Montague CA is the location of the Yreka Western Railroad’s interchange with the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). Here SP train No.16, the "Oregon & California Express", is stopped at the SP's depot in 1910 and making the connection behind the depot is Yreka Railroad's Hall-Scott Motorcar No.5.
Yreka Western Railroad Co. (YW)
(DBA: YREKA WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY)
The Yreka Railroad Company, dbA: Yreka Western Railroad Company (YW, AAR #873)
is a Common Carrier Class III (Shortline) railroad serving the Siskiyou County California communities of Yreka and Montague. The YW built and has been operating the rail line since 1889 and interchanges with the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad (CORP)
in Montague CA. The YW operates freight trains but its storied past included scheduled passenger trains and tourist/excursion The YW was incorporated in the State of California on August 24, 1933, identified as corporation number C0155224 and was the successor to the original Yreka Railroad Co.
The original Yreka Railroad Company was incorporated in May 1888 with capital stock of $100,000, and opened in January 1889, connecting Yreka to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company lessor Central Pacific Railroad (ex-California and Oregon Railroad). The decision to build the Yreka Railroad was due in part to the Central Pacific's decision to bypass Yreka in favor of a shorter, and more level route through the Shasta Valley and the City of Montague. Not to be left without a rail connection, the citizens of Yreka formed their own railroad. The railroad hauled passengers and local freight. On August 24, 1933, the railroad was re-incorporated as the Yreka Western Railroad Company.
KYLE RAILWAYS OWNERSHIP (1953-1999)
The railroad was acquired by Willis Kyle in 1953 who eventually formed the Kyle Railways empire. In 1995 the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad acquired the Southern Pacific (later Union Pacific) connection at Montague. Under Willis Kyle's ownership the railroad grew and expanded. It was at this time that the railroad’s historic "Blue Goose" logo and slogans were developed.
In 1986 under the Kyle Railways ownership, the YW started operating a steam passenger train excursion known as the "Blue Goose" between Yreka and Montague, offering scenic views of Mount Shasta, the Shasta Valley and the Siskiyou Mountains.
The YW has had a long history of steam locomotives and early California railroading history. One of the most famous YW locomotives was the 2-8-2 Mikado, Baldwin-built 90-Ton logging locomotive #19, nicknamed "Pancho". This nickname was likely due to its time spent in Mexico in the 1920s and possible squabble with the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. The #19 steam locomotive has starred in many movies, the two most famous being "Emperor of the North" and "Stand By Me". The locomotive was built in 1915 by Baldwin for the Caddow River Lumber Company in Arkansas and stayed there until sent to Mexico in 1920 where it was believed to have been converted to oil. In 1924 the locomotive was purchased by the McCloud River Railroad and stayed many years there hauling log trains until it was sold to the Yreka Western Railroad in 1953.
Willis Kyle once stated that he was the 13th owner of the rail line, which he was referencing back to the original 1888 corporation Yreka Railroad Company plus the current 1933 corporation’s (C0155224) ownership.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN RAILWAY AND MINING MUSEUM OWNERSHIP (1999-2016)
In 1999 Kyle Railways sold the YW to the Rocky Mountain Railway and Mining Museum of Denver, Colorado, the 14th owner of the rail line. Business remained as usual with the YW building on both of its freight and passenger excursion business.
The YW’s freight rail business became extremely challenging in 2004 with the closing of Tunnel #3 in the “Siskiyou Pass” near the Oregon state line. This line is owned by the Union Pacific Railroad and operated by the CORP, interchanging with the YW in Montague. A large tunnel repair and rail line rehabilitation was completed over two years, but during that time the YW had lost its traffic going north. With the south traffic still intact, the YW’s revenues were cut in half. During that time the excursion business was increased to make up for the lost revenues. A downturn in the economy and other issued would later negatively affect the YW’s excursion business. In mid-2016 the YW ceased operating any excursion trains and sold is #19 steam engine.
RAILMARK OWNERSHIP (2017-Present)
On December 30, 2016, and effective January 1, 2017, the YW was sold to its 15th and present owner, Railmark Holdings, Inc. (www.railmark.com) who owns and operates the railroad today. Railmark began numerous marketing and infrastructure improvements including re-establishing the YW electronically in the North American Rail Network. In August 2017 Railmark renamed the Yreka Western Railroad Company (C0155224) back to its original 1888 name, Yreka Railroad Company and legally obtained the “Doing Business As” (DBA) name Yreka Western Railroad Company. Under Railmark ownership of the YW, the Company filed and received Federal intellectual property protection for the railroad’s logo and “Blue Goose” trademark which had been in continuous use since 1953. Completed in 2021, Railmark modernized and enhanced the YW’s main rail transload facility located off of Interstate 5 exit #775, installing modern security, gates, lighting and other features desired in rail to truck transfer. The YW back in 1910 became the area’s first rail transload facility and some of the original features remain and are exhibited today.
The railroad today is a modern shortline railroad providing freight service to online industries, transloading, railcar services, track construction & maintenance and industrial rail development services. The freight traffic is primarily wood chips, forest products, propane, and a variety of transload commodities. Industrial development properties are available in both Yreka and Montague.