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As It Was: Klamath County Logging Railroad Predates Southern Pacific

When the Southern Pacific Railroad train rolled into Klamath Falls in early 1909, it was heralded as the first train to reach the city.  But a small, unnamed logging railroad was the first one in Klamath County.

In 1888 or 1889, the Southern Pacific Railroad sold timberland on the Pokegama, located halfway between Ashland and Klamath Falls, to a group of Eastern timber men.  In 1892, they sent logs flying down a steep chute into a splash dam that opened to flush the logs downriver to the Klamath City mill.

Horses pulled empty log cars up one track to above the log chute, where they were loaded and switched to a second track.  Gravity pulled the cars and with brakemen aboard down the track to the log chute.  When it crossed the Oregon state line in 1893, the little logging railroad became the first railroad in Klamath County.  Later, as the track lengthened to reach the receding timber, a tiny steam locomotive, named Old Blue, joined the operation. 

The logging railroad shut down in 1902 when the Klamath Lake Railroad crossed the Pokegama Plateau.  

Sources: Austin, Ed, and Tom Dill. The Southern Pacific in Oregon. Edmonds, Wash., Pacific Fast Mail, 1987; Interviews with the author’s father, Bureau of Land Management area manager for the Salem District Office, responsible for administering portions of the O & C lands; "Railroad Sued for Lands Sold, Buyers are Also Defendants." Morning Oregonian, 24 Jan. 1924 [Portland, Ore. Douglas Puter, Stephen A., and Horace Stevens. Looters of the Public Domain. Portland, Ore., Portland Printing House, 1908.]; Helfrich, Devere. Klamath Echoes, vol. 3, 1966, pp. 11-13, 18-20, 27, 31, 33,+; Labbe, John T., and Vernon Goe. Railroad in the Woods. Berkeley, Calif., Howell-North Books, 1960, p. 116; Bowden, Jack. Railroad Logging in the Klamath Country. Hamilton, Mont., Oso Publishing, 2003, p. 62, 64-65; "Road to Klamath Lakes Being Built by Rich Lumber Company." San Francisco Call, 22 Feb. 1901; Signor, John R. Signor R. Southern Pacific’s Shasta Division. Wilton, Calif., Signature Press, 2000, p. 335.