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Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad Trip 8/14/2014

by Chris Guenzler

We detrained from the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway Beach Train and walked over to the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad train for our trip on that railroad here in Felton. But first, let us go back to this morning when I walked to the Engine House.

The Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad Engine House.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad 2 truck Shay 1 "Dixiana" built by Lima in 1912 as standard gauge 3 for the Alaculsy Lumber Company in Conasauga, Tennessee then sold to the Atlanta, Georgia dealer Southern Iron & Equipment in 1919 and became Smoky Mountain Railroad 3 at the W. M. Ritter Lumber Company, in Proctor, North Carolina, where it was converted to 36" gauge. It moved to McClure, Virginia before being sold to the Coal Processing Corporation in Dixiana, Virginia, in 1938. In 1958, F. Norman Clark found the engine abandoned near a coal mine in Virginia. He bought it in 1962..

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad Heisler 2 "Tuolumne" built by Stearns Manufacturing in 1899 as West Side Flume & Lumber Company 3 at Tuolumne, California then in 1900, was transferred to Hetch-Hetchy & Yosemite Valley Railway Company 3 "Thomas S. Bullock. In a 1925 corporate sale, it became Pickering Lumber 3, then another corporate sale in 1934 sent it to Westside Lumber 3 and was sold to the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad in 1963.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees 12 ton switcher 40 built in 1958 by the Plymouth Locomotive Works in Plymouth, Ohio, which worked for Kaiser Steel in Fontanta, California, where it was 1021, and was acquired by Roaring Camp in 1978, coming from Bear Mountain. This pulls out the steam engine on steam trip days. Behind the shop were two more engines.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad 2 truck Shay 6 built by Lima in 1912 as Elk & Little Kanawha Railroad Company 7 at Gassaway, West Virginia. It was sold to dealer Wilkoff & Company then in 1919, sold to Big Sandy & Cumberland Railroad 7 at Hurley, West Virginia. In 1923, it was transferred to W.M. Ritter Lumber Company 7 at Hurley and moved to Daisy, Kentucky five years later. In 1960, the lumber company was merged with Georgia-Pacific Corporation and a year later, was part of a corporate sale to Stewart Lumber Company. In 1965, it was sold to George Morrison and in 1990, came to Felton as Roaring Camp & Big Trees 6.

Elk River Mill and Lumber Company 2 truck Climax 5 built by the company in 1928 and named "Bloomsburg". In 1959, Elk River Coal & Lumber was bought by the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company, which merged into the Georgia-Pacific Corporation the following year. In 1963, 3 was sold to Carroll Stahl to run on the tourist Carroll Park & Western Railroad in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. The railroad closed in 1972 and 3 was sold to the Roaring Camp in 1977.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad Wooden box car. Now, back to the present.


Roaring Camp Railroads operations began in 1963 under the guidance of F. Norman Clark (1935-1985), who was the founder and owner. His purpose was to keep a family tradition of constructing railroads and to "bring the romance and color of steam railroading back to America." In 1958, Clark found the engine "Dixiana" abandoned near a coal mine in the Appalachian Mountains; he described as looking like a "rusty pile of junk". "Dixiana" was reconditioned and began service in 1963 on rails that had been shipped around Cape Horn in 1881. The railway route was laid out so that as few trees as possible would have to be cut on the 170 acres Clark acquired with a 99-year lease of the larger Big Trees Ranch.

The Big Trees Ranch was bought in 1867 by San Francisco businessman Joseph Warren Welch to preserve the giant redwood trees from logging. It was the first property in the state acquired specifically for that purpose. In 1930, the Welch family sold part of the property to Santa Cruz County which eventually became part of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

The first scheduled train trip was on April 6, 1963 with 44 ticketed passengers.

Clark's wife, Georgiana, Vice President of Operations assumed the ownership and management responsibilities following his death on December 2, 1985.

Originally, two large trestles formed a "corkscrew" loop at Spring Canyon but these were destroyed by a 1976 fire; the smoke from which could be seen from San Francisco. Within six months, a switchback was constructed to bypass the severed loop and the entire line was returned to service. The switchback has an estimated 9.5% grade, making it the steepest passenger grade still in use. The length of the tail tracks in the switchback restricts the trains that may be operated to six cars or fewer. Special events are held to raise funds for repair and reconstruction of the trestles and steam locomotives at Roaring Camp. In 2003, the first "Day Out With Thomas" (Thomas The Tank Engine) special event was held and was the single-largest in the 40-year history of Roaring Camp, with an estimated 25,000 participants over a three-day period.

