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Steam & Excursion > Its Hard To Find Photos Of This Well-Funded But Short-Lived Line!


Date: 12/04/21 04:07
Its Hard To Find Photos Of This Well-Funded But Short-Lived Line!
Author: LoggerHogger

The Sugar Pine Lumber Co. out of Pinedale, California was an anomaly among logging companies.  Unlike many logging companies, the SPL operation had all new equipment of the best quality from the start.  This was true from the new sawmill they constructed all the way to the Minerets & Western shortline they built to connect to their logging railroad the stretched into the woods at Central Camp.

Unfortunately with all these capital expenditures came with a mountain of debt.  It was this debt that prevented the lumber company from turning a profit during even one year of it's  operation.  Finally, in 1935, her creditors foreclosed on her and the operation shut down for good.

When the logging company started out, they ordered 4 of these 2-8-2T locomotives from ALCO and then returned to order what would be the only 2-10-2T ever built for the U.S..  We see SPL #2 next to the shops at Central Camp in the late 1920's in this rare view.

With the line shut and sold off in 1935, not many railfans got out to shoot photos of the SPL operation.  Most of what we have of the operation are shots like these taken by the SPL loggers themselves.

Martin



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 12/04/21 04:20 by LoggerHogger.




Date: 12/04/21 10:10
Re: Its Hard To Find Photos Of This Well-Funded But Short-Lived L
Author: MacBeau

Aside from the monumental debt, weren't they also a victim of the depression and downturn in business? Wonderful image as always Martin.
—Mac



Date: 12/04/21 10:41
Re: Its Hard To Find Photos Of This Well-Funded But Short-Lived L
Author: LoggerHogger

MacBeau Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Aside from the monumental debt, weren't they also
> a victim of the depression and downturn in
> business? Wonderful image as always Martin.
> —Mac

There is no question that the Great Depression was the final blow, however even in the boom times in the 1920's when they started operating they never showed a  profit.

Martin



Date: 12/04/21 13:49
Re: Its Hard To Find Photos Of This Well-Funded But Short-Lived L
Author: JDLX

So, something to keep in mind that's pretty important to this story is that the lumber industry in general, and the pine sector in particular, went into Depression conditions a full five years before the rest of the economy crashed.  Pine lumber demand had remained exceptionally strong through the late 1910s and into the early 1920s, which of course led to almost every company that had the means and interest trying to jump into the market.  Everybody who was producing pine was making money hand over fist, which of course caused the financial institutions to consider the industry as safe of an investment as could be made in that time period, which fueled many loans and bond issues aimed at building new sawmills and increasing production capacity at existing mills.  The Sugar Pine Lumber Company when it entered operation in 1923 was only one of many newly built or expanded sawmills that started up in a fairly tight time window.  The problem was that pine lumber demand peaked in 1924 and started to fall right as all this new production capacity came on line, and by late 1924 pine lumber markets were crashing.  A lot of operations tried to salvage these massive investments by making up for low prices with volume that only further glutted markets and drove prices down.  Sugar Pine Lumber was one of many stories of pine lumber companies built based on the economic models and premises of the industry as it existed in roughly 1919-1923 that might have survived just fine had those conditions persisted but instead found themselves struggling mightily in the unexpected economic realities that beset the industry after 1924.  Lumber prices remained dismally low for a full decade and really didn't start to improve until around 1936-1938.  Anyway, here's a picture of one of those 2-8-2T locomotives in the shop at Central Camp, all four went on to have long careers in the lumber industry after the SPL operation failed.  

Jeff Moore
Elko, NV   




Date: 12/04/21 14:38
Re: Its Hard To Find Photos Of This Well-Funded But Short-Lived L
Author: LoggerHogger

While there is some truth to what Jeff says about the pine economy. the outlook by the late 1920's was not that bleak in the pine forests.

One example of this is the fact that Weyerhauser Timber began builing its hupe pine sawmill just outside of Klamath Falls in 1928.  WTC had not even been in the pine forests around Klamath Falls until 1928 when the built their huge mill and logging operation on the West Block.  Clearly there was still some money to be made in the pine forests in the late 1920's.

Martin



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