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California Western Super Skunk Trip August 1974

by Chris Guenzler

I was going through some of my father's old slides and came across a trip I took on the California Western back in August of 1974 with our family. I combined my old California Western pictures with his so now I will tell you the story of this long lost trip. This trip was part of a month long vacation taken that year in our Ford Camper where we would stay in campgrounds each night. The night before the trip we stayed at Gualala River Redwood Park then drove to Fort Bragg the next morning. Once we parked I walked across the street and walked over to the California Western Engine House.

California Western S-12 53 at the engine house at Fort Bragg.

Another shot of CWRR 53 passing the water tower in Fort Bragg. Next the California Western 45 came passing the water tank.

The California Western 2-8-2 45 passes the water tower in Fort Bragg before heading to the front of the Super Skunk Train. This engine was built for the Brownlee-Olds Lumber Company of Medford, Oregon. Purchased from the firm's successor, the Medford Company in 1964 and rebuilt to begin Super Skunk Train service.

The train is now ready for boarding. My Father picked up the tickets for our family and soon we boarded a coach for the round trip to Willits. At 8:00 AM the train whistled off and soon crossed California Highway 1 and headed out of town. The train followed Pudding Creek out of Fort Bragg out to Glen Blair Jct. Our train passed through 122 foot long Tunnel 1. Coming out of that we made our first crossing of the Noyo River. After a few bends in the Noyo River we made our second crossing of the Noyo River. The Redwood Trees were tall and beautiful. The train followed the north bank of the Noyo River.

Rolling along the Noyo River. The line twisted and turned climbing through the Redwood Forest gaining elevation as we followed the Noyo River.

Two more views along the Noyo River. Our train passed through Redwood Lodge and then Grove. We followed the Noyo River through Camps Three, Four and Noyo before we came to Alpine. I was truly impressed by the size and statue of the Redwood Trees along our route. Camp seven was next before we reached Noyo Lodge before we arrived into Northspur a stop where we could get off for a few minutes.

Our train at Northspur before the engine took water from the water tower here. Northspur with an elevation of 322 feet and from here to the Summit our train will climb 1,418 feet. The train continued to follow the streams through Irmulco and onto Shake City at 560 feet. From Shake City the line climbs a 2.6 per cent grade passing through Horseshoe Curve and Crowley Loop. Great views of both ends of the train could be seen as we passed through this area. We climbed out of the Redwood Trees into a zone of grass and Oak Trees. Just before reaching the summit, the track passes through the 790 foot Tunnel 2. Once past Summit, the line drops down a grade that reaches 3 percent at some points. Just outside of Willits our route crossed US Highway 101. Our tracks turned north along the Southern Pacific before our train reached the Willits Station. Our train passed the station and went to turn on the wye at Willits. The train returned to the Willits Station and paused for a few minutes before we headed back to Fort Bragg. It had been a most wonderful trip aboard the California Western Railroad. From Fort Bragg we drove north on CA 1 to US 101 and stayed the night at Richardson Grove State Park.