Caspar Lumber Company’s little red schoolhouse on Route 20 between Fort Bragg and Willits

I received this e-mail from Monty L. Coursey, Sr.:

About a year ago, my friend and I visited northern California and drove from FortBragg southward to Sen Francisco through Calistoga. As we went out Highway 20 eastward we came upon the Little Red School House on the right side of the road. We stayed there only a few minutes but as we drove on to San Francisco, we talked at length about the little building and its setting close to the creek. Somehow it has always been special to us and we vowed that the next time we were in California we would go back there. But we were not sure exactly where it is located. Is there any way you could show us on a map how we could find it again?”

The above came with a spifflicating photo of the schoolhouse.

The Caspar Lumber Company's little red schoolhouse on CA Route 20

The Caspar Lumber Company’s little red schoolhouse on CA Route 20

My reply:

“Great photo!!!!!!

The schoolhouse is on the Willits side of the Camp 20 recreation area  click to see map.
The good news is that the last time I passed work has been done to save the roof.

Jackson Demonstration State Forest

What is a “Demonstration Forest?” A Demonstration Forest is timberland that is managed for forestry education, research, and recreation. It demonstrates innovations in forest management, watershed protection and restoration, and environmentally sensitive timber harvesting techniques. In such a Forest good forestland stewardship is shown by management for a sustainable timber production. At the same time, the Forest is open to the public at no charge. Demonstration State Forest timberlands are publicly owned by the State of California. They are managed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF). As a group, they are financially self-sustaining due to the value of timber harvests.

If you traverse Route 20 between Fort Bragg and Willits you will see a sign that says, “Jackson Demonstration State Forest.” Jackson Demonstration State Forest is the largest demonstration forest operated by the State of California. The forest is entirely located within Mendocino County on land formerly owned by Caspar Lumber Company along California State Highway 20. Logging of the area began in 1862, and intense industrial logging has taken place for many decades. There have been several generations of harvests and replantings. The 48,652 acres that make up the forest were purchased in 1947 and the demonstration forest was created in 1949. Coast redwood is the most common type of tree in the forest, but there is also Douglas fir, grand fir, hemlock, bishop pine, tanoak, alder, madrone and bay myrtle. The elevation of the land varies from 80 to 2,200 feet. Precipitation near the coast averages 39 inches per year, but the average is 70 inches per year inland. The temperature reaches a low of 25 °F (−4 °C) and a high of 100 °F (38 °C). The name Jackson comes from the name of the man who bought the Caspar Lumber Company from its first owner. The buyer was Jacob Green Jackson.

This map shows the extent of the forest.

Map of Jackson Demonstration State Forest

Map of Jackson Demonstration State Forest

If you want to know just how twisty Route 20 is just run your finger along the red line. Allegedly there are 312 twists in the road between Fort Bragg and Willits.

A Shay of the Greenwood (aka Elk) Railroad and Caspar Railroad #3 2-6-2t

This is part of a recently received e-mail:

My name is Tammy Durston – I grew up in Annapolis, went to Pt Arena High and am author of three books on the area. I am writing a fourth book featuring what the Mendo coast looked like in the past versus what it looks like now. My husband’s family has been in the coast since around 1850. I’m the family historian and have been going through old photos. My husband’s great grandfather was a train engineer in Elk and Caspar. I’ve attached a couple of photos. I wondered if you could give me any background on these engines.”

Here is the first of the two photos:

One of Greenwood Railroad Co #2, #3 or #5 Shay

One of Greenwood Railroad Co #2, #3 or #5 Shay

My reply: if you go to this page in our website  I think you will find this loco in one the top three photos. So, I think this photo is of  a Shay although I can’t tell if it is #2, #3 or #5. Toward the bottom of this web page you’ll see what we know about the Elk/Greenwood Shays. GRCO I am reasonably sure is short for Greenwood Railroad Company.

And photo number 2:

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad #3 - a 2-6-2t

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad #3 – a 2-6-2t

This one took a bit of finding.  I finally located it on our website in Issues 315-316 of the Western Railroader magazine – Caspar Lumber Company. If you click here you can bring up the entire book . Page though to page 12 and you’ll see this loco in the top photo.

Whew that took a bit Shelock Holmesing!!!!


A brief history of the Caspar Mill’s Railroad and the mill’s first loco Daisy

It’s great when someone more knowledgeable than me writes about the Mendocino Coast Logging operations. Martin Hansen has certainly done that in a recent blog on his site, “Steam in the Woods.” With no further ado here is is his post:

Just 5 miles south of Ft. Bragg on the California Coast, lies the little town of Caspar. This coastal town today only has a handful of buildings left. However, in 1870 the town boasted a large sawmill and the beginnings of a logging railroad that never connected to any other rail line. Originally the railroad was animal powered and built on wooden rails. By 1875 steel rails replaced the wooden rails and a small second-hand 0-4-4T built in San Francisco in 1869 was added as the first steam power. The railroad by this time was known as the Caspar South Fork & Eastern RR.

By 1885 the mill was prospering and the railroad had been extended some 5 miles from the mill to the cutting areas. This prompted the Caspar Lumber Company to call on Baldwin to build a new locomotive for the young railroad. Here is what they got.In June 1885 Baldwin shipped C/N 7558 to San Francisco where it was knocked down and loaded onto the schooner “ABBIE” for the trip up the coast to Caspar. Once in the harbor, she was unloaded and barged to the dock where she was then hauled up the hill to the small enginehouse for re-assembly.

