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The Red Goose

I returned to the former McCloud River Railroad to find an abandoned relic from it’s railroading past.

To get to this railroad relic, I had to travel 13 miles east of the town of McCloud. I parked off the Highway 89 and I hiked a quarter mile west on the former right of way of the McCloud River Railroad. The rails and ties have now been removed and the right of way is now the Great Shasta Rail Trail.

I did have assistance in finding this relic from author Jeff Moore, who is the expert on the history of the McCloud River Railroad. He is the author of two books about the railroad, including the definitive The McCloud River Railroads and he was very generous in helping me find the Red Goose and telling me the history of the lumber camp at Kinyon.

Kinyon was built as a lumber camp in 1951 by the McCloud River Lumber Company and it was the last lumber camp the company built. The tract of trees they where harvesting at the time did not have logging roads to access the trees but there was the railroad which was how they transported the loggers from the camp at Kinyon to the trees they were harvesting.

When the McCloud River Lumber company was bought by US Plywood in 1963, Kinyon was abandoned and all the building were destroyed. But they did not know know what to do with the Red Goose so they put it at the very end of one of the camp spurs and left it and so it remains to this day. Now I had to try and find it.

The path began to curve to the left and once the trail straightened out again I would be looking to my left, through the trees for a reddish hotdog-shaped vehicle on wheels.

After walking on the on the trail a short time I spotted The Red Goose through the trees. I headed down the embankment and followed a trail for about 50 yards I stood before the rusted railroad relic!

The door up to the Red Goose. To the right is the cab and to the left is the passenger section.
Inside the cab of the Red Goose. The engine block is just visible.

The Red Goose was built in the early 1930s at the railroad shops at Ponderosa. The Goose was powered by the engine block of a Caterpillar 60 gas powered tractor. She was built as a rail car to transport loggers to from logging camps out to the forested areas where they were harvesting lumber.

The Red Goose now sits alone and abandoned in the former logging camp of Kinyon. She sits on track that barely extends beyond her front, isolated in time and space from the former line that would had taken her to the headquarters of the railroad, 13 miles west, in McCloud.

After sitting out in the open for 60 years, you can still see some of the red paint that gave the car her nickname. Surprisingly the car’s exterior is really devoid of graffiti and the body seems to be in fair shape, except for the rear roof that is caved in from carrying snow loads for 60 winters.

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McCloud Caboose # 101

In Dunsmuir, I stayed in two different cabooses at the Railroad Park Resort. These cabooses had last seen service as the conductor’s mobile office over 40 years ago.

They now served a purpose in which their builders had never envisioned. A hotel room on wheels with bed, bath, and television.

When I wandered into the yard of the defunct McCloud Railroad, I was excited to see two working cabooses. These where not the repainted and refurbished cabooses that can be seen throughout the land as part of restaurants, static displays, or hotel rooms. These cabooses were the workhorses of the McCloud Railroad. They may not look sexy in their peeling paint and their faded logos but they are the real deal.

McCloud cabooses number 101 and 102 are steel custom International wide-vision types, especially built short for the railroad in 1962.

The caboose is at the end of a freight train just as they are at the end of their own railroad journey.

Seeing these rusted and damaged cabooses (101 was damaged in a yard accident in 1997) proved to be a strong metaphor for the end of the McCloud Railroad and by extension, most smaller railroads across the nation.

The McCloud yard, in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, is now a quiet and static place. No more are heard the sounds of the steam whistle, or the deep boom of a diesel. No more are heard the screech of freight cars over rails and the smell of hot brake pads.

But I returned again to look at the two remaining cabooses. A former shell of their working life. The McCloud River Railroad logo, fading away, to eventually match the rusty-orange of the caboose.

Number 102 was sitting by itself to right of the shop building next to a snow spreader 1850 “Wing and a Prayer”. I walked across the yard to the tracks that veered off to the right, which I assume lead to the east towards Bartle and the junction to Burney.

On this track was a strange consist of passenger cars that now sport a coat of graffiti and most of their windows had been smashed in. Sandwiched between these cars were a hopper car and a crane car. At the end of this motley collection of cars was McCloud River Railroad Caboose #101. The caboose was coupled to the last passenger car, as if ready for the train to leave the yard on rails that abruptly turned to red, volcanic dirt.

The McCloud logo was designed by school children. It was adopted as the companies logo just as the railroad headed into the diesel era.
Caboose # 102 sitting in the McCloud yard. This caboose was used much later that # 101 and bears the name McCloud Railway.
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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: http://mccloudriverrailroad.com/index.htm

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Stand By Me Bridge

On my last day in Lassen, I headed north through the National Park to sketch a cinematic railroad bridge. This bridge is called the Lake Britton Bridge and spans a finger of Lake Britton near Burney, California.

