McCloud Rails : Passenger Operations
Early passenger operations on the McCloud River Railroad...locomotive #12 and coach #01 at
Bartle. Photo courtesy of Heritage Junction Museum of McCloud, Inc.
Up until recently, passengers were never a very important part of the McCloud River
operations. The railroad did maintain a two or three car fleet of passenger equipment
in the early years, and the line did offer regular passenger service from Mt. Shasta City
through McCloud to Bartle up until the mid-1930’s. The railroad eventually
replaced steam train service with it’s own subsidiary bus line. The railroad
converted its original passenger equipment to caboose or work service in 1939.
The railroad did operate a special excursion program through it’s entire history.
Special excursions were operated for special trade and industry groups, and holidays
such as the Fourth of July were always cause to run a special train. Excursion operated
for the benefit of railfans appeared on the railroad in 1948. Scattered excursions
continued to be run after the end of regular passenger operations, cumulating with the
grand excursions the railroad ran in early July of 1955 to celebrate the completion of
the Burney extension. July 3rd of that year saw three special trains run to Burney,
using all six of the railroad’s new diesels plus steam locomotive #25, one of
the last operating steam locomotives on the property. The highlight of the trip was
the #25 tearing through a large paper banner welcoming the railroad to the Burney Basin.
#18 with one of the first railfan excursions the railroad ran about to cross Bear Creek
on the Pondosa Branch. Travis Berryman collection.
The railroad’s management once again thought about passengers as the 1960’s
dawned. The #25 was still on the property, and the railroad’s president Flake
Willis was receiving numerous letters from railfans seeking to see the locomotive run
again. Many steam operations were in operation all over the west, and McCloud management
became convinced that a similar operation would work on their railroad. Steam locomotive
#25 was restored to service in 1962, and from then until 1975 it operated a steadily in
excursion service over the railroad. Declining interest and rising costs spelled an end
to the passenger operations.
Excursions returned for a brief period between 1982 and 1986 in a partnership that the
railroad developed with the Great Western Railroad Museum. This return to steam was
limited to three or four outings a year. The railroad did operate sporadic excursions
for local school or other civic groups as well. One special passenger trip was run
during 1986 for executives of Dicalite Corporation, who were in negotiations at the
time to start shipping their products out over McCloud rails.
The McCloud River Railroad and then the McCloud Railway Company were freight-only
operations up until 1994. That year Trains Unlimited Tours of Portola, CA, organized
a special weekend of excursions over the road, the first to operate since the spring
of 1986. Trains Unlimited brought a former McCloud River steam locomotive #19 from
nearby Yreka, CA, for two days worth of excursions. Saturday 30 April saw the #19
operate from McCloud to Burney and return with a photo freight train and a couple
of passenger cars tacked onto the end. Power for that day was provided mostly by
the railroad’s diesel #39 pushing from the rear. Sunday 1 May saw the #19
operate solo with the passenger consist from McCloud to Hambone, where the train
was overtaken by a Lookout-bound freight train that picked up the passenger cars
to complete the Hambone-Lookout-McCloud trip. The excursion was a complete sell-out,
and many more people showed up to chase the excursion. That event showed the McCloud
Railway management that the potential for passenger operations over the road was
Steam locomotive #25 drawing water from the Bartle tank during one of the 1960-era
excursions. Photo courtesy of Heritage Junction Museum of McCloud, Inc.
The next excursions came in the summer of 1995 when a citizen’s group in
Burney organized special excursions out of Burney to take place on the Memorial
Day and Fourth of July holidays. The excursions were also complete successes, further
demonstrating the potential of passenger operations.
The McCloud Railway Company decided in to enter the excursion business for itself. By
this point it had three excursion flatcars on the roster. By the fall of 1995 the railroad
had purchased seven heavyweight passenger cars, and the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train was
created to handle the passenger operations. The dinner train went into operation on
1 June 1996, and at about the same time the line started regular excursions as well.
Steam power returned to the railroad in 1997. The #25 returned to the railroad
ownership in January of 1996 and was restored to service in time to operate a series
of excursions over the railroad during Labor Day weekend of 1997. The #25 was joined
by another McCloud steam locomotive, the #18, in mid-1998. Restoration of the #18
was completed by February of 2001, and it operated a special double-headed excursion
with the #25 on Washington’s Day holiday.
The Shasta Sunset Dinner Train continued to operate year 'round on Saturday nights, with Thursday and Friday
night trips added during the spring and summer months. A diesel powered excursion train also ran to Signal Butte
and return in the afternoons before each dinner train. The steam program remained strong through the end of
2004, when financial problems forced the sale of the #18. The #25 remained in unserviceable storage in McCloud
until the summer of 2007, when a move production company leased the locomotive and returned it to service,
complete with a lot of garish alterations, for a potential movie project; however, the movie work fell
through, and in the summer of 2008 the railroad severed its relationship with the movie company and
started work to return the #25 to its normal appearance. The #25 operated what should be the final steam
excursions over the railroad in October and November 2008, after which the railroad placed the locomotive
up for sale. The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad purchased the #25 in February 2011 and moved it
to Garibaldi, OR, the following March.
The following links will take you to pictures of different aspects of the passenger operations.