The engine was name Daisy when ordered from Baldwin and that name lasted her entire career. In the first photo we see Daisy when she was still new and in her factory paint. You can see the pride her crews took in her in this portrait. Daisy served very well for decades on the CSF&E and was still in service in April 1938 when she was spotted for pictures during the only railfan excursion held on the CSF&E as shown in the second photo.

While larger and more powerful engines would follow and replace Daisy on the mainline run in later years (including a pair of 2-6-6-2 Mallets) Daisy was still the pride of the CSF&E when the line quit in 1945. Because of her popularity she became the only one of the 7 CSF&E locomotives to be saved. She was originally put on display in 1948 at Camp 20 and later she was moved to Ft. Bragg where she is on display today.”

She is on display in the Museum Deli opposite the Skunk Train Depot.

These three photos were loaded with the above text:

Daisy when she was new

Daisy when she was new

Daisy after years of hard work

Daisy after years of hard work

Daisy's Manufacturer's badge

Daisy’s Manufacturer’s badge

Thanks Martin



Caspar Lumber Company and the Fruit Growers Supply Company

We know from a movie the club has that most of the Caspar Lumber Company’s milled products were shipped to Pittsburg (a town on the southern shore of the Suisun Bay in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.) There the Caspar Lumber Company had a controlling interest in a box making factory. Boxes ranged from crates to cigar  boxes and everything in between. There was a great need for crates to ship, among other things, fruit from the Central Valley all over the USA. What we/I do not know is whether one of the “partners” was the Fruit Growers Supply Company.

Knowledge of the Fruit Growers Supply Company has eluded me to date. However this post in Martin Hansen “Steam in the Woods” blog provides an excellent background on the Company:

FGS #5, a big Lima 3-truck Shay

FGS #5, a big Lima 3-truck Shay

When a large group of Southern California fruit growers banded together in 1907 to form a cooperative association to guaranty they would have a steady supply of wood to make box shook for their packaging, they formed the Fruit Growers Supply Company. This organization marketed their products under the Sunkist Brand name, familiar to most of us.

One of their main missions was to accumulate enough timber land to provide a steady and economical supply of box shook. They acquired many large timber holdings until ultimately they became the largest private owner of timber land in California. One of their timber holdings was in Northern California near the Oregon border where they formed the town of Hilt. It was at Hilt that they operated a mill and logging railroad system to supply the wood for the company.

In the late 1930’s famed logging photographer Clark Kinsey traveled to Hilt to photograph the operation for the company. Here we see FGS #5, a big Lima 3-truck Shay as she unloads her log loads at the mill pond in Hilt. This ritual would be repeated day in and day out for many decades until the logging railroad was finally abandoned in the early 1950’s.

The mill finally closed and the company town of Hilt was leveled in the mid 1970’s so that there nearly no sign the mill or town was ever there. Fortunately for us, Shay #5 lived on as she went to a new logging line out of Cochran, Oregon for a number of years before being sold in the 1940’s to Pickering Lumber Corp. where she became their #7. Today she is on display at the Sierra Ry roundhouse in Jamestown, CA.”

Sanborn Map of Caspar

Let’s hear from Wiki first:

” The Sanborn Map Company was a publisher of detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries. The maps were originally created to allow fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas of the United States. Since they contain detailed information about properties and individual buildings in approximately 12,000 U.S. cities and towns, Sanborn maps are invaluable for documenting changes in the built environment of American cities over many decades. Sanborn held a monopoly over fire insurance maps for the majority of the 20th century, but the business declined as US insurance companies stopped using maps for underwriting in the 1960s. The last Sanborn fire maps were published on microfilm in 1977, but old Sanborn maps remain useful for historical research into urban geography. 

The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600) on 21 by 25 inches (53 by 64 cm) sheets of paper. The maps were published in volumes, bound and then updated until the subsequent volume was produced. Larger cities would be covered by multiple volumes of maps. Between editions of published volumes, map updates were sent out as correction slips. Sanborn employees, called “pasters” or “correctors”, would visit subscribers’ offices to paste the slips on top of the old maps.The map volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page; an index of streets and addresses; a ‘specials’ index with the names of churches, schools, businesses etc.; and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks); and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction.

The maps include outlines of each building and outbuilding; the location of windows and doors; street names; street and sidewalk widths; property boundaries; fire walls; natural features (rivers, canals, etc.); railroad corridors; building use (sometimes even particular room uses); house and block number; as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, and roofing materials; the strength of the local fire department; indications of sprinkler systems; locations of fire hydrants; location of water and gas mains; and even the names of most public buildings, churches and businesses.Unique information includes the location of the homes of prominent individuals, brothels, and more ephemeral buildings including outhouses and stables.”

There were two Sanborn Maps of Caspar. This one was published in January 1891 [cut and paste to see it]:

This one was published in November 1898:

There was another Sanborn Map of Caspar published in November 1909 but, alas, it is not in the Library of Congress yet.

Using the +/- up/down and side to side keys you can zoom in on the totally amazing detail encapsulated in the map.

This Topo map shows Caspar today [click on map to enlarge].

Topo Map of Caspar

Topo Map of Caspar

Anyone who can correct my info PLEASE contact me.