The Trip

As I waited for the steam train to come back off Bear Mountain, I enjoyed watching the handcar riders going back and forth in front of my photo location here in Felton.

My first time photographing a Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad train.

I joined my mother who was wheelchair lifted up onto the train and sat on the right side of the car, which was full of special needs camp children so I felt right at home with them as I have worked with children like that for years.

The train departed the Roaring Camp station.

Strting to turn onto the lower loop track that leads to Bear Mountain.

Starting on the lower loop track.

The train ran by caboose 501 on display.

On the lower loop track.

The interior of our car.

The track which will return us to the station at the end of the trip.

McSkunk Jct.

Up into the forest we go.

We ran by Big Trees.

The train headed out onto the curved trestle across Indian Creek. Do not worry if you miss pictures on the right side of the train since it loops at the top of the mountain to give you the great pictures on the way back down to Roaring Camp. We ran through Grizzly Flats before the real climb began.

The train started up the nine percent grade on this unique railroad.

Scene as we climbed the grade.

Working up this steep grade.

I love the forest views. My first trip on this railroad was back in the kindergarten days of my youth.

Continuing to climb the grade.

A woodrat nest.

A nice feature of this steam trip is seeing the engine through the open air cars in the front of the train.

Fallen trees are very common in redwood forests.

The train ran through Deer Valley.

Our train is climbing towards Spring Canyon.

This tree attracts red headed woodpeckers who only peck holes in this particular redwood tree in this forest. The reason they peck is to hide their food of acorns, grubs, insects and any other junk they can find which they let mature before they eat it. The train had now almost reached the switchback at Spring Canyon.

The train starts up the switchback by reversing itself up the grade.

The middle level of the switchback that we will next climb over. This switchback was put in after a fire caused by arson set the Corkscrew Trestle ablaze on June 27, 1976, smoke from which could be seen as far away as San Francisco.

Part of the old Corkscrew Trestle still stands today which I rode over as a child.

Another view of the old Corkscrew Trestle.

The upper level of the switchback that our engine will pull us forward over.

The middle level switch.

The train took a curve as it climbed up Bear Mountain.

Looking down on the old Corkscrew Trestle.

Downed trees always amaze me!

A trail sign.

Still climbing the grade to Bear Mountain.

More views of the Redwood forest on Bear Mountain.

The train has reached Westside Jct, the start of the Summit Loop.

The train started around the Summit Loop.

This is the track we return from the summit of Bear Mountain.

We arrived at Bear Mountain and passengers are allowed off for pictures or a restroom break.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad 2 truck Shay 1 "Dixiana" certainly looked good here.

Our train before we departed back down the mountain to Roaring Camp.

Our train was leaving Bear Mountain.

The view all the way across the Felton Valley.

The track we came up to Bear Mountain on.

Forest view on the way back.

Another view of the old Corkscrew Trestle.

The middle level of the switchback tracks.

The bottom level track.

We had returned to Spring Canyon.

The old Corkscrew Trestle on the return trip.

Another look across the valley.

Heading down the switchback.

The lower level of the switchback below us.

Views of the train on the curved trestle across Indian Creek.

The engine did a blow down twice before we returned to Roaring Camp.

The lower loop track on which we had started the trip.

The Duck Pond.

A wood carving on a porch.

The train arrived back at Roaring Camp and I detrained, found my mother's walker and handed it up to her in the last train car then walked back to the car but stopped for a few pictures.

The train taking water from the Roaring Camp water tower. If you want to spend a great day of train riding on two very unique trains, come to Roaring Camp and ride both the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway and Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad. You will really enjoy both train trips.

I visited the General Store for a book and postcard for my mother then walked her over to the Big Trees and Pacific tracks. I then retrieved the car and reversed it to her to pick her up. We left Felton but took Graham Hill Road and then CA Highway 1 north to Half Moon Bay, where we filled the car. I spotted a caboose and we decided to get dinner there.

We ate dinner at the Daddy-O's to Go where you stand outside and order to the chef in this caboose which is a Southern Pacific C-40-3 caboose built in 1942.

From here we returned to CA Highway I then Skyline Drive to Sloat Boulevard to the Great Highway, which we took by the Cliff House then turned onto Geary Boulevard then north on CA Highway 1, to US 101 across the foggy Golden Gate Bridge north to San Rafael and our stay at Henry's house. It is always fantastic to see him and spent Thursday night there.

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