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As It Was: McCloud Railroad Jumpstarts Northern California Logging

The lumbermen Scott and Van Arsdale had always envisioned the McCloud Valley Railroad Co.

After locating more than a million board feet of timber in the McCloud and Shasta forests in April 1896, they filed articles of incorporation to build a branch railroad running from Mott to Squaw Valley.  Capital stock totaled $1 million.  Construction began in July and by August 300 men, including 48 Chinese laborers, began work on the project.  In the first month, they completed an office at Upton and
7 miles of line.

It was 19 miles and a 1,000-foot elevation gain above Sisson, present-day Mount Shasta, to the mill site, requiring two switchbacks, one at the head of the canyon and another at Signal Butte on the McCloud side of the mountain.

Carving through the mountainous terrain, the railroad track revealed belts of sugar pine, red fir and cedar, encouraging the Arsdales to purchase even more timberland.

The workers drove the last railroad spike on the McCloud Railroad in 1898 and streets took form in McCloud, the first one named California Street.

The railroad gave the region’s lumber industry a hefty jumpstart.


Source: Jones, J. Roy. Saddle Bags in Siskiyou. Happy Camp, CA, Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., 1953, pp. 254-256.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.