Most of these photos were taken in the mid 1990s when I lived in Mt. Shasta, California. My apartment was about half a mile from the McCloud's line as it entered/left the town of Mt. Shasta, and I used to love hearing the naturally aspirated locomotives with their staccato exhaust rhythm as they pulled their train up the grade out of town. I wish my photo skills were better back then in the film camera days.
The history of the McCloud River Railroad/McCloud Railway is a long one, and it saddens me that they ended up becoming just another fallen flag with the closure and abandonment of the railroad. The dinner trains and occasional steam excursions were not enough to keep the company afloat after most all the mills had closed, leaving too little traffic to keep the line open.
The last customers on the line were Sprint Reload in McCloud, where boxcar loads of paper were warehoused and transferred to trucks for delivery at a large publishing company in Reno, Nevada, and a diatomaceous earth mine, Dicalite Corporation, which had a reloading facility on a siding at Cayton (map location). With the closure of the McCloud Railway, Dicalite Corporation began transporting the material to a new reload on the BNSF at Nubieber, California (map location), some 40 miles to the southeast of their plant.
Visit mccloudriverrailroad.com for Jeff Moore's excellent history and photographs of the McCloud Railroad.
From time to time, the railroad hosted steam excursions. In 1994, the Blue Goose (Yreka Western Railroad's number 19, which was formerly McCloud's 19) was ferried to Mt. Shasta from Montague in consist in a Southern Pacific freight train, under steam but not providing any motive power, and spent a weekend working on the McCloud, pulling an excursion train for Trains Unlimited Tours.
In 1997, locomotive 25 had been refurbished and also ran several excursion trains out of Mt. Shasta.
Freight: Mt. Shasta, CA
Dinner Train, Bartle, CA
The Pondosa branch used to serve a sawmill at Pondosa, California (map location). After the mill closed, part of the Pondosa branch was removed in the 1980's and what was left was used to store per diem McCloud River Railroad boxcars (see Jeff Moore's website mentioned at the top of this page to read about the "Itel era"). Eventually, the cars were removed and the bridge that crossed Highway 89 was as well.
These photos show all that remained of the Pondosa branch near the end of the McCloud Railway's history.
Hambone Branch to Lookout Junction
The Hambone branch began at a wye just east of Bartle at a location called "Santa Claus." The south leg of the wye lead to Burney, CA, and the north leg headed through the wilderness through a place called Hambone to eventually meet the BNSF at Lookout Junction. The line from Hambone to Lookout Junction was owned by the BNSF, but a maintenence agreement with the McCloud Railroad allowed McCloud's trains access to Lookout Junction. In 2008, the tracks came up as part of the abandonment of the McCloud Railway.