Facebook Page
McCloud Rails - Passenger Operations: Steam Locomotive #18

McCloud Rails : Passenger Operations:

Steam Locomotive #18

(Untitled-015.jpg) Photo by Alicia Moore

McCloud River Railroad locomotive #18 was ordered new from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1914. The machine is construction number 41709 and cost $16,871.79. The #18 was a standard 90-ton logging Mikado (2-8-2 type locomotive, indicating 2 pilot wheels, 8 driving wheels, and 2 trailing wheels). The locomotive was to have a brief career as a showgirl before settling down to life on the McCloud.---Three California lumber companies (the McCloud River Lumber Company, the Weed Lumber Company of Weed, and the Red River Lumber Company of Westwood) all teamed together in 1915 to put on a show for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. The three lumber companies built a special house completely out of the products of their sawmills to showcase their products, including a fireplace constructed entirely of volcanic rock from northeastern California. The McCloud companies provided a display train for the event, consisting of the #18, a boxcar of lumber from the McCloud mill, two log cars loaded with the finest examples of old-growth Ponderosa Pine the McCloud woods had to offer, and a caboose.

The machine returned from the exposition and settled down to a long career hauling logs, lumber, and anything else offered to it on the McCloud rails. When the first diesel arrived in 1948 the #18 was one of 14 steam locomotives on the property (8 Mikados on the mainline, 6 2-6-2 (called Prairies) on the log lines). By 1954 the work formerly done by 14 steam locomotives was being accomplished by 5 diesel locomotives (2 additional diesels were purchased in 1955 to help out with increased tonnage created by the completion of the Burney line). The #18 was stored and offered for sale or scrap.---Meanwhile, the neighboring Yreka Western Railroad (built in 1889 to connect the Siskiyou County seat of Yreka with the Southern Pacific mainline at Montague) was searching for heavier motive power. The Yreka road purchased two steam locomotives from the McCloud, the #19 (a near twin to the #18,but purchased used by the McCloud in 1924) in 1953 and the #18 in 1956. The two locomotives were the primary power on the Yreka Western for only two years before the Yreka road purchased a used diesel. The diesel took over the most of the day-to-day duties of keeping the small road going, but the management decided to keep both steam locomotives around to haul frequent passenger excursions and to run the railroad when the diesel went down for maintenance.

The two steam locomotives operated frequently until 1964, when the #18 blew a cylinder head while double-heading a special passenger excursion with the #19. The YW lacked the money and the shop forces to repair the damage, so the #18 sat under a tarp in the Yreka yards for many years. The #19 finally left the Yreka Western in 1970 when it was sent to a tourist railroad operating out of Cottage Grove, Oregon. The #19 stayed in Oregon until it was returned to Yreka for passenger excursion service in 1989.---The #18 stayed underneath it's tarp, slowly rusting away. The owners of the YW occasionally talked about restoring the machine and sending it to an affiliated tourist railroad in Arizona, but nothing came of those plans. The owners of the YW ended up putting the railroad up for sale in early 1998, but the #18 was to be sold separately. An auction was held for the #18, and the successful bidder was the McCloud Railway Company. The #18 returned home to McCloud in March of 1998.

Over the next several years the locomotive underwent a major re-build and restoration in the McCloud Railway's shops. Newspaper reports tell that the McCloud Railway paid $80,000 for the locomotive and poured an additional $350,000 into the restoration. After numerous delays the locomotive was finally placed back in service in February of 2001, just in time for a special snow trip sponsored by a railfan club. The #18 operated several times each year between 2001 and 2005. However, financial problems on the railroad forced the sale of the #18, and in January 2005 the news broke that the locomotive had been sold to the Virginia & Truckee Restoration Committee, which is re-building the former V&T between Carson City and Virginia City, Nevada. The #18 ran its last trip on the McCloud be the last use of the #18 on the McCloud on Sunday 7 August 2005. The #18 remained in storage in McCloud through mid-April 2007, when it moved to Oakdale, CA, for use on the Sierra Railroad operations out of that community. The #18 finally moved to the V&T in mid-summer 2010; however, after a short period of operations the #18 moved again, this time to the Fillmore & Western Railroad for use in filming the movie Water for the Elephants, after which it again returned to Virginia City. The locomotive is due to become V&T #31 and should be a fixture on that operation for years to come.