HUMBOLDT BAY SCENIC RAILROAD - 2000
From early on in its history, the North Coast of California depended on the existence of railroads. They were the backbone of the logging industry; at one time, nearly 24 individual separate railroads criss-crossed the County of Humboldt. They provided transportation and commerce from the logging camps to the sea. For years there was a link to the outside world through the Northwestern Pacific Railroad ("NWP"). During this time, the railroad provided passenger service to the San Francisco Bay Area and freight traffic was profitable. Due to severe weather and natural disasters, this line has temporarily been all but shut down.
However, there are still resources that are part of this railroad which remain untouched by landslides and washouts. This is where the undeveloped resources for revenue and tourism presently exist. The ultimate accomplishment will be a three- to five-car steam-driven passenger tourist train running over the north portion of NWP tracks from Old Town Eureka up through Arcata and out to the Samoa Cookhouse. In addition, we envision a steam and logging museum at the old roundhouse located on Simpson property, which is in the process of being donated to an intact nonprofit organization (Logging Interpretive Museum) for this purpose.
GEOGRAPHICAL & RAILROAD RESOURCES
A rail line exists on the main route of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad from Scotia to the southern edge of Arcata and out to the community of Samoa. (See map.) There also is a branch line that runs east up into the mountains towards Carlotta.
The initial phase of this proposal begins just north of the existing Northwestern Pacific rail yards located at the south end of First Street in Eureka, not far from the old Pullman coach that the City of Eureka wants removed. The track then proceeds north up First Street past numerous businesses in Old Town. This was the main line for freight trains of "yesteryear." It was also the link to the wharf and shipping docks of Eureka, once bustling with commerce.
As we continue north, we work our way past the Carson Mansion on our right and the Adorni Center on our left. We go under the Samoa Bridge ramp, past Eureka Boiler Works and the Blue Ox Learning Center, then up and over the Eureka Slough Bridge. The track then proceeds to the east side of Humboldt Bay (Arcata) past the thriving oyster farm beds, and several miles farther we come to the world-famous Arcata Marsh and bird sanctuary on the outskirts of Arcata, the home of Humboldt State University.
From there the tracks turn west toward the community of Manila and the Simpson Arcata Sawmill, then across the "new" bridge over Mad River Slough and the north end of Humboldt Bay. While making this turn, we can see Eureka and Arcata resting across the bay, with the green forests and mountains behind.
After awhile we go through a grade crossing toward the straightaway where we find Manila and China Flats. By now we are headed south toward the famous Samoa Cookhouse of the old sawmill - once the Hammond Mill--then Louisiana Pacific--now Simpson Timber - where a big family-style lunch is waiting for us. Upon arrival at the Cookhouse, we can tour the Museum of Logging and Steam Railroading, complete with a roundhouse full of steam engines and logging equipment from the old days. This will be a fascinating display of interest to people wanting to know more about Humboldt County's past, and hopefully its future.
Just as Humboldt County depended on the railroads for many years, the steam train has put us back in touch with a time before the turn of the 20th Century. As far as Northwestern Pacific is concerned, that line is now "temporarily" separated from the "outside world" beyond the north end of its tracks.
However, we will have our own rail system to show the world how we became a seaport for the logging industry as it was then, and is now. We still ship large quantities of wood products on oceangoing vessels from our docks, which would be visible from the steam train as it works its way around Humboldt Bay. The railroads have played an integral part in Humboldt County's history, and can even today have a major role in its continued revitalization.
AVAILABLE PHYSICAL RESOURCES
We have the rights-of-way, via Northwestern Pacific, and the tracks to do what is described above. We have not one, but five steam engines available for rebuilding.
The easiest to rebuild would be the Pacific Lumber #29. This engine is large enough to pull a decent-sized train up to five cars long, and comfortably could go about 30 mph. It was built in 1910 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, but can still be made operational and dependable. The others include the Pacific Lumber #15 and two "shay"-type geared (logging) engines, plus a Hystler (also logging type). All of these n~a. chines are stored in Glendale on a remote piece of track which has been inaccessible to the public.
We also have one old Pullman coach in Old Town that could be put back on the rails and made serviceable. If it is within the power of the City, this car should be given to my organization or to the existing foundation in Glendale. Our group would arrange to have it moved back onto NWP track, and then to a suitable staging area for refurbishing.
In addition to the railroad equipment, we have in Humboldt County several large steam-powered sawmills and numerous small steam "donkeys" of various sizes, plus mounds of old logging equipment stored away where no one can see or appreciate it. By putting the Steam and Logging Museum at the old roundhouse behind the Samoa Cookhouse, we will give people the incentive to ride the train or drive to the area and just enjoy spending the day with their families. The Peninsula is ripe with things for the public to enjoy, including all the beaches and dunes bordering the bay and the ocean. Access to this area is also readily available via an airport for private planes and a bed & breakfast facility nearby for visitors.
Research done by the presenter of this proposal has taken place over the past few months. The idea has been presented to several segments of the community, including commercial, residential and governmental individuals, groups and/or entities. Only one detrimental remark was made.to date; one person did not think we had a "pretty enough" area to draw people for scenic train rides. This feeling was NOT expressed by anyone else, and the overall concept has been enthusiastically supported.
Contact with NWP people has been made, and they thought it was an outstanding idea "whose time has come." Upon requesting information about the condition of the rail line to Samoa, an offer was made to upgrade the rail bed and replace 1,500+ railroad ties at a cost of $75/tie, installed. One NWP employee informed me that he would work weekends at no pay to replace the ties, and felt he could get other people to donate their labor as well.
The locomotives and rail equipment at Glendale will have to be relocated to a safer, more accessible place so that the local public can observe and BECOME A PART of this restoration project. The nonprofit organization which presently has control over the equipment has promised to seek both local manpower and machinery to move the massive engines and equipment to a new home. The formation of a central office for the new Humboldt Bay Scenic Railroad, complete with director and staff, could be supported by local donations and/or federal and state funds. Further research will be done towards that end.
With the help and support of NWP employees, the local rail groups and local residents, it will be possible to develop and operate this existing resource and to make it a desirable tourist attraction for all of the North Coast. The "technical" work on the boilers and machinery can be done by local businesses or by a few trained individuals familiar with mobile steam locomotive rebuilding.
ISSUES TO BE CONSIDERED
Thought needs to be given to where a period-type rail station should be located; perhaps near Old Town or as an extension of the "wharf experience." Parking, of course, is always an issue. The actual operation of a tourist railroad will need to be addressed once the project is well underway. Excursions in addition to those described above could also be considered, such as travelling south to the Pacific Lumber mill; taking cruise ship passengers from the Samoa docks to cooperative motels, etc. This is a project meant to grow and expand as needs and desires express themselves, and as money becomes available to accomplish such growth and expansion.
This proposed project is designed to provide a local revenue base and tourist attraction. By utilizing the existing resources available in Humboldt County, it will provide jobs and a venue whereby we can show the world that this area is more than Redwood trees and ocean views. We would not be just a stop between points of attraction, but an exciting destination in itself while, at the same time, we would be improving the perception of Humboldt County throughout the Western United States. The center of this attraction would be the Humboldt Bay Scenic Railroad, and all other reasons to visit Humboldt County would naturally eminate from that.
Thank you for considering this proposal. As more information about site acquisition and equipment relocations becomes a reality, this proposal will be updated.
ANDERSON ADAMS Owner, Redwood Business Systems Co-creator, American Freedom Train 1975-76 Arcata, California (707) 826-2657