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NWP & A&MR Cabeese Links/Tell me about Northern Redwood Lumber

NWP narrow gage caboose #5591- (click the thumbnail image for larger size)

Arcata & Mad River #2- former A&MR Smoking Passenger car #2, it had a copula added as Northern Redwood Lumber caboose #1 in McKinleyville, CA. Funny, looks like a 3 in this photo-

What can anyone tell me about Northern Redwood Lumber? This is the first I've ever heard of tracks up there (in McKinleyville). I know about the tracks to Trinidad, were these rails connected?

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You need to find a copy of "Steam in the Redwoods"!!!  complete histories of all Humboldt Co railroads are discussed at length.  Mine is packed away right now, can't get to it easily!!  Off the top of my head, I think Northern Redwood became part of the Hammond or maybe A & MR.  I know the line through Mckinleyville was Hammond.  But Northern Redwood had a line near A & L Feed by the Middle School.

Thanks, Thad. I'm going to the library soon, and I'll see if they have it. It just blows my mind that there were tracks up to McKinleyville!!! Every time I head up that way, I look around and wonder where the tracks would have been!



Zachary M. Toler

This thread is what prompted me to apply for membership on this site, which finally came through today...Thank you for letting me in!


Anyway, to answer the questions...Northern Redwood Lumber Company purchased the Korbel mill, the Arcata & Mad River, and the associated logging railroads from the Korbel brothers in 1903.  They never did have any track in the McKinleyville area, as their operations lay along the various forks of the Mad River east and south of Korbel.  Northern Redwood lasted until 1956, when Simpson Timber purchased the properties.  Simpson closed the logging railroad shortly after they took over, which left just the A&MR. 


Henry Sorenson purchased the coach in question here about 1956...there is a photograph in Steam in the Redwoods of the carbody arriving on Henry's property in July of that year.  The cupola had been added by this time.  Henry worked on the Hammond logging railroad before World War 2, and then ran trains in Europe for the Army Railroad Division.  Cutbacks in the Hammond logging railroad caused by a big forest fire in 1944 elmininated his railroad job by the time he got home after the war, and he settled down to non-railroad employment and lived in McKinleyville.  He couldn't get railroading out of his blood, though, and built his own backyard railroad, using this coach, some other rolling stock, and two small steam locomotives, one rescued from the Mattole Lumber Company in southern Humboldt county and the other imported from a logging railroad in Japan.  The photos attached to the initial post in this thread were taken on Henry's railroad in McKinleyville. 


As for railroads in McKinleyville...the NWP line to Trinidad passed through Fieldbrook and stayed to the east of McKinleyville.  California Barrel Company had a few operations both north and south of town.  The Humboldt Northern Railroad provided the only real rail connection to the outside world via its line running south along the ocean, crossing the Mad River, and then splitting, with one line going to Arcata and the other to Samoa.  Dolbeer & Carson Lumber Company built the HN- they also had logging railroads in and around McKinleyville- and the organizations that would later become Hammond Lumber purchased the HN once Dolbeer & Carson no longer needed the line.  Hammond operated the railroad through McKinleyville until 1961.


I hope this helps,


Jeff Moore

Elko, NV   

Thanks for the info, Jeff, and welcome aboard!


Zachary M. Toler

See if you can get ahold of Henry Sorenson's & Lynwood Carranco's book on Humboldt logging railroads:*listing*title

It's not a perfect book but tells the tangled stories better inside one set of covers than anything else.

Nearly all the Humboldt logging lines linked to the NWP at one time or another. The A&MR had an interchange junction with NWP at Korblex and another at Arcata. A&MR was -- like much of its parent Northern Redwood Lbr Co's railroads -- an odd 43-1/4" gauge until the 1940s when standard gauge rails replaced the earlier ones in those places it still needed rail servicing.

Jeez, that's highway robbery that they want for a used book! Maybe it's time for a new printing!


Zachary M. Toler

Amazing ain't it?  My wife paid $100 for mine 12 years ago at a THA fundraiser.  I wasn't even a member for another 10 years.  We refer to it as our "bible" in THA.

A little more on this caboose has surfaced...while going through some materials looking for something else, I ran across the November 1973 issue of Pacific News.  This issue contains an article by Henry Brueckman on Henry Sorensen's railroad in McKinleyville.  Henry writes the following about the caboose:


"A combine-caboose, at least eighty years old, is also on the roster.  The car was formerly in passenger service on the Arcata and Mad River Railroad.  When passenger service was discontinued in 1931 owning Northern Redwood Lumber Company took the car and placed it on a standard-gauge log car, added the cupola, and used it as a caboose until the logging line ended in the mid-1950's.  In 1931, the Arcata and Mad River was stil a narrow 45-1/4" between the rails, although a third rail for standar gauge operations had been in place since 1925". 


One thing to keep in mind about the A&MR...Northern Redwood Lumber Company, and therefore the A&MR, were controlled by steamship interests through much of its early years.  Remember that the NWP completed its through line to the outside world in 1914.  Despite crossing the NWP at grade no less than three times in and around Arcata, the A&MR did not establish an interchange with the NWP until 1925, when they laid the third rail from Korblex to Korbel to facilitate handling standard gauge cars.  All traffic handled by the A&MR prior to that went out onto the warf and onto ships.  The railroad did not get rid of the oddball narrow gauge until the Reconstruction Finance Corporation loan paid for the property to resume operations after the Depression forced a multi-year shutdown of all operations.


Lastly, I feel fortunate to have purchased my copy of Steam in the Redwoods when I did...I don't recall paying more than $40 or so for it, and a copy signed by Henry Sorensen at that... 


Jeff Moore

Elko, NV   


Great info, Jeff! Thank you! I'm trying to learn as much as I can about this car, as it looks like it'd be nice to model. I guess as the steamship business died, they had to convert to standard gauge and interchange with NWP.


Zachary M. Toler

Not entirely true about the steamship end...probably had more to do with market conditions and access than anything else. 


The A&MR laid the standard gauge rail and rebuilt the narrow gauge logging railroad to standard gauge, all in 1925, but a portion of the narrow gauge, extending from Korbel down through Arcata and out onto the wharf, continued operations.  Northern Redwood Lumber did rebuild its four Heislers from narrow to standard gauge, but A&MR continued to operate its remaining narrow gauge locomotives.  While an ever higher proportion of the traffic handled left in standard guage cars interchanged to the NWP at Korblex, the narrow gauge continued to take lumber on through Arcata to ships waiting at the wharf until the whole operation shut down in 1932.  


Jeff Moore

Elko, NV   

A&MR #2 is owned by the SPCRR at Ardenwood.  It is currently stored off site in warehouse until our car house is complete. 

As best I can tell, the car was built for the Korbell Brothers (we have a news report about a caboose being built for "Kimball Bros." for their Northern Redwood Lumber in 1885 by the Carter Brothers as a caboose (to the Carter Brothers, a caboose was a passenger car to be used at the end for freight trains, without a cupola)  It had (and still has) wood bench seats down the side of the car.  I suspect it was primary used to carry loggers... At some point it was transferred to the A&MR, so was reported as "purchased used" to the ICC c. 1916.  On the A&MR it was numbered 2, and was referred to as a smoker (no pretty upholstery to burn)

We expect to finish the car house this summer (the building is done, fire sprinklers installed, water line installed and live... ties and rail were placed inside last week, still need electricity, a fire alarm and a fire road)

Northern Redwood and A&MR did not reach McKinleyville, but instead that is where Henry Sorenson had his collection including this car.

Randy Hees


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