The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


The Oregon and California Railroad.

How It Is Done on This Coast.
Pretty Pieces of Engineering That Were Not Worked Out in a Day.

    To run a railroad over a high mountain range to pull heavy trains over it would in the early days of railroading have been considered a marvel. Even in this day of daring railroad construction, wonder at the triumphs of engineering skill is hardly to be suppressed by the fact of their commonness. An English tourist who came into San Francisco last week over the Mount Shasta route said to a Chronicle reporter:
    "In coming to your coast I set out with the intention of not being surprised at anything. On the line between St. Paul and Portland I had my determination shaken a little, but in coming down from Portland to your city and passing over those giant mountains, where the railway makes such ascents and descents, twisting in and out along the sides of canyons of such immense depth that the passenger almost loses his head in looking down the dizzy height; when one travels for miles to gain a hundred yards in his direct journey, so circuitous is the route, I felt myself willing to go any length to express my wonder, and even awe, at the marvelous sights of which I had been a witness."
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    By the newly constructed Oregon line one gains a better idea of the roughness of the country lying between San Francisco and Portland than if he were to make a balloon voyage. In sympathy with the wonderful power that is exerted in his behalf the rail passenger participates, as it were, in the labor of climbing the heights interposed by nature in the pathway of the engineers. From Redding, the head of the Sacramento Valley, which is at an altitude of 550 feet, the railroad contorts itself upward to an altitude of 3002 feet in a distance of eighty-six miles. It may be truly said that there is not a more pretentious piece of engineering work on this continent when it is considered that the line built is not a narrow but a broad gauge and that the sharpest curves are under sixteen degrees. It is to the courtesy of Chief Engineer William Hood of the Southern Pacific Company, the man who planned this successful invasion of nature's mighty ramparts, that the Chronicle owes the opportunity of presenting [illustrations of] the alignment of the California and Oregon road over the steepest portions of its route.
    The diagram representing a section of the line between Dunsmuir and McCloud, along the Sacramento River, is intended to illustrate how a gain in an elevation of about 1000 feet in ten miles was made by the engines. The road here describes a double horseshoe, of a most elongated form, the line doubling upon itself three times. From the southern end of the section shown to the point marked as the eighteenth crossing of the Sacramento River is a distance of about four miles. The road proceeds to the crossing and then turns directly around and runs toward the starting point, thus covering an apparently useless stretch of another four miles, the doubling process bringing the line back within 100 yards of the lower track, though it is over 200 feet above it. In an air line the distance from Dunsmuir--just below the southern end of the section shown--to McCloud is only six miles, but by the railroad it is nearly fifteen.
    Railroad and river part company at an altitude of 2800 feet, and the "Big Bend," a detour of necessity, by which an additional elevation of 200 feet is reached, interposes its graceful curves. This bend was made to scale one of the foothills of Mount Shasta. The grade is a severe one, being what the engineers call a "2-2" grade--2.2 feet to the 100. The station immediately south of McCloud is only one-half a mile distant from it on an air line, and yet eleven times that distance, or five and one-half miles, must be traversed, so rugged is the country over which the railway is built.
    Having invaded old Shasta's kingdom, a process which required much labor, the work of the engineering force was really only just begun, for there was the great Siskiyou chain to cross. There was positively no getting around this immense barrier, which casts its huge bulk along the northern line of the state. Chief Hood and his band of engineers fought their way upward inch by inch, and, at last finding themselves in a country where climbing was out of the question, plunged their line through the mountains by boring tunnel after tunnel at frequent intervals--in some places at nearly a mile above sea level. But this is not the first tunneling experience met with on the route, for there are twelve tunnels and for that matter eighteen river crossings in eighty miles of the line south of Delta [in Shasta County, 38 miles from Redding].
