River Railroad bought the locomotive in January 1923 and sent a small crew to Mexico City to take possession of the machine and escort it back north of the border. The shop crews reportedly found several bullet holes in the boiler while conditioning it for service, and for that the crews tagged it with the unofficial nickname Pancho. The shops released the locomotive, now numbered 19, in August 1923.

The #19 provided thirty years of dependable service to the McCloud River Railroad before being replaced by diesels in 1953. McCloud promptly sold the #19 to the neighboring Yreka Western Railroad, where it kept the #19. The #19 operated freight and then passenger excursions over the small road until 1970, when YW's corporate parent Kyle Railways orchestrated its lease to their Oregon Pacific & Eastern Railroad out of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Between 1971 and 1987 the #19 was the normal power for the hugely popular Blue Goose passenger trains operating over the OP&E. The #19 played a staring role in two movies filmed on the OP&E, Emporer of the North in 1971 and Stand By Me in 1985.

Kyle sold its ownership share in the OP&E to the road's major freight shipper in 1987, which brought an abrupt end to the passenger operations. Kyle decided to ship the #19 back to the Yreka Western, and in 1989 it took over as the normal power for the YW's re-entry into the passenger excursion business. Five days a week through the tourist season the #19 would lead a train on the three hours round trip to Montague and back. Financial problems caused YW operations to become sporadic by the middle 2000s, and the #19 steamed for the final time in Yreka in late 2008. The #19 became centerpiece in an extensive legal battle that ended with a sheriff's sale held inside the Yreka enginehouse on 6 October 2016. The Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugar Creek, Ohio, submitted the winning bid, and they shipped the #19 east to its new home in the spring of 2017. Age of Steam has since repainted the locomotive to the OP&E scheme it wore during the Emporer of the North filming and as of 2020 is in the process of getting the work it needs to steam again,

While the #19 is known to have actually powered only one passenger excursion while owned by the McCloud River Railroad, the engine none the less played key roles in two of the railroad's later railfan excursions. The Northern California Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and the California-Nevada Railroad Historical Society leased the #19 in 1962 and returned it to McCloud, where it helped the #25 lead the first steam powered railfan excursion of the modern era to Pondosa and back on 9 June 1962. Then, in the spring of 1994 Trains Unlimited Tours arranged to have the #19 return to McCloud again for special excursions over the McCloud Railway Company that set the stage for that road's tourist and railfan operations. McCloud Railway's diesel #39 pushed the #19 to Burney and back on Saturday, 30 April, but the next day the engine put on a spectacular show when it pulled the passenger consist from McCloud to Hambone by itself before returning light to McCloud. The enormous success of that trip prompted much speculation that it would be repeated in the future, but the trip proved to be a one-time event. However, it paved the way for the return of the #25 and the #18 in the forthcoming years.