CORP   Over the Hill

The Southern Pacific had embargoed the south end of the Siskiyou Line in Summer of 1992.  Shippers were enthusiastic about CORP's intentions to reopen the line to daily train service south of Medford to the  Black Butte interchange with the Southern Pacific main line.  SP still owns the track south of Ashland, which was basically intact, and is leasing it to CORP.  The new railroad performed considerable maintainence work on the line before reopening it to traffic in July, 1995.

For the uninitiated, the line over the Siskiyou Mountains is a very impressive piece of mountain railroading.  Sustained grades of over 3% rule on both sides of the mountain.  Shorter sections of rail have a grade of up to 3.7%.  A GP-38 is rated at only 475 tons over the hill and a GP-40 is good for only 500 tons.  Drawbar limit is 3500 tons for a train without helpers -- that's less then 35 loaded cars.  CORP experimented with helpers, but found, after some difficulty, that limiting train lengths to around 30 loads worked best.

It takes 7 GP-38's and GP-40's to power a 30 car train over the Siskiyous.  Here's a typical power set.

The Montague Hauler departing Medford in July, 1995.  It will swap trains at Montague with the one which the Weed Switcher will bring up from Black Butte.  The two tank cars behind the engines are water cars and will spray water along the roadbed in the dry forests of Southern Oregon and Northern California.

"New" power for the run over the Siskiyous included several GP-40's from the Norfolk Southern.  These units have high hoods, dual controls and due to the lack of toilets are banned from leading a train in Oregon.

   I was fortunate to be able to ride with one of the CORP Montague Haulers in November, 1995.  This is looking back at 6 locomotives and twenty-some cars pulling out of the Medford Yard.

  Over an hour from Medford, and well into the mountains, we encounter Tunel 15.  This is one of three tunnels on the hill.  The next one, Tunnel 15 is 1.4 mile ahead and though outwardly similar to this one, features a nearly 180 degree curve inside.  But tunnels are only one freature of the difficult terrain the railroad faces on its way up to Sikiyou Summit.

    This is Wall Creek Viaduct over a spectacular and scenic ravine which trains must cross.  Many similar crossings were filled, but Wall Creek viaduct stands as a reminder of what this line was like over 100 years ago.

This is Siskiyou at the top of the climb over the hill.  All that's left now is a few old maintainence building taken over by vandals and the elements.  At one time, however, there was quite a settlement here including houses and a turntable.  The track on the right is a 4588 siding and the one on the left is a maintainence spur.  As the tracks curve to the right, they switch down to a single line which promptly pops into Tunnel 13.

Our train is about to pass through the north portal of Tunnel 13.  At the very top of the entrance a wreath can just barely be seen.  It is in memory of the trainmen who died at the far end of this tunnel on October 11, 1923 at the hands of the DeAutremont brothers in Oregon's most famous train robbery.  We are 4122 feet above sea level at the very crest of the grade.

Our descent of the Siskiyous continues into California as we head down Baily Hill.  On this 3.1% grade the engineer has made a set with the air brakes and is making full use of dynamic braking to hold the train back to the posted 20 miles per hour speed.  That's Interstate 5 under the lumber loads.

The steep grades of the Siskiyous are behind us now as we roll through the Klamath River valley.  The last unit of our train has just come across the new Klamath River bridge.  This modern structure (the only modern bridge on the Siskiyou Line) was built in the 80's to replace the through truss destroyed in a derailment.

Nearing Montague, California, we pass through rolling fields less than 25 miles from the forests of Oregon.  Even on this relatively tame section of the railroad, grades can still approach 2%.

All pictures copyright 1998 by Larry Tuttle
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This page was last futzed with on December 2, 2000