Mendocino Lumber Co. Loco #2 – a geared Climax

A Climax locomotive is a type of geared steam locomotive in which the two steam cylinders were attached to a transmission located under the center of the boiler. This transmits power to driveshafts running to the front and rear trucks.

Rush S. Battles patented the basic design in 1891. Battles’ design had horizontal cylinders connected to the drive shaft through a 2-speed transmission. The drive shaft passed just above the axle centers, requiring the use of hypoid bevel gears to transfer power to each axle. Unlike the later and somewhat similar Heisler design, there were no side rods on the trucks and all gearing was open, exposed to the elements. Battles’ patent describes the core design that became the Class B Climax, and as his patent illustrations show the name Climax emblazoned on the locomotive cab.

Charles D. Scott, an inventor who had previously proposed a less successful geared steam locomotive, patented improved versions of Battles’ trucks in 1892 and 1893.Scott’s 1892 patent was the basis of the Class A Climax. His 1892 patent included gear-case enclosures.

Many loggers considered the Climax superior to the Shay in hauling capability and stability, particularly in a smaller locomotive, although the ride was characteristically rough for the crew. Mendocino Lumber Co. owned one of the two Climaxes along the Mendocino Coast – Caspar Lumber Co, owned the other.

Mendocino Lumber Co, #2 Climax loco

Mendocino Lumber Co, #2 Climax loco


The Big RiverMaru – a stern driven paddle wheeler operated by the Mendocino Lumber Company on Big River

Sadly I can’t find out too much about her. Here’s what I know:

The first Maru was built by John Peterson. He named her the ”Maru” after seeing the word on Japanese boats thinking it was a pretty name. The Maru’s job was to bring rafts of logs to the mill from the boom. On social occasions in summer, picnickers would ride the Maru up Big River, courtesy of the lumber company.

The Big River Maru was launched at the Mendocino Lumber Company mill on June 13, 1900 without fanfare. The stern wheeler was 40 feet long, 16 feet wide and approximately 3 feet high, with a flat bottom. A stern driven paddle wheel was its motive power. A licensed engineer was required to run the Maru. The Big River Maru was used to drive log rafts, break up logjams and ferry workers and logging camp residents up and down river. She had a licensed captain and first engineer. The engineer was George Jarvis and Phil Goodhart was the fireman.

On December 6, 1919 The new Maru, Big River #2 was launched at the mill. Its designer and builder was, again, John Peterson. The principal difference between the new craft and the old one was the shed roof over the paddle wheel. On December 29, 1919 The new Big River Maru #2, made a fast run to the Boom, taking 25 minutes on a slack tide. Some of its remains still rest in the north bank mudflat, across the river from Iron Pin Hole.

Here are the pics I have found [Click on the pics to see full size]:


Hell’s Gate Dam on Big River

Dams were used by the Mendocino mill on Big River to bring the cut logs to the mill. The Mendocino Lumber Company was “famous” for damming Big River. With rare exceptions, dams along Big River were used only during the winter season. Logs were stored in the stream beds. Winter rains furnished the freshet (body of water) for floating the logs down river, but in most cases, did not. Dams were then used to build up a reservoir of water. When the dams were tripped (blown up), a flood was created along with a “head.” A head is similar to the shore side of an ocean wave. Near the dam, a head might begin as high as 10 feet dropping to three-foot height 15 miles down river. A higher head, which would result in being able to float more logs a greater distance, would be obtained by tripping/blowing up more than one dam in succession. This, for sure, was in the days before environmentalists were invented.

We have modeled Hell’s Gate dam on our layout without much help in the form of old photos. Hence these three photos will be very valuable when we work on our Big River diorama in the coming winter. Click on the photos to enlarge them

Hell's Gate dam being built

Hell’s Gate dam being built

Hell's Gate Dam.

Hell’s Gate Dam.

Hell's Gate Dam

Hell’s Gate Dam


Once upon a time there were TWO Mendocino’s


How do I know this? Well, the book, “History of California Post Offices by H.E. Salley” says so. The book says there were two Mendocinos. One, the one we know, is seven miles south of Fort Bragg. There has been a post office there since December 1st, 1858.

