Railroad Over the Siskiyous
Tuesday June 14, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
The railroad linking Medford, Oregon, and Yreka, California, reopened in April 2005. It had been closed for sixteen months after a tunnel fire along the tracks through the Siskiyou Mountains. The recent disruption in train service calls to mind an earlier time when a big gap existed in the route between the two states.
Two railroad companies had been building towards each other from Portland and Sacramento since 1869, when the first transcontinental railroad linked the east and west coast markets. Construction had gone in fits and starts for years. By 1883 a track gap still existed between Medford and Redding. Freight coming into the Rogue Valley was sent by ship from San Francisco to Portland, or hauled over the pass by wagon. Finally, in 1887 after difficult engineering through the mountains, north and south bound tracks were joined. Goods and passengers rode swiftly over the Siskiyous in a few hours.
In 1926 an alternate route opened that ran from Black Butte near Mt. Shasta through Klamath Falls to Eugene. Most north-south rail traffic uses this route today, but localized freighting from the Rogue Valley continues to use the Siskiyou tracks.
With the 2003 closure, southbound freight had to be either trucked over the mountains, or shipped north to Eugene.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Curler, Dawna. "Making Tracks: the Impact of Railroading in the Rogue Valley," text for exhibit at the Jacksonville Museum of Southern Oregon History, opened in 1988; Austin, Ed and Tom Dill. The Southern Pacific in Oregon. Pacific Fast Mail: Edmonds, Washington, 1987.