Skip to main content

Paul Bunyan, Logging and Model Trains: Sierra Lumber Company, Lyonsville and Porter Locomotives

Yes, I knowed Paul Bunyan. My father worked fer him when I wuz a little shaver an' I uster allus tag 'long. Logger? Wal, I sh'd say-cut m' teeth on a peevy an' rooled logs in m' first long pants. "Twuz some loggin' them days-trees all round here twelve t' fourteen foot thru.

Ida Virginia Turney, Paul Bunyan Comes West, 1928

My apologies! I thought I had published this post already, Blogger is up to its usual tricks!

This book, Legends of Paul Bunyan, collected by Harold Felton, showed up in the mail the other day, and I must say, if you have never read any books about Paul Bunyan then you should read this one! It's a wonderful collection of stories, poems and songs about Paul and his life, there is even a poem by Robert Frost in this collection. There are stories by the usual Paul Bunyan authors: W.B Laughead, James Stevens, Esther Shepard, Wallace Wadsworth, etc., and stories that were gathered from real loggers. Gorgeous illustrations and many hours of fun reading.

I mentioned in a previous posting that I was born and raised where the southern end Cascade Mountain Range collides with the northern end of the Sierra Nevada Range. It was magical to grow up in a land of old growth timber, there were ponderosa and sugar pines six feet through right out our back door. Then there were all the stories about the men and women who worked in the lumber camps and surrounding communities, I miss those who told those stories.

Many of the events in those family stories took place in the sawmill town of Lyonsville, California. There the Champion Mill produced lumber which was floated down to the kilns and yards via a flume to Red Bluff, California. The Sierra Lumber Company used 0-6-0T Porter locomotives to haul the trees in from the lumber camps and log chutes to the mill, and it ran on meter gauge tracks. When the line was first laid down, Tehama County couldn't tax Sierra Lumber Company, because meter gauge was not used anywhere else in the United States. That was quickly rectified.

"Uncle Sam", near Lyonsville, CA. Wilson Burnham Collection

This "Uncle Sam", locomotive #3 that operated from Lyonsville. According to John Barnhill at Foothill Rails, click here to see his website, "Uncle Sam" was made by H.K. Porter & Co. in 1896.

CSU Chico Digital Collections

This is "Antelope", locomotive #2. I think it was named "Antelope" partly as a joke, these weren't fast engines and the Champion Mill sat right on the edge of the North Fork of Antelope Creek. It also ran on the Lyonsville line. Mr. Barnhill states that "Antelope" was by H.K. Porter & Co. in 1883.

CSU Chico Digital Collections

Here is a shot of "Antelope" pushing a load into Lyonsville (I can tell it's #2 from the smokestack. This is a great shot, I rarely find old photos of carpenters building houses.

CSU Chico Digital Collections

I believe this was the first locomotive purchased by the Sierra Flume and Lumber Company, the predecessor of the Sierra Lumber Co. Barnhill states that this 0-4-0 was made by the Marysville Foundry, Marysville, California in 1877 and that it was named "Yellow Hammer". I haven't found any information on the internet about the Marysville Foundry making locomotives, but I did find out that they made other rolling stock.

Correction -

This is an 0-4-0 locomotive that Sierra Lumber Company purchased from the Union Iron Works in San Francisco in 1881. It was called "Peter Dean", it was later rebuilt as a 0-6-0.

CSU Chico Digital Collections

This a the Champion Mill at Lyonsville. The men are stacking lumber, which will later be put into the flume to be shipped down to the Red Bluff yard to be planed and dried before it will be shipped out on the main line railroad. Diamond Match Company had purchased the Sierra Lumber Company by the time this photo was taken.

CSU Digital Collections

"Uncle Sam" on a trestle somewhere near Lyonsville. I bet that that load is just one sugar pine tree!

My own "Uncle Sam", a Bachmann Spectrum Porter 0-4-0T pulling a load of Douglas fir.

You got to check out this YouTube! Enjoy!


  1. Hi Wilson,

    Do you know about the Bamboo trains in Cambodia? I'd like to ride one:

  2. Thanks for the link to the Bamboo train! How fun!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice

Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…

The Guitar Maker's Backsaw for Cutting Fret Slots

The overall correct process of placing frets in a guitar fingerboard ("fretting"), is far less straight forward than most people believe. A perfect job, for perfect playability, requires some careful preparation.

Anthony Lintner, guitar maker

Twenty five years ago, I bought my first fretting saw from Luthiers Mercantile. It was made in Germany and had a straight handle on it, basically it was a gent's saw.

First thing I did to the saw was to take off the straight handle and make a nice handle for it from some wonderful Claro walnut that came from a Cottonwood Creek bottom wild grown walnut. I used it to cut fret slots in dulcimer and classical guitar fret boards. The saw served me well for several years until I made the mistake of cutting some brass with it.

Well, I never did get around to sharpening the thing.

The blade is .015 of an inch thick with the teeth set at .022-.023 of an inch. I think it has 22 teeth per inch. It is a great saw and I was very sad to see that…