The second Mendocino was named after Cape Mendocino and was located 36 miles south of Eureka. The post office was established there on the 19th of October 1852. Cape Mendocino was then part of Mendocino County and later became part of Humboldt County when it was created on 12th of March 1853. Mendocino #2 later became known as Capetown. The post office didn’t last too long – it closed on the 20th of December 1853.

Post Offices of California

Post Offices of California

How about that then!!!!!!!

Five and a half inch freshet in Mendocino on February 28th, 1917

I had never heard of the word “freshet” when we moved here (Fort Bragg, CA.) in 2000. It wasn’t part of my lexicon. It turns out that a freshet is, “the flood of a river from heavy rain or melted snow.” In the early years we lived here was a relatively dry spell. There was a fair amount of discussion among club members as to whether the weather was normal or abnormal.

Across the California Western Railroad’s (CWR) – the Skunk Train – tracks alongside our club’s layout (The Mendocino Railroad & Navigation Co.) is the Guest House Museum. In front of the Guest House is a slice of a tree:

Guest House Tree, Fort Bragg CA.

Guest House Tree

In order to settle the discussion I and another club member decided to measure the width of the 911 tree rings in the slice of trunk. The more rain the wider the tree ring. I sent our tabulation to a Professor friend at Columbia University in NYC for analysis. The result of the analysis was that there were no regular cycles of more/less rain. There were years when the rainfall must have been horrendous. There were years when the rainfall was minimal. Which means that this year’s very heavy rainfall is not out of the ordinary.

To prove my “point” check out this snippet from the local rag of February 28th, 1917:

“Mendocino was visited by a very severe storm Friday and Saturday, it being that 5 and a half inches of rain fell in 24 hours. As a result, Big River had the largest freshet in several years. About 25,00 logs came into the boom from the camp of Mallory and Johnston. The new chopper’s camp on Big River lost part of its cookhouse and a large fill on the new railroad was washed away. Aside from this, no material damage was done.”



Mendocino, a book by Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins published in 1973



Club member Earl Craighill brought this book to our weekly Wednesday brekkers meeting a couple of weeks ago. As the club’s historian I am always interested in books, articles, pictures etc. which amplify what we already know of the railroad and logging operations along the Mendocino Coast. Earl, generous soul that he is, soon granted me the opportunity to take it home and have a long butchers.

The book I found out is mainly about the families who first came to Mendocino and their homes – many of which still stand. Their were some new items about which I heretofore had no knowledge. One item was details of the Azorian fishermen who lived in Mendocino:

The Portugese of Mendocino

The Portuguese of Mendocino

When I first came to the Mendocino Coast in the early 1990’s I was told that you could identify the houses of the Azorian fishermen by the abalone shells decorating their houses.

The next interesting bit of history to catch my eye was this picture of the first mill in Mendocino which was perched at the end of the point:

First Mill on the PointIf you look closely at the photo you can see that the finished lumber is being loaded via a chute onto a lighter and not onto a schooner. The photo below shows the Point a little later and shows three chutes. Perched at the end of the first chute is the clapper man – his job was to stop the pieces of lumber sent down the chute to allow them to be passed onto the lighter.

Loading by chute to a lighter

Loading by chute to a lighter

Interesting snippets what! Thanks Earl for the lend.

Building a Bridge Across Big River in Mendocino about 1900

Club member Earl Craighill has been foraging in the Kelley House files in Mendocino looking for documents/maps/materials that show the history of his property in Mendocino. In the course of his search he came across three documents which he copied and forwarded to me.

The documents, which are William Heeser’s original notes, are a plan for a bridge and the costing sheets for building the bridge. I persuaded webmaster Roger Thornburn to accompany Earl back to the Kelley House Museum with his camera. This he kindly did and you can see the photos of the documents below.

The bridge (I think) is the one that collapsed in the 1906 earthquake. According to the cost sheet the total for the construction was $8,929.10. Me, being the accountant, immediately wanted to know how much this would be in today’s dollars. Well, what’s your guess? I guessed $250,00o which, it turned out, was not too bad. The answer is $236,705.47.

Plan of the Bridge

Plan of the Bridge

Cost Estiimate Page 1

Cost Estiimate Page 1

Cost Estimate page 2

Cost Estimate page 2

The bridge in the plan and cost estimate - I think

The bridge in the plan and cost estimate – I think