The McCloud River Railroad and the Bartle Water Tower

I headed north out of my caboose digs in Dunsmuir to Highway 88 and the town of McCloud.

McCloud was the epicenter for the logging railroad, the McLoud River Railroad (later to become the McCloud Railroad). Much of the ninety miles of track has now been removed and the railroad bed is slowly being converted into a hiking and biking trail called the Great Shasta Rail Trail.

I wanted to get out on the trail and to see what was left of the railroad; quite a bit as I was soon to find out. One section of the trail that I wanted to visit was east of McCloud near the small collection of buildings at Bartle.

It was here that there was once a 25,000 gallon water tower built in 1933. This tower served as a watering stop for the McCloud’s steam locomotives. The water tower was filmed in a beautiful crane shot in the 1986 film, Stand By Me. In the scene, the four boys are walking east down the railroad and the leaky Bartle water tower is on the left.

The film’s director, Rob Reiner, called this shot “one of my favorites in the whole film.”

Still from Stand By Me (1986) with the water tank at Bartle. The red volcanic rock ballast of the rail bed says, “McCloud River Railroad”.

In 2020, the large water tower is gone, it collapsed in July of 2011. Half of the stand that the tower stood on is still by the side of the former railroad bed. I pulled out my sketching stool and stretched what was left of the tower.

This is all that is left of the 25,000 gallon Bartle Water Tower. The railbed is graded in distinctive red volcanic rock of the McCloud Railroad.

After sketching the remains of the Bartle Water Tower, I headed back along Highway 88 to McCloud. I wanted to see what was left of the McCloud Railroad. The company had abandoned most of it’s tracks by 2006. I had a vague idea that the rail yard was in the northern part of town.

After a search, I came upon a railroad grade crossing. I pulled over and hiked up the tracks and I was unprepared for what I was about to discover.

This was any rail fans’s dream: having an abandoned rail yard all to yourself!

This was the only engine that I was able to find in the McCloud yard. A Baldwin S-12 that the railroad bought new in 1953. It was numbered 30 but now bears the number 203 because it was sold to a railroad in Washington State. It also worked in Pittsburg, Ca at the U.S. Steel Plant before returning to it’s original home in McCloud.
Spare rail car wheels in the foreground and freight cars in the background. The 1957 shop building is to the right.
This is one of two short length cabooses that was purchased new by the railroad in 1962. Both cabooses numbers 101 and 102 are still in the abandoned railroad yard. I believe this is the caboose that is featured in the famous Lake Britton Bridge scene in Stand By Me.
There are still rails left on the McCloud Railroad. This is the set of tracks in Shasta City as it joins the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific) mainline. This is either the beginning or the end of the McCloud River Railroad. Rail still exist from here to McCloud. This section of the track was used by the now defunct Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. There are future plans to use this track for car storage.

A special thanks to railroad author Jeff Moore who helped give me information about the past and present of the McCloud Railroads. I highly recommend his Acadia Publishing book Rails Around McCloud. His website about the McCloud is:

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