October 2, 2008

Riding the Skunk Train

Trees at the turn around, Copyright G and M, 2008.

Himself: Pats on the back from the big boss. Hurrah. They like what he is doing and have expanded his job. We like this too. Hip, Hip, Hurrah.

Herself: Writing class where there were some superior readings, home to a Bee visit. She’s looking tired with her father near death and her mother falling down the rabbit hole of Alzheimers. Out to find a fan……ours was very loud last night, and the only place with fans was Longs. Dinner next door at the Souplantation.

Food: Peas for breakfast, a toast lunch, and salad again for dinner. I feel dubious.

Vacation Day 3: Still: Slept in Dan’s sister’s new and very clean double wide, joined our friends and drove out to the ocean Forty Bragg, rode the Skunk Train, stopped in Mendocino. Yes too, printing pictures this evening for Kay in exchange for the recipe.
This whole area was logged out when the gold rush hit San Francisco, and logged again to rebuild San Francisco when the earthquake hit in 1906. The Skunk Line was originally a logging line, among the many that once climbed into these hills, and is the only railroad now remaining in this area. We were very lucky to have aboard the train with us the author who wrote, "Rails Across the Noyo, A Riders Guide To the Skunk Train," Katy Tahja.

The first logging station was built in 1850. In 1899, the owner founded the town of Fort Bragg to create a community and keep the company supplied with reliable workers. The logging company built the station, a beautiful house as a show piece, and “profits from the timber logged and sent by rail to …Fort Bragg kept the tracks progressing. By 1911, Passenger service extended from Fort Bragg to Soda Springs.” (Tahja 7)

Left: Station fa├žade with Kay. Right: Station interior ceiling.

On December 11, “The brass band tuned up as folks celebrated the completion of the line.” (Tahja 8) It wasn’t until June of 1912 that passenger service between Fort Bragg and Willits actually began. Today the line still carries passengers to the camps and a few outlying homes. School kids hop aboard and ride in town to their classes. Several camps, with Americorps use in the off season, and Boy Scout and the Boys and Girls Clubs during the summer, are adjacent to the Skunk Line. Most everything including the food arrives by rail. Postal service stopped in 2003. (Tahja 15)

Top and Bottom: A few old growth trees among the second and third growth…easy to tell by their size.

Further in, there are 20 acres of untouched old growth that the lumber company used as a park, and there are a few other individual trees scattered about in the second growth. These trees were left untouched if the tree was damaged, by lightening for example. It wouldn’t split right, and it would cost more to cut down and transport than it was worth. So today we have these few magnificent trees still to enjoy.

On this old growth tree, there is a springboard sticking out fifteen or more feet off the ground. The men stood on this when they were cutting the tree down. “Core samples show this tree is over 1,000 years old.” (Tahja 21)

Top: The Skunk Line Logo. Bottom: The M300 approaches the Redwood Lodge Station. The resort burned in 1`963, but the beautifully designed wood station shelters remain.

The Railroad wasn’t interested in becoming a passenger service, but by 1904, they began keeping track of their passengers…..and by 1923, 38,000 passengers rode the railway. When they purchased a Mack Motor Car Bus with a gas engine on rail wheels, the exhaust stench invented the line’s new nickname, The Skunk Railway. (Tahja 11) It proved a hit.

The day we were there, the M300 brought a full load of travel agents and the lines publicity officer down from Willits for a BBQ and a little wining and dining. Most importantly, we got pictures.

And delightedly, just like every other tourist on the train, we snapped pictures of everything we saw. We were happy to have to author of “Rails Across The Noyo, a riders guide to the Skunk Line” with us on board that day. By the time we climbed down from the cars, we understood better how logging and the railways had shaped the west.

Left to Right: The cars, the wood drying sheds behind the train station, up the river, the forest taking over the logging and work camps, your photographer in action.


The Skunk Train

Early Mendocino Coast: by the author of Rails A cross the Noyo

About .com Skunk Train

Fort Bragg History


  1. I've been in areas, for example the northwest coast of British Columbia, where most of their produce is brought by boat, but I hadn't heard of areas where the produce is brought in my train. That is really interesting.

  2. another reason to get up to northern ca


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Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...