SP IndexxxWx4 IndexxxLake Railway at Lakeview, 2012xxFred Boland's Alturas, 1929-1930

Likely Loop & Lakeview Local, 1974
chance encounters on Southern Pacific's Modoc Line.

I was not born in Modoc County, but I did honeymoon there, in the Surprise Valley over the Warner Range to the east of Southern Pacific's Modoc Line through Alturas and Likely...in January with the thermometer hovering at 5 degrees. So, between that and spending time at the family place in Surprise ever since, I would guess that the old timers there would still consider me to be a newcomer, but a vaguely familiar one.

Two years later, in the spring of 1974, while heading to Surprise Valley, I had a chance encounter with an eastbound freight where the tracks cross Highway 199 at Canby.** I managed to beat it to Alturas, from where I drove ahead to scout for a "Likely" spot to take pictures. Following that, I headed back to Alturas. After photographing there for awhile, the eastbound Lakeview Local showed up, causing an extended chase to the end of the branch. My interest in railroad photography waned after that. I never again photographed SP on the Modoc.

Modoc Line Map

**Disambiguation: Where west is north and east is south, yet never the trains shall [cornfield] meet...

The Oregon Division "Cascade Cutoff" main line through Klamath Falls followed orthodox SP practice. Westbound on SP meant "towards San Francisco" (northbound = "eastbound"), hence geographically southbound trains were labeled as "westbound". Not so on the Modoc Line. The Modoc Cutoff (Line) was constructed to give Oregon forest products a more direct route to Eastern markets, i.e., it was considered a route going away from San Francisco. Thus geographically southbound trains on the Modoc were "eastbound" in SP parlance. The Lakeview Branch was "normal", however. Lakeview was "east" of Alturas.

timetable page from the Sheldon Perry Collection

Alturas and Likely Loop

From the Highway 395 overpass: SP X8413E arriving Alturas with fellow SD40's #8462 and #8422; SD45X #9500 trailing.

Crew change time at the yard office from the Highway 395 overpass - Crews would be based here in "Siberia" for a couple more years. The track to Likely curves to the right in the distance; the Lakeview Branch turns to the left, with the roundhouse just out of sight. The yard office, once the depot, was severly foreshortened later in the decade, losing its former baggage room.

A train of a different name is still the same old train. Not being familiar wit how the Modoc operated, I dashed from Alturas and found a pretty god photo location at the Loop...and waited and waited. In the meantime, the train stopped at Likely to reshuffle its power with a pair of waiting light engines. Here we see the train, re-branded X8402E, about to enter the Loop. The power rearrangement put the light engines' #8402 and #8465 on point, followed by original second-out #8462 and fourth-out #9500. Formerly third-out #8422 was cut-in as the mid-train helper along with original lead engine #8413. One can only speculate why the crews engaged in an acey-deucey sorting out of the power at Likely.

No. 8402 trailed by #8422 at mid train and Loop.

The head end grinding up the far side of the Loop, with one of the then-ubiquitous Evergreen boxcars in the foreground. There still is plenty of snow on Eagle Peak, the right-most protuberance, and the Warner Mountains extending to its left.

Back in Alturas

The much-photographed former narrow gauge Nevada-California-Oregon Ry. headquarters building. It was an Elk's Lodge at the time; still is.

Other than having its shake shingles replaced with asphalt shingles, the gorgeous little ex-N-C-O depot is much the same today.

The less-photographed rear of the depot.

The old N-C-O freight house was also the original depot (note operator's bay), if memory serves. It is still there, due east of the headquarters, but with a wing added, all clad in sheet metal siding. If memory serves, complaints from townfolk about the depot's far-removed location cause the construction of the stone structure a couple of blocks closer to downtown.

Rear side of the freight house.


More N-C-O Remnants: Passenger car on north side of Alturas, next to Lakeview Branch and Highway 199; N-C-O boxcar, one of a pair at Likely.

Lakeview Local
Alongside the Pit River, five miles northeast of Alturas, roughly at the junction of Highway 395 and Highway 299 to Surprise Valley.

Pit River Canyon

Once past the canyon, the branch enters the plain between the Warners and Goose lake.

Above and below: North of Davis Creek, the tracks and the highway diverge. From the vantage point of the Goose Lake Lookout, the world goes on forever.

I am not 100% sure, but I believe that the bridge over the ditch marks the California - Oregon state line. If so, the long gone New Pine Creek depot location was about 100 feet behind me, and the town is to the left, one mile east.

Nearing Lakeview, it is May and Poplar Trees are just now budding.
Lakeview arrival

The perfect carport

Kick 'em: The real work begins.

For the fun of it: Antediluvian Lakeview Branch power at the Alturas roundhouse, May 24, 1937: Judging by period photos, it and sister 2917 had alternately habituated Alturas since the line went standard gauge. - photographer unknown; negative: Wx4 Collection. A photo of #2917 in 1929 appears on Fred Boland's Alturas page.