Locomotive steam whistles echo no more in the forests of the north California coast. A century ago, Humboldt and Mendocino Counties had more than 40 railroads bringing logs out of the forest to mills at the water’s edge. Only one single railroad ever connected to the outside world and it too is gone.
One railroad survives as the Skunk Train in Mendocino County and it carries tourists today instead of lumber. Redwood and tan oak bark were the two products moved by rail and very little else was hauled other than lumberjacks and an occasional picnic excursion for loggers’ families. Economic depressions and the advent of trucking saw railroads vanish like a puff of steam from the landscape.
Historian and author Katy M. Tahja searched universities, historical societies, museums and private collections for photographs conveying the determination and ingenuity railroaders had in constructing railways in unlikely places to haul huge logs.
Early Mendocino Coast and Humboldt State University are Tahja’s earlier books for Arcadia Publishing and she wrote Rails Across the Noyo for the Skunk Train. With her husband, she has traveled more than 20,000 miles across the United States and Canada by rail.
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