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Date: 01/10/19 20:49
The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: Graybeard1942

After a number of years of being used only as a parking lot for the Union Pacific, the California Northern Railroad (CFNR) is again making revenue runs on its Hamilton Branch of the West Valley Line in California's Sacramento Valley. [The California Northern Railroad is a subsidiary of Genesee and Wyoming Inc.]

The Hamilton Branch starts in Orland (CA) and runs eastward on very old 10 mph rail. It begins at Wyo, MP 167.0 on the West Valley Line.  Currently, the West Valley Line runs from its connection with the Union Pacific at Davis (CA) and runs north to just short of the Tehama junction with the UP East Valley Line. This territory is all former Southern Pacific RR. Once upon a time, SP ran trains north/south on both lines and the West Valley was home to the #11 and #14 passenger trains.  Now, the connection between the two railroads has been spiked and the CFNR serves industries only as far north as Richfield.  In the past, UP has parked cars on the segment between Richfield and the Tehama Wye.

For the old hands, the Hamilton Branch and its destination, Hamilton City, was once a standard for Sacramento Valley rail photographers.  The Holly Sugar Company maintained a huge sugar beet processing facility that accepted wood sided sugar beet hoppers every day during harvest season.. Growing sugar beets finally became less profitable that other crops for Central Valley growers and the Holly Sugar plant closed late in the last century. Left behind at the closing was a well-kept ALCO S-6 switch engine.  Just a few years ago it finally fell victim to a legal muckfest and was sold for scrap (as best as I know). I have posted photos elsewhere on this site of the S-6.

While the sugar beet carloads disappeared, Hamilton City still received cars destined for Simplot Fertilizer and for the Sierra Nevada Brewery in nearby Chico CA.  Sierra Nevada then built its own offload facility on the East Valley Line and Simplot closed its operation.  Revenue runs with a history of around a hundred years ceased on the Hamilton Branch. The Holly Sugar factory was partially demolished before falling into a legal limbo between owners, salvage contractors, and governmental entities.

About a year ago, Nutrien Ag Solutions acquired the property and began clean up and rehab with the intent of making Hamilton City once again a destination for ag commodities. On Wednesday, January 9, 2019 it accepted its first carload (presumably bulk ag fertilizer). Only a few railfans were on hand, easily outnumbered by the 20 or more employees and managers of the CFNR and G&W.


 



Date: 01/10/19 21:03
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: Graybeard1942

Top. Just coming off the West Valley Line at Wyo. The Hamilton Branch runs from MP180.4 to its end in Hamilton City at MP 169.0.  It is 10 mph track for its length.

Middle. About a mile east of Wyo, heading eastward toward Hamilton City.

Bottom. Stopped at MP 170 in Hamilton City, just north of the former Holly Sugar plant.








Date: 01/10/19 21:11
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: Graybeard1942

For railfans who remember the CFNR 'Corning Flyer' from earlier years, it may be remembered that Tim was its engineer for many years and Alan was the conductor. Tim is now retired and Alan has moved into the engineer's chair.  And there is a new conductor!  You may see more of her later on.  In the top photo, the other person (yellow coat) is the current CFNR road manager for the West Valley.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/10/19 21:12 by Graybeard1942.








Date: 01/10/19 21:17
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: RRBaron

A most excellent Brakie, but they're gonna need to move more than one hopper to pay her!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/11/19 08:34 by RRBaron.



Date: 01/10/19 21:20
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: miralomarail

Here are photo's of the last 2 units in use when the plant closed, the Alco S6 and a GE 25T






Date: 01/10/19 21:26
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: Graybeard1942

The partial demolition of the Holly Sugar plant did not include its historic twin storage towers.  The town still considers the towers as its personal symbol of fame.  Now empty, I believe they once stored raw processed beet sugar.

The a-frame building is currently part of the Nutrien Ag Solutions operation.  I'll return in sunny weather for some images of the off-loading process.  This particular day included continuous blowing rain, lots of mud, and even a tornado warning in nearby Butte County.

More images of the CFNR West Valley Line and the Holly Sugar plant are online at this link.  http://www.withmy2hands.org/graybeards/cfnr/

Tomorrow I will upload a few videos from the first revenue run. 

[For the record. These images were taken with a five year old point and shoot Fuji camera rated at 16 mp. Being retired and living on Social Security, this is all I can afford. Of course, I cannot compete in quality with the Masters of this Site.  In real life, one does what one can.]

 






Date: 01/10/19 22:38
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: RyanWilkerson

Good new coverage! Thanks for braving the weather and getting the shots.

Ryan Wilkerson
Fair Oaks, CA
ShastaRails



Date: 01/11/19 07:14
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: FiveChime

You can view a short segment of the Holly S-6 moving beet cars around in yesterday's TO Nostoliga section.

Regards. Jim Evans 



Date: 01/11/19 07:57
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: inCHI

Very interesting narration of what is going on there.



Date: 01/11/19 10:42
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: Graybeard1942

The CFNR crosses the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation Canal at Canal Road on its way into Hamilton City (CA).  Four signal maintainers were on hand just in case as this was the first activation of the circuits in several years. The engineer today is Alan Mastaw, a CFNR veteran. As the audio feed indicates, it was a very windy day. This was one of the brief moments when it did not rain.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/11/19 10:47 by Graybeard1942.

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Date: 01/11/19 10:48
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: TCnR

Well done reporting from a veteran reporter. Nice Vid showing the water situation in the creek as well.
t4p.



Date: 01/11/19 10:58
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: Graybeard1942

GP-15 CFNR 1569 shoves the first revenue carload into the storage yard of Nutrien Ag Solutions in Hamilton City (CA).  This GP-15 and others in the CFNR fleet are slated for retirement this year.

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Date: 01/11/19 11:42
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: PHall

Any idea what the replacements will be? 



Date: 01/11/19 11:51
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: ble692

Graybeard1942 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> GP-15 CFNR 1569 shoves the first revenue carload into the storage yard of Nutrien Ag Solutions in
> Hamilton City (CA).  This GP-15 and others in the CFNR fleet are slated for retirement this year.

The car shows as a load of potassium sulfate.

Is business down that they no longer have a need for the 3 freshly painted GP15-1 or are there replacements, like additional Gensets, on the way?



Date: 01/11/19 11:56
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: callum_out

The GP15s are forty years oid and in need of complete overhauls. With the weight of the South train in mind,
turboed units would make much more sense, and six axle to boot.

Out



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/11/19 12:00 by callum_out.



Date: 01/11/19 13:46
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: PHall

Re: the GP15-1's. The G&W empire has lots of places where these locomotives would be very useful so I'm betting that they'll get their overhauls but they probably will be moved.
G&W will just do like they have elsewhere and move in some locomotives that are suited for the job at hand.
 



Date: 01/11/19 14:42
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: DaveL

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,2427805,2427805#2427805

Short clip of the Holly sugar Critter at work.

Dave



Date: 01/11/19 16:00
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: 3rdswitch

Nice coverage of an unusual event, reopening of a branch line. The track looks to be in pretty good shape.
JB



Date: 01/11/19 16:44
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: callum_out

The line received tie and surfacing work in the early 2000s. At that time Land O Lakes had a refrigerated facility for their
cheese ship outs in Ham City. They then leased a portion of the Duche Nut facility in Orland where a new siding was installed.
That was the last regular use of the line into Ham City.

Out



Date: 01/11/19 20:47
Re: The California Northern Returns to the Hamilton Branch
Author: TonyJ

In the days of beet trains the Alco S6 would push two loads to the unloader. The 25-ton GE would remove the empties and assemble them for the SP to pick up.



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