This bridge is featured in one of the most famous scenes in the 1986 film Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner (of All in the Family and Spinal Tap fame). Stand by Me was the third film he directed and was based on the Stephen King novella “The Body”. Reiner has also stated that Stand By Me is his favorite film. (I’m going with This is Spinal Tap.)

The plot is a “coming of age” story about four boys that go on an adventure along a railroad to look for a dead body (this is a Stephen King story after all). It featured young actors Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell (in his acting debut), and Kiefer Sutherland.

The bridge was built in 1955 on the McCloud River Railroad, primarily a logging railroad. The steel bridge is 450 feet long and is about 75 feet above the waters of Lake Britton. The bridge has now been stripped of rails and is no long in use. This part of the Burney branch was operational until 2005.

The Lake Britton Railroad Bridge is now without rails. It will someday be retrofitted as a walking trail, part of the Shasta Rail Trail. This is looking in the direction in which the train was coming.

The bridge plays a prominent role in one of the most famous sequences of the film. It was one of the few sequences, according to Reiner, that was actually storyboarded.

In the scene, the four boys come to the edge of the bridge. And they wonder when the next train is coming. They contemplate taking another route that will take much longer but will be safer. (Safer never works in cinema). Two of the boys, Chris Chambers and Teddy Duchamp, start across the bridge. The two other boys, Gordie Lachance and Vern Tessio are reluctant to start across. Well I bet you can guess where this is going.

Gordie nervously looks down the rails. No train. He stoops and places his hand on the rail, he feels no vibrations. He stands up and slowly makes his way across the bridge. Vern is crawling on his hands and knees.

Gordie again stoops to feel the rail, gripping it tightly. He looks down the bridge and sees steam exhaust billowing above the trees. He stands and in slow motion, exclaims the famous line, “TRAIN!!!!”

And you will just have to watch the movie to see if they survived the ultimate train dodge.

I pulled off Highway 89, just after crossing Lake Britton, on a dirt road heading down toward the Dusty Campground. To my right was the red dirt graded roadbed that was the former McCloud River Railroad right-away. I parked on the former railroad and headed out to the bridge.

The photo is taken close to where I sketched the bridge. Note the barrier and barbed wire to prevent Stand By Me fans from recreating the run across the bridge. That does not stop them from adding some cinematic graffiti to the landmark.
I added this to my sketch. It’s refreshing to see some graffiti that does not contain a load of four letter words, unlike the film, Stand By Me!

I picked my spot, right near the camera position in Stand By Me and I started to sketch. It was a beautiful day and the scene before was wonderful to add to my sketchbook.

Coda:

August 2, 2016 8:50 AM

On an Oregon coastal drive on Highway 101 from Astoria to Florence, I came to the small town of Garibaldi (Population 779). To my surprise, this coastal town was home to a tourist railway, the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad.

It was in the morning and I was exciting to see an engine under steam, getting ready for the day. I took a few pictures of the 2-6-2 “Prairie” Type steam locomotive as is got ready to meet it’s consist of passenger cars for it’s days work.

It was only when I looked back at these images that I realized that this steam locomotive, the former McCloud River Railroad No. 25, was the same locomotive featured in the famous Stand By Me scene filmed at the Lake Britton Bridge.

This well know locomotive was brought in an out of service over the years and headed up many railfan excursions. One such exclusion was in 1955, to celebration the opening of the Burney line. Number 25 was on point of the Golden Spike excursion from McCloud to Burney. We could surmise that No. 25 was the first steam locomotive to cross the Lake Britton Bridge.

No. 25 was sold and in 2011 she was moved from McLoud, Ca to Tillamook, Or. She is currently running on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in Garibaldi.

To think that this minor piece of cinema history, built in 1925, had not been scraped or put on static display in some park but was still a living and breathing locomotive that pulls a trainloads of passengers up the coast of Oregon really puts a smile on my face.

McCloud River Railway No. 25, under steam, getting ready for morning passenger service on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in Garibaldi, Oregon. This is the steam engine that comes barreling down on the four boys on the Lake Britton Bridge.
It is fitting that this piece of Stand By Me history ended up in Oregon because the majority of the film’s locations were filmed in Eugene, Brownsville, Junction City, and Cottage Grove, Oregon. One major difference between the novella and the film was that it’s setting was changed from Maine to Oregon.