Northwestern Pacific Railroad Network

Dedicated to Sharing the Heritage of Redwood Empire Railroading

The addition of a couple people (especially Fred Cain) to this list has sparked a lot of good and interesting discussion.  In the interest of showing what the railroading in the Eel River Canyon is up against, I wanted to present the list of major slides and other trouble spots in the Willits to Eureka trackage.  The following is transcribed from Fred Stindt's Northwestern Pacific Railroad Volume 2 book, and is based on information he obtained from the Northwestern Pacific m-o-w department in 1983. The list goes from south to north.  It's important to keep in mind this only covers the spots on the line then identified as being affected by major to minor landslides.  It doesn't include those many drainages where culverts wash out, or collapsed tunnels, or the constant maintenance that is the many large wooden trestles or bridges on the line.  This also doesn't take into account or consideration the many places on the NWP south of WIllits that are subject to the same geologic forces and resulting roadbed instability and other operational problems.  

The following list does give at least some idea of how much went into just keeping the line open for business, and what would be expected should the line ever get rebuilt and put back into operation in the future.  It's not enough to do it once, as noted below there are many places on the line that effectively have to be rebuilt on a near daily to at least weekly basis.  This is what always made railroading to Eureka such a dicey and expensive proposition.  

As noted above, this is from 1983, so anything noted as being "current" condition in the following list is now 36 years old.  Many of these trouble spots are easily found in Google Earth, where you can get at least some idea of what 20+ years of no maintenance has done to the railroad.  As for directional references, remember that Southern Pacific used "west" to denote anything going towards San Francisco and "East" denoting anything going away.  When applied to the NWP, anything noted as "West" would be geographically south of the referenced point, while "East" would be to the north.   

1.  Grannel Slide, just west of Dos Rios, has been static in recent years, but must be contoured frequently to keep drainage water diverted and prevent saturation. 

2.  Berger Creek Slide, 1000 feet long north of Dos Rios at Milepost 167, is a major problem.  A 200 foot sink area is followed by a 650 foot hump, then 150 foot sink.  It all slides toward the river, and is presently out of alignment about 5 feet and humped about 15 feet.  The two sinks require weekly surfacing because the track moves 2-3 inches down and 4-5 inches out of line weekly.  Unlike most problem spots, Berger Creek continues active in the summer months. 

3.  At Deer Lodge Slide a sink 150 feet long requires track surfacing two to three times weekly.  Movement is 3-4 inches down and 2-4 out of line.

4.  Three-quarter mile north is a 400-foot sink on a fill.  It requires surfacing at least once a week account movement -2 inches down and 1-2 inches out of line.  The shoulders require build up on the river side and fill on the hill side for drainage.  

5.  Woodman has a 100 foot sink moving weekly 4-5 inches down and the same out of line.  Requires surfacing 3-4 times per week.  

6.  Tunnel #19, 1.5 miles north of Woodman at Milepost 172.7, is daylighted.  Loose rock on the uphill side causes frequent slides.  

7.  West of Spyrock a 120-foot sink needs surfacing at least once a week.

8.  East of Spyrock is a series of small sinks.  Must be surfaced once a week.

9.  West of Bell Springs, a mudslide plugs a culvert in the winter.  To prevent washouts contouring is done in the summer to minimize saturation.  

10.  The Bell Springs sink washed out five times in December 1981, between 6 and 24 feet deep, and again in March 1983, a 150-foot section, 30 feet deep.

11.  East of Bell Springs, a short 40-foot sink requires surfacing 2-3 times a week.  Weekly movement is 3-4 inches down and 2-3 inches out of line.

12.  At Milepost 187, Richards, two sinks, each about 75 feet long, must be surfaced 2-3 times per week.  Weekly movement is 3-4 inches down and 2-3 inches out of line. 

13.  The Hawkins Sink at Milepost 187 is an old major slide.  It is now a 150 foot sink that must be surfaced 2-3 times per week.  It moves 3-4 inches down and 2-3 inches out of line weekly. 

14.  The Milepost 188 Sink is 150 feet long and needs surfacing 1-2 times a week.  Weekly movement is 1-2 inches down and 1-2 inches out of line. 

15.  The Oops Sink at Milepost 188.7 and the Goddard Sink at Milepost 188.8 are separated by a hump which has raised the tracks about two feet.  Weekly movement is about 1-2 inches down and 1-2 inches out of line, requiring surfacing 1-2 times weekly. 

16.  Ramsey Sink extends 1,200 feet.  The track moves towards the river 3-4 feet each year and must be lined back every summer. 

