SP IndexxxWx4 IndexxxLikely & Lakeview, 1974xx Fred Boland's Alturas, 1929-30

Lake Railway at Lakeview, 2012
"Southern Pacific is gone."
That's all I knew, for sure.

The former Southern Pacific Lakeview Branch was in sorry shape when I visited Lakeview in 2012. After SP spun-off the branch to Great Western Railway as the latter's N-C-O Division in 1986, the lumber industry in Lakeview gradually went into decline, causing a turnstile of companies to give the line a go, only to stumble as business dried up. GWR declined to renew its contract with the branch's owner, Lake County a decade later. Unable to find a suitable operator, the county was then forced to run the railroad itself, as Lake County Railway. This lasted another decade, until Lake County though it had a viable alternative: Modoc Northern Railroad, which had recently leased the Modoc Line remnant between Klamath Falls and Alturas from Union Pacific. (UP has shut down the balance of the Modoc south of Alturas in 1997) Modoc Northern collapsed only three years later, in 2009. Lake County found a new operator in Frontier Rail, which incorporated Lake Railway to operate the branch, and soon also, the 49 mile segment of the old Modoc main line from Alturas north to Perez.

I was generally ignorant of all of this until I purchased Jeff Moore's fine Eastern Oregon Shortline Railroads in 2016. I also had no way of knowing that Lake Railway would only last until 2017, causing another scramble for an operator that led to the current operator, Goose Lake Railroad, which still has not managed to put up a website. GLRy at first operated the branch and also the Modoc from Alturas to McArthur, north of Perez (LRy had begun running on the latter segment in 2017), but retrenched to Alturas-Lakeview in 2019. Jeff Moore's website, High Desert Rails, has a detailed history of the Lakeview Branch's successor railroads, accompanied by a map and a nice selection of photos.

As it was, during my brief visit in 2012, on the way to other places, I found no activity, nor somebody to talk with about the railroad's status. Lake Railway (the operator, maybe?) Geep #700 sat in the enginehouse blockaded at either end by doors that looked as if tumbled down by wind, so I presumed that the entire workforce was out on the railroad somewhere with a second locomotive, which turned out to be accurate.

But first, for comparative purposes, above is a look at the Lakeview depot in October, 1973, about seven months before chasing trains from Likely Loop to Lakeview. The photo below shows it in 2012 as a private residence, it appears.

Above looking north, and below: Geep #700 blockaded by unhinged doors. The owners of the pickup trucks were nowhere to be seen. They probably were out on a train powered by one or two leased ex-Alaska RR GP49's. The top photo reads like a history lesson.

Above and below: At the north end of town sat LRy's only evident sources of regular income - wood chip and perlite loading facilities - but in addition, the mill loaded centerbeam flatcars out of camera sight.