Just a week after celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia I found myself in Felton, CA visiting the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad (RC&BTRR). The RC&BTRR has been high on my list of places to visit for many years and I finally got my chance during a recent visit to California.
The two railroads share many similarities, including that both are celebrating 50th Anniversaries in 2013 and both feature geared locomotives as their primary source of motive power.The Roaring Camp Railroad is a simulated narrow gauge logging railroad built through a forest of massive California Redwoods. The 3.25 mile line features two switchbacks, 9% grades and a 40 foot tall wooden trestle. Although the railroad was built specifically to haul tourists, the locomotives come from a variety of logging railroads and other backgrounds on the East and West Coast.
Currently the railroad has four serviceable locomotives including two Shays, one Heisler and a small tank engine. The #1 “Dixiana” is a 2-truck Shay locomotive built in 1912 for the Alaculsy Lumber Co. of Tennessee. The locomotive was acquired from the Coal Processing Corporation of Dixiana, VA in 1962 and was the first locomotive acquired by the RC&BTRR. The #7 “Sonora” is a 3-truck Shay built in 1911 and acquired by the RC&BTRR in 1986. The locomotive notably worked for the West Side Lumber Co. and Pickering Lumber Co. of California. The #2 “Tuolumne” is a 2-truck Heisler built in 1899 and acquired by the RC&BTRR in 1963 from the West Side Lumber Co. The railroad’s only serviceable rod locomotive is the #3 “Kahuku” built in 1890 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and acquired by the railroad in 1966 from the Kahuku Plantation Railroad in Hawaii. The railroad also owns one other 2-truck Shay locomotive from the WM Ritter Lumber Co. and a 2-truck Climax locomotive from the Elk River Coal & Lumber Co. of West Virginia.
During my visit to the railroad, the Dixiana would have the duty of pulling the trains while the Sonora would be on standby. Having never seen a 2-truck, narrow gauge, Shay locomotive in service, I was quite happy to find this out.
Prior to my visit I made sure to research the best photo locations along the line as well as other tips for my visit, the ngdiscussion.net forums proved to be very helpful when it came to this task.
One thing that I could not plan for was the weather. While on most occasions sunny conditions are best, since the Roaring Camp runs through the woods and is mostly shaded with sunlight filtering through, a cloudy day is best for photographs. Luckily I received a beautiful overcast day for my visit!
The most challenging part was finding which series of trails to follow through the woods to where I wanted to capture the train. Through some trial and error, mostly error, I was able to find some pretty sweet spots showcasing the massive trees.The engineer oils around Dixiana prior to the first departure of the day.
The #1 climbs the grade with its 6 car train as it nears the Grizzly Flats crossing with the first train of the day.The Dixiana heads downgrade as it crosses the Indian Creek Trestle with a full trainload of passengers.
A view from the cab of Shay #1 as it crosses over the Indian Creek Trestle. The train clears the Redwoods by only inches in many places along the line.
The fireman raises the spout after topping off #1’s tender.The Dixiana travels through the massive Redwoods as the train travels downgrade near McSkunk junction.The train prepares to depart the depot with a private, evening wedding special.
My first visit to Roaring Camp was very enjoyable and I look forward to visiting again!
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