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The Eureka Southern - The North Coast Daylight

by Chris Guenzler

This line was sparked in my mind by a picture in Journey to Amtrak on page 17 of the lone SP RDC acting as the Northwestern Pacific's Redwood crossing the Eel River at South Fork. It was an image that lived on in my mind for years. The SP sold the line on November 1, 1984 and within two years returned passenger service to the fabled Eel River Canyon.

A trip to photograph the Eureka Southern North Coast Daylight

In July of 1986 Bill Compton and I took a trip up to Willits to see the Eureka Southern and California Western in action.

On the way to Willits we stopped at Stockton at the California Central Traction and caught their S-1 42.

Also there was their RS-1 80. We drove from there to Santa Rosa for the night. The next morning we drove to Willits.

The Skunk Train getting ready to leave Willits.

Friday morning July 4th, 1986 we caught the California Western Skunk Train leaving Willits.

California Western RS-12 was power for the train at Willits. We drove to Fort Bragg to catch the California Western Steam Super Skunk getting ready to leave.

The Super Skunk ready to depart for North Spur.

California Western 2-6-2 45 dressed up for the holiday. From Fort Bragg we returned to Willits to scout out locations for the next day chase of the North Coast Daylight.

We found some good photo locations and at Dos Rios found some ex California Western power privately owned and stored. The one above is S-12 57

The other engine was S-12 53. After this we returned to Willits.

The Skunk had returned from its afternoon run. With that we called it a day. The next morning we were ready for a chase.

North Coast Daylight preparing to depart Willits.

Eureka Southern GP-38 33.

A very great looking emblem.

The Redwood Coast Dome which was used only in the first season.

We went to Outlet Creek and waited for the North Coast Daylight to arrive.

The track returned to Highway 101 at Arnold.

We went a few miles north up Highway 101 and turned off at Longvale where we caught the train again.

Our last pictures were taken at Farley just south of Dos Rios. From here we left the North Coast Daylight as it headed north through the wild Eel River Canyon and onto Eureka.

The 1987 Trip to Ride the North Coast Daylight

Flimsies magazine had the ad in one of the issues so my parents, Jeff and myself decided all to take it over Labor Day Weekend 1987. Jeff and I drove up by ourselves and met my parents in Willits in the morning having stayed at the Skunk Motel the night before.

We all boarded the all daylight painted train with the Eureka Southern GP-38 31 as our power in the yard to the north across the street from the California Western Depot. We left on time and pulled north through the yard in Willits in the Little Lake Valley. We crossed Highway 101 at the north end of town before reaching Outlet and followed Outlet creek down to the Eel River at Farley. We will cross this creek twelve times. We traveled through Maple Grove before we ran over a sharply curved shoofly around the damaged Tunnel 11. Off to the right was a derailed box car left along the track. Our flanges really squealed as we went over that trackage. In the shadow of the Redwood trees we made our way to Arnold before passing through the 881.2 foot Tunnel 12. We ducked under Highway 101 before reaching Longvale and crossing Outlet Creek for the last time.

Views along the way. Adding to the scenes is a smoky sky almost an orange color at times from wild fires further to the north in the state of California. With the Shimmin Ridge to the east we traveled down the canyon through Tunnel 13 to Farley where the Eel River joined us. We traveled onward through Tunnel 14 and 15 to Dos Rios where we left the paved roads behind. We have a top speed of forty where track conditions allow for it but will be restricted to five miles per hour in spots along the route. It was going to be a long but most beautiful trip. Adding to the scenes is a smoky sky almost an orange color at times from wild fires further to the north in the state of California. We headed northward through Indian Springs and Deer Lodge before coming to Tunnel 17 prior to Woodman with Windy Ridge to the southeast and Eurbell Ridge to the northeast. The countryside on these drier slopes is oak with dry grasses. We traveled through Tunnels 18 and 20 over some very questionable track between the two. More cars are located down along the river a common sight I would see all along this trip.

More views along the way. The tracks curve with the river so there is very little sections of straight track. We passed through Nashmead before passing through Tunnels 21 and 22 that led us to Spyrock, with the rock itself on the other side of the river. We continued north slowly through Tunnel 23 into Bell Springs, the old time ranch station. We made our way above the Eel River through Richards to Tunnel 24 then by Two Rocks into Island Mountain where we were allowed to detrain while we waited for the southbound Eureka Southern freight train. This allowed for a picture of our train before setting up at the bridge over the Eel River.

Our train at Island Mountain.

The freight would come out of the 4,313.1 foot Tunnel 27 and onto the bridge.

Eureka Southern GP-38 30.

The trains meet before I reboarded the North Coast Daylight.

