Northwestern Pacific Railroad Network

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"Daylighting" tunnels (for old timers)

My brother and I were watching an old movie that brought up the subject of NWPRR.  In our discussion of my father's time on the  NWP, it came up that he spent a lot of time along the Eel River around Bell Springs "daylighting" tunnels, which is cutting the top off a mountain so that it's no longer a tunnel.  This was in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

On one of those jobs he had a Cat DC6 on a mountain that was so high and so steep the DC6 could not make it up to the top on it's own.  Under the supervision of Charlie Neal, they rigged a cable and pulley system anchored at the top and connected to my father's DC6 and to a DC8 at the bottom.  While my father backed up the hill, the DC8 pulled him up the hill.

Once at the top, he began pushing the mountain into the river, then they used the pulley system to get him back to the top.  It took a couple of months to complete.

I guess doing that to Island Mountain would have taken too long, but so did rebuilding the tunnel.  Lumber companies went to using trucks. 

During the mid 1950's my father had a new DC6 equipped with a pile driver and he worked replacing pilings on old trestles between Santa Rosa (where we lived) and San Rafael.  

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Comment by Richard C. Brand on June 10, 2018 at 9:59pm


I'm in agreement with Jack that members of this site not go to f'book to post their info.  We are all seeing the transparency and the dark business plan of that w-site. 

Please valued members do not use F'book for posting your valuable messages.  We are all watching keenly.

Comment by Jack Encell on June 10, 2018 at 4:05pm

Thanks all for your comments.  As for posting on Facebook, I closed my Facebook account, but you are welcome to copy and paste if you like. 

I have been to Island Mountain Tunnel on foot a few times during the early 1960's, but never noticed the height of Island Mountain or the fact that the tunnel went through a different mountain.  I went through the tunnel probably a hundred times on the Budd car. 

In my opinion, the Northern part of NWP would have closed years sooner if it had not been for Charlie Neal, a man that would likely have stepped up and done it himself if necessary. 

MOW workers between Willits and Eureka, took a lot of risks.  I believe I posted a story of my brother going out in a basket over the Eel river during a dangerous storm to repair the phone lines. I don't think there was any shortage of dangerous work during that era.  I never would have made the cut!

Comment by Dave S. on June 10, 2018 at 2:24pm

Sounds like really dangerous work!  I would hope that the cable had a lot of safety margin, plus I would want to be tethered to that CAT.

There were quite a few tunnels on the NWP sited longitudinally adjacent to the river which made/makes daylighting them relatively easy with modern day earth moving equipment.  Thanks to your father, there are many gaps in the tunnel numbering on the NWP.

However, the current alignment of the Island Mountain tunnel has an average of about 1000 feet of earth on top of its length and is not longitudinally adjacent to the river.  A cut that large would be completely impractical, even if there were only 50 feet of rock and soil over its length.  A tremendous amount of earth to move and no place to put the spoils.

For anyone looking at maps you will see that the Island Mountain Tunnel doesn't actually go through Island Mountain itself, a roughly 3900 foot peak about 4.5 miles due south of the tunnel.  It goes through an unnamed ridge varying in elevation from about 1200 to 1500 feet.

In terms of natural and man-made disasters, the NWP has to be the unluckiest railroad in the world.

There was talk years back of reopening the line up to Island Mountain to harvest gravel from the river or the old quarry that was there.  That talk has gone silent, AFAIK.

Great to hear these stories!

Comment by Al Merkrebs on June 10, 2018 at 11:45am

That is a great story, Jack.

Please consider posting your story to the NWPRRHS site here:



Comment by Don Underwood on June 10, 2018 at 2:33am

Enjoyed your story.  Thank you.

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