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Edition #119, February 1, 2010

Relic

Photographer: Jeff Moore

                                                                                                         Photo by Jeff Moore

Relic

Even loggers liked to have families. 

It wasn't always that way. The business end of harvesting trees has always been one of the most dangerous occupations, and it has drawn its fair share of rough men. Logging in the old days meant months of living in the brush, in tent camps or simple cabins provided by the company. The men would go out as soon as the snows retreated and worked until it came back. The camps housing the men would rarely remain in one place for more than a month or two, with the entire facilities picked up and moved at regular intervals so that the men would never be far from their work. 

By the early 1920's, however, more and more loggers married and started families, and the families did not want to be split up for months on end.  Those working in the industry started demanding more stability, and retaining those employees forced the employers to change their ways. The McCloud River Lumber Company in northeastern California was on the cutting edge of these domestic changes, with its first semi-permanent log camp operating by 1920. In 1927 the company established Pondosa, a permanent logging community deep in the woods. Pondosa had everything a family could need, including a company store, recreation hall, and school through the eigth grade. 

The transition to the permanent logging camps posed a logistical challenge to the company in that the harvest operations continually moved farther and farther away from the camp. Loggers had to be moved back and forth every day, and to accomplish this task the Pondosa shop forces under the direction of Vic Larsen built a railbus. The shop started with an engine salvaged from a Caterpillar model 60 tractor, which drove one axle on the forward truck.  A chain powered the other axle. A gracefully curved carbody offered protection for the riders, and slings mounted under the frame carried firefighting and logging tools. The railbus- termed the "Red Goose" by the employees- had many drawbacks, such as very little suspension, largely ineffective brakes, and poor ventilation, but it did what the company built it to do. 

Passable roads and rubber-tired vehicles largely replaced the Red Goose by the early 1950's, but in 1952 the company opened a new camp named Kinyon.  The initial harvest areas worked by the camp lay in inaccessible country, and the company moved the vehicle to the new camp until roads could be built. By the late 1950's the company had no further use for the Red Goose and shoved it to the end of a camp spur in Kinyon. In late 1963 U.S. Plywood purchased the McCloud River companies and shut the camps down. Bulldozers quickly leveled everything in Camp Kinyon, but the new owners didn't know what to do with the Red Goose and so they left it. 

The abandoned hulk of the Red Goose has been sitting in Kinyon for almost half a century. Scavengers made off with whatever spare parts they needed.  Heavy snows have partially collapsed the roof of the car. Ponderosa pines growing up around the car have contoured themselves against the body. Visitors to the car through the years have left their memories on the wall that once separated the passengers from the operator cabin. The Red Goose remains as a relic of and a link to a past that is increasingly distant.

And all because loggers too liked to have families.

Jeff Moore

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