17.  The Milepost 190.25 slide is a major problem in the canyon.  It is 400 feet long and the track is on an active mud glacier that moves all year long- sometimes as much as 6 to 12 inches per day, and must be inspected before any train passes.  When debris covers the rail a shovel follows behind a dozer, clearing the buffer strip between the tracks mud glacier.  (Note: you can still see the shovel permanently assigned to this slide in Google Earth today).

18.  Although Island Mountain Tunnel is branch new (1979), earth movement at the west end causes the walls there to bulge and will be a continuing problem. 

19.  Quarry Spur, Milepost 195.7, has also a major slide and a sink.  To keep the shoulder built up workers have to constantly cut back into the hillside for fill.  The subgrade is unstable, needing rail and pole piling to hold the shoulder in place.  Contouring the hillside is needed to reduce saturation.  All of this was done in the summer of 1982, but at present the pilings are sunk and have slipped as much as 20 feet out of line. 

20.  The Milepost 201 slide east of Kekawaka is a major slide 900 feet wide and 3/4 mile long, with a slide mass of some 18 million. cubic yards.  The track is now humped 20-25 feet.  This slide is contoured each year. 

21.  From Kekawaka to five miles east of Fort Seward are 34 sinks, each averaging 1-4 inches down and 1-4 inches out of line.  They require surfacing 1-3 times per week. 

22.  Scaling rocks at Milepost 222.p continually fall on the track for a distance of 300 feet requiring constant cleanup. 

23.  The Denmark Slide at Bolt, Milepost 222.9, is 600 feet by 3,200 feet, or 40 plus acres.  It goes under the tracks causing a sink that must be raised 2-3 times a week.  There is also a shale slide area 400 feet long which must be cleaned weekly and is humped at four feet.

24.  From Bolt to Eel Rock, Milepost 225.1, are seven sinks which each move 2-5 inches down and 2-5 inches out weekly.  They must be resurfaced 1-3 times per week. 

25.  The McCann Slide, Milepost 232.2, presently is fairly stable, but must be cut back and contoured each summer. 

26.  Between McCann and Shively, Milepost 245.6, there are four sinks, all having weekly downward movement of 1-4 inches and two also side movement of 2-3 inches.  Surfacing is required weekly.  In addition west of Shively the 244 Sink is a slide and sink of 780 feet long.  Contouring is required annually and ditching monthly.  Track is surfaced weekly as movement averages up to 2 inches down and 2 inches out. 

27.  West of Scotia, Milepost 255.6, the railroad crosses an extremely unstable hill.  Constant cleaning is required.  At each end is a 120-foot sink  and a hump in the middle.  The hump was lowered 4 feet in 1982, and now requires another four feet.  The area must be contoured each summer.  

28.  Scotia Bluffs extends for 2.5 miles where the track sits on a narrow ledge between the Eel River and near vertical bluffs.  Heavy slides are a constant threat in the winter months.  Naning Creek, Milepost 257.0, is a frequent casualty during the storms and can be expected to go out at least every 2-3 years.  In winter a ditcher is stationed at this location 12 hours a day to keep the railroad operable.  Three slides occurred in 1982.  They were over 20 feet above the rail and extended 200-250 feet.  Bulldozers and shovels are required to keep the shoulder on the hillside cleaned and drainage ditches open.  


Jeff Moore

Elko, NV 

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First off, it's Ferndale, Fernbridge, and Fortuna.  The residents of Slide (named after, well, a nearby land slide) petitioned the state legislature to rename their town Fortuna in 1884, the change happened in 1888.  The name translates into "Fortune" in Spanish, the inspiration allegedly being that the residents felt fortunate enough to live there.  As for Ferndale, a  settler named Seth Shaw built the first structure in what would become that town in 1854, he named his house "Fern Dale" which over time morphed to the present name.  There never has been much of a community at Fernbridge, the most notable feature there is the concrete highway bridge spanning the Eel built around 1911 or effect, the bridge to Ferndale became Fernbridge.  

As for this year versus 1964....we're nowhere even close.  As of February 26th Eureka has received around 28.5 inches of rain since the water year began on October 1st.  What set 1964 apart was that the area received over 31 inches of rain in the span of 23 days.  The storms this year have been spaced out enough so that flooding so has been brief and receded quickly.

Jeff Moore

Elko, NV 

Oops!  As Jeff Moore points out below, I botched the spelling of two of these towns (Fernbridge and Ferndale).  I'm usually much more careful about such things, and meant no disrespect to the inhabitants or anyone who has a connection with the area.  I do apologize.

C.E. Neal of the NWP states in the slide show on the 1964 flood damage that it was the result of a 1000 year storm:

Today, such a storm is referred to as an ARkStorm:

Of course, just 103 years earlier, during the winter of 1861/1862, we had the Great Flood of 1862:  the largest flood in the recorded history of Oregon, Nevada, and California:

I will talk about the weather ... just don't expect me to do anything about it!


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