177 Days

Trains are not the only thing to use Tunnel 27 as a huge flood Christmas Week 1964 when a 100 year flood of over 50 inches of rain during that week destroyed the bridge here and sent water through the tunnel which is about 84 feet above the river as the water rose above the tunnel entrance. The torrent of water carrying logs inflected damage all along the route. There were airborne rails all through the canyon. 100 miles of rails were swept away by the waters of the Eel River. One third of the Northwestern Pacific would need to be rebuilt. The Island Mountain Bridge lost two trusses, a span girdle and a pier. The Cain Rock Bridge was severely damaged and the South Fork Bridge lost two truss spans and a pier. A call went out to Morrison Knudsen to rebuild the line. Machines were taken off projects from all over the west to be bought in to rebuild the railroad through the Eel River Canyon. Thirty miles of new access road had to be built to get the smaller machines in to do the job. The line when built in 1915 took four years to build the 106 miles through the canyon. The workers just needed 177 days to rebuild the line and on June 16th, 1965 the Northwestern Pacific was reopened for business.

Back to 1987

We all reboarded and took our turn going over the bridge and through the longest tunnel on the railroad. A few minutes after the time in the darkness of the 413.1 foot Tunnel 27 the passage through Tunnel 28 just seemed like a blink of your eyes at only 263.8 feet. We passed through Kekewaka before plunging into Tunnel 29 and four miles later crossing Hamann Gulch before arriving at Cain Rock. We passed by the Golden Spike location at MP 206.4 where the NWP was completed on October 23, 1914. We crossed the Eel River on the Cain Rock Bridge before we made a big turn at Alderpoint, a small community located on the bluff above the tracks. We passed through Tunnel 30 before Steelhead and entered Tunnel 31 prior to Fort Seward where the station building still stands and we stopped to load the box lunches. We crossed over Brock Creek then ran by Eel Rock and into Tunnel 34 prior to reaching Smith. Tunnels 35 and 36 were next then the locations of Morani, Sequoia and McCann were traveled through as we were dwarfed by the Redwood trees. We went through Camp Grant before we reached South Fork where we crossed the Eel River on a long three span truss bridge. About four miles later we crossed Larabee Creek and Bridge Creek before we plunged through Tunnel 37 to reach Shively. Tunnel number 38 was next before we passed the former locations of Camp Nine and Elinor ducking under Highway 101 before we reached Scotia where Eureka Southern 33 rested with a local for next week. We passed along the company town of the Pacific Lumber Company that operates a railroad on its grounds. We ducked once more under 101 crossing Nanning Creek before the train slowed for the passage along the Scotia Bluffs, the maintenance headache on the entire railroad. The soft nature of the soil may slide at any time. The train took it really easy along the bluffs. We passed the location of Stone with Rio Dell across the Eel River, went by the location of the historic town of Metropolitan before we arrived at Alton where the Carlotta Branch took off. We went through Rohnerville and Fortuna whose railroad depot is a museum followed by Fernbridge and Loleta. We passed through the final tunnel of the trip, the 1946.7 foot long Tunnel 40 before passing Table Bluff and the south end of Humboldt Bay. We ran through Beatrice, South Bay and Bucksport before we entered Eureka and pulled to a stop at the Old Town Station at 1st and F Streets, thus ending a very interesting journey.

We all detrained with myself taking a few pictures before Jeff and I walked to the Comfort Inn for the night. We had dinner and I found a liquor store, so I was all set for the night.

9/6/87 We returned to the train the next morning and took the very relaxing trip back to Willits. The train rolled south as I enjoyed the early morning along Humboldt Bay and along the Eel River.

Later we slowly passed the very unstable Scotia Bluff.

At Scotia we ran by Eureka Southern locomotive 33 on a log train.

Views between Scotia and Fort Seward.

The Fort Seward Station.

Another view of the Eel River Canyon.

View of a derailed box car.

We passed the northbound freight at Island Mountain.

A scene of a derailment where a shoefly was built around the spot.

Derailed cars left along the bank of the Eel River.


Tunnel 11 had caught on fire so the fire had to be put out by bulldozing both ends to cut off the flow of fresh air. The railroad then built a shoefly around this tunnel. We made our way back to Willits ending a great train ride aboard the North Coast Daylight.

The Eureka Southern Caboose 51.

CCT RS-1 80 and S-1 42 were both now here in Willits plus the Cal Western S-12's from Dos Rios.

The California Western Skunk train came into Willits so Jeff and I shot it to our hearts content.

California Western RS-11 62.

After unloading the Skunk the train was put away for the night.

Next the Eureka Southern train was put away until next weekend. We stayed the night and heading home the next day via Tehachapi.

Southern Pacific 9256 East at Woodford. After a great trip we then headed home and I will always have great memories of the Eureka Southern.