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    The section of the California and Oregon line from Gregory to Colestin, shown in one of the accompanying diagrams, is another tortuous piece of road. For two miles above the state line the road runs along the Cottonwood Valley and is comparatively straight. It runs almost due north to a point where the valley is abandoned, and the ascent of the high Siskiyou Range is begun. Then it proceeds westerly for about two-thirds of a mile, then due south for nearly the same distance, afterward running southwesterly and then making a grand circuit in a ten-degree curve nearly back to the point at which it took its sudden turn southward. There is a fourteen-degree curve a mile below Gregory and another near Colestin. Running north of Colestin two miles, the Siskiyou tunnel [Tunnel 13], about 3000 feet in length, is reached. This tunnel is at the summit of the ridge, which is more easily attained from the south than from the north, though the grades on the southern side are quite steep, running about 150 feet to the mile.
    The diagram of the section of the same line between Siskiyou and Steinman shows the most difficult piece of engineering found on the whole line. To get down into the Bear Creek Valley, and to reach Ashland without too precipitous a descent, it was found necessary to make long swings back and forth down the mountainsides. An idea of the waste of time and distance imposed by the law of gravitation may be gained by comparing the comparatively straight alignment of the stage road, now abandoned, with that of the railroad, which may be easily done by reference to the sketch. The distance from Siskiyou to Steinman by the stage road is two miles, while by rail it is eight. The diagram shows four tunnels in a distance of less than ten miles. A peculiar feature of the first elongated horseshoe north from Siskiyou may be observed by close references to the diagram, though it cannot be fully appreciated except by an actual view of the road itself. This horseshoe is six miles long from end to end, and near its turning point are two tunnels. Just as the train passing toward Portland is about to enter the first of these yawning clefts in the rocky hill, the passenger, by putting his head out of the car window, sees almost directly below him, at a distance of about 100 feet, the mouth of another tunnel on the opposite bend of the road, and about half a mile further down the canyon still another. In passing over the six-mile detour above Siskiyou Station the train goes back to a point directly on a line with Siskiyou, not having made any actual progress on the air-line distance to Portland, though nearly an hour is consumed in that part of the journey, and there is a difference of over 500 feet in elevation. By getting off the train at Siskiyou and walking down the North Fork of Carter Creek to the other end of the great curve, the passenger may reach that point ahead of the train. As may readily be seen, however, by the diagram, there is still another wide detour from the tunnel at the end of the bend around to Steinman and beyond that station. This stretch of road is about the same length as that last mentioned--six miles--but the tracks are closer together at the ends of the horseshoe. For this reason onward progress is very slow, the gain being less than five-eighths of a mile for the whole distance. But, lest the remarkable fact might escape the reader, it will be well to mention that in this double horseshoe there are nearly ten miles of track which have been laid to gain an actual distance of only two and one-half miles.
    So closely are the two ends of the upper horseshoe to each other that a man may walk back and forth from track to track three times before the train can run around the long circuit between the points to and from which he has gone afoot.
    There are many other remarkable pieces of engineering on the California and Oregon line, but it should be stated that the specimens presented are those of the toughest nuts which the engineers of the Southern Pacific Company were called upon to crack.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 1888, page 6

    C. C. Hockley, state engineer in Oregon for PWA, was told last week by Jackson County commissioners that a nice little subway could be punched through the Siskiyou Mountains for anywhere from $3,000,000 to $10,000,000.
    Hockley was in Medford to get ideas of projects that would be financed under the $4,880,000,000 measure now before Congress.
    Among the things he heard was the proposal for the tunnel, which would be a nice thing for those in a hurry to get from California to Oregon, or vice versa.
    The tube would be ten miles long and take from five to seven years to build. When it is completed those who now "go over the hump" would be able to go through the hump by train in three hours or less or in one hour less if by automobile.
    In the dim dark days [during Prohibition] going over the hump was a popular pastime for many in Southern Oregon, the journey always ending at Hornbrook, Cal., whose chief industry was catering to the thirsty ones from arid Oregon. The proposed subway would have drainage, ventilation lights and all modern fixin's.
Arthur Jones, "The Week in the Northwest," Oregonian, Portland, February 10, 1935, page B1

 Last revised March 7, 2017