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Nostalgia & History > BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California


Date: 03/25/20 14:22
BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: JDLX

Martin Hansen posted over on the Steam board a couple days ago a fine shot of the California Western 2-6-2  #21 with a log train on the road's Ten Mile branch north of Fort Bragg.  A couple of the replies indicated a desire to see more photos of that branch, especially the parts of it that ran along the beach just above the high tide line.  Here's one such photo, not the best quality but a fascinating photo none the less.  

Baldwin Locomotive Works completed its DRS-6-4-1500 demonstrator unit #1501, c/n 73474, on 14 March 1948.  Baldwin had already decided to use this unit to target potential western customers and as such had its west coast sales representatives visiting the offices of various railroads and industrial operations across the region during the winter of 1947-1948.  Those operations that agreed to take a look at the locomotive signed leases with Baldwin- for example, the McCloud River Railroad and Baldwin signed their lease on 1 December 1947, about three and a half months before the unit would be finished.  The #1501 headed west upon its release from Eddystone, and it spent the next six and a half months through the summer of 1948 demonstrating on the following roads: Bamberger Railroad, Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company; California Western; Fruit Growers Supply Company; McCloud River; Northwestern Pacific; Sierra; Southern Pacific; Tooele Valley; Trona; and Western Pacific.  At the end of the tour Baldwin sold the #1501 to Kennecott Copper Corporation for use on their extensive operations around Magna, Utah.  Kennecott retired the former demonstrator in 1983 and donated it to the Promontory Chapter of the NRHS, who scrapped it the following year.  

The California Western management at the time intended to maintain operations of both their mainline to Willits and the Ten Mile Branch north of Fort Bragg indefinitely.  They really liked the idea of using a single larger locomotive instead of multiple smaller engines to handle their trains, which is why they were receptive to the demonstration in the first place.  Unfortunately the California Western was one of several shortlines that found the #1501 to be simply too much locomotive for their lightly built track structures.  The big six axle trucks under the the #1501 also wreaked havoc with the exceptional curvature on the CWR mainline.  Several of the shortlines that tested the #1501 subsequently rebuilt their trackage so as to accomodate the heavier diesels, while others either later bought smaller switchers or otherwise abandoned their railroads.  The California Western opted to go the switcher route, and in late 1949 they accepted delivery of two model DS-4-4-750 switchers, CWR 51 and 52.  CWR historian Kevin Bunker indicated to me some time ago that the railroad selected the non-turbocharged switchers primarily because the labor agreements then in place in the Fort Bragg shop based mechanic pay on the weight of the locomotives upon which they worked, and the lack of the turbocharger in the DS-4-4-750 and resulting lower weight saved the company significant money in their care and upkeep.  The road and the union subsequently got rid of the weight based approach to mechanic pay not long after the diesels arrived.  Unfortunately the Ten Mile branch was a memory by the point the two diesels arrived, as the branch sustained substantial storm damage in the winter of 1948-1949, which prompted the Union Lumber Company to decide to replace the branch with trucks.  The last log train off the Ten Mile Branch rolled into Fort Bragg on 18 June 1949.

Attached hereto are three pictures.  The first one is the #1501 with a log train southbound on the California Western Ten Mile Branch sometime in the summer of 1948.  The second is an otherwise uncredited photo of the California Western #51 next to the Fort Bragg shop on 28 August 1965, about five years before the spectacular runaway wreck that would be this locomotive's abrupt demise.  Finally, the last photo of the #1501 switching cars in McCloud, California, is from the T.E. Glover collection.

Thanks for looking!

Jeff Moore
Elko, NV          

 








Date: 03/25/20 15:22
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: refarkas

Your comments took these photos to an even higher level.
Bob



Date: 03/25/20 15:43
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: callum_out

Engrained, acquired, whatever, thoughts. I would have bet money that Ten Mile was gone before the diesels arrived, that first shot is a 
real head shaker.

Out 



Date: 03/25/20 15:47
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: zephyrus

Great shots and story, Jeff!

Z



Date: 03/25/20 15:55
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: BarstowRiff

Nothing like well researched commments to go with historical photos. The DS64-1500 was a most interesting unit, moreso since so few were produced and those that were went to interesting southern roads; Norfolk Southern, Savannah and Atlanta, and Columbus and Greenville.   



Date: 03/25/20 15:56
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: callum_out

Spotting feature is the even axle spacing, no need to flop motors over to clear each other.

Out 



Date: 03/25/20 16:04
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: steamfan759

I am willing to bet that John Kirkland was working hard in that area to sell those Baldwin diesels.  He was out there beating the bushes to make sales in his western region!

Ron



Date: 03/25/20 18:03
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: mcfflyer

Nice post, Jeff.  Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Lee Hower - Sacramento



Date: 03/25/20 19:49
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: Steamman

Thanks for the post Jeff.  Great information on the diesels and some additional history of the 10-mile branch.  More photos of the branch if you have them.          TomE



Date: 03/25/20 20:25
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: SierraRail

Baldwin 1501 at Jamestown, Calif. on Sierra Railroad, September, 1948.




Date: 03/25/20 22:44
Re: BLW 1501 on the beach north of Fort Bragg, California
Author: roustabout

Thanks for the photos are history lesson, Jeff!



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