Out on the coast of Oregon, north of Tillamook, is a 97 year old screen queen that is still riding the steel rails.
On the northern edge of Tillamook Bay, in the town of Garibaldi, is the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad . This is a tourist railroad that runs from Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach on former Southern Pacific rail.
The railroad has two steam and three diesel locomotives to pull the trains of tourists up and down the coast.
In present day, the workhorse of the railroad is the Prairie style 2-6-2 steam locomotive McCloud River Railroad No. 25.
This locomotive was the last steam locomotive that the McCloud River Railroad purchased new. It was a workhorse for the lumber railroad and was featured in films most notably in Hal Ashby’s biopic of Woody Guthrie Bound For Glory (1976) and Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me (1986). In Stand By Me, Number 25 was featured in the famous train dodge scene that was filmed on the Lake Britton Bridge on the Burney Branch of the McCloud River Railroad. At the time of filming, Number 25 was on home rail.
Number 25 came to the Oregon Coast in July 2011 and has since headed tourist trains up and down the coast.
The Row River Trail has a rich Oregon film perigee. I have previously posted about the railroad being used in Buster Keaton’s masterpiece The General. This location, then the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railroad, was used again in the summer of 1985 for a classic coming-of-age story.
But first, to really explore the trail, I needed a bike. And so it was that I stood before Rainy Peak Bicycles, five minutes before 10 AM, waiting for the shop to open. The shop, on Main Street, is a mere five blocks from the start of the Row River Trail. The shop mainly repairs bikes but because of the popularity of the Row River Trail, they have a side hustle renting bikes.
But before I go on any great, or not so great, undertaking, I draw a map. In this case, the first ten miles of the Row (rhymes with “cow”) River Trail. Here I have noted milage and some of the locations I wanted to see, such as the location collapse of the train trestle from The General, which was the single most expensive shot in silent film history. Unfortunately getting to the spot requires trespassing on private property so I was not able to sketch the scene (and I did not want to get shot in the attempt).
I started off on the trail and it was easy going because it was a railroad grade and relatively flat. The first mile or so was used for a large number of the shots in The General. The next landmark I was looking forward to seeing was at milepost 3: the Mosby Creek Bridge.
The Mosby Creek Bridge was where the adventure begins in Rob Reiner’s classic film Stand By Me (1986). Back when the movie was filmed, railroad tracks spanned the bridge that crosses Mosby Creek and the four boys walk onto the the tracks here, and cross over the bridge on their journey to look for the body of Ray Brower (the film is based on Stephan King’s novella The Body). The bridge looks very much the same as the day when production occurred here in the summer of 1985. Today the rails have been replaced with asphalt and it is now a popular hiking and biking trail.
After crossing the bridge, the Row River Trail heads east in a straight section. It was along this straight section of the railroad that the first train dodge scene was filmed in which the character Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) attempts to dodge an ongoing freight train.
I pulled over and pulled out my sketchbook and pencil bag. I stood in the middle of the the trail, assuming the perspective (and camera angle) of Teddy Duchamp, played by Corey Feldman. In 1985, he was looking down the rails to an oncoming steam freight train. The locomotive used in the shot was a 2-8-2 #19 which was built in 1915 and at the time was leased from the Yreka Western Railroad in Northern California. Luckily Teddy was pulled from the tracks by Chris, played by River Phoenix.
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.”
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.
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!
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
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 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.
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.
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.