last update:

Wx4's Bicentennial Railroad

and Official Mascot!

Got info / pics of C&OC? Please email

An obscure footnote in the history of the "Octopus", the California and Oregon Coast Railroad was founded in 1911 by the city of Grants Pass, Oregon for the same reason that many other shortlines were projected - the monopolistic practices (read: high freight rates) of the Southern Pacific. The town fathers' idea was to build new trackage southwest out of Grants Pass to connect with a 1906-constructed, 15.7 miles long logging railroad, the Crescent City and Smith River Railroad operating out of Crescent City, California. Crescent City had grand plans of its own, hoping to become a major Pacific Coast seaport.

As things sorted out within a few years, the railroad was underfunded, the terrain prohibitive, and the traffic potential inadequate. On the north end, rails only made it 15 miles to Waters Creek by World War I, and it spent most of its history in receivership. Every few years, various parties attempted to raise funds to complete the line to the coast, but the 72 mile gap between the two segments never was closed.

The Grants pass line never amounted to much, but managed to struggle on with various owners for more than four decades. Passenger service, such as it was (see The Yellow peril, below) gave out in 1924 and the southern end of the railroad fell into disuse. The year prior, the Beaver Portland Cement Company (later, Ideal Cement Company) had assumed operation of the C&OC and had constructed a four mile branch and short incline railway to a limestone quarry south of Wilderville. From then on, the railroad survived primary by hauling rock to the cement company plant at Gold Hill, which the trains reached via trackage rights on SP. In 1950, the line's mid-route Applegate River bridge washed out, and the railroad remained only to serve a handfull of industries south of the Rogue River bridge in Grants Pass. This modest operation ceased on October 31, 1954, and any chances of resumption were washed away with the Rogue River bridge on Christmas day in 1955. The line officially quit on November 26, 1956.

The friendly folks at the Josephine County Historical Society
have kindly consented to a Wx4 reprint, so to speak, of 25
pages devoted to the California & Oregon Coast Railroad
that originally appeared in a 1963 edition of their house
publication, The Oldtimer. Thanks, JCHS!

Above is an entry in the Official Guide for December 1, 1916, when optimism about the C&OC was at its pinnacle. When construction began, the line was called the Grants Pass Municipal Railway. before that, the line apparently was projected as the Oregon and Pacific Railroad. An old photo shows engine # 1 lettered for the "GP&RRR", presumably the Grants Pass & Rogue River Railroad.

The reason why the C&OC was never finished...
Southwest Oregon / Northwest California has mountains - lots of them - as you can see from this old postcard view of the Redwood Highway. The projected route generally followed watersheds, but required a half mile tunnel in one spot to keep grades reasonable. The tunnel expense doomed the overall project project.

The south end...

If the Grants Pass operatios were obscure, the Crescent City ones were doubly so. The C&OC founders planned to utilize the last few miles of the Crescent City and Smith River Railroad to reach the main prize, Crescent City's Municipal Wharf, the right-most pier in the postcard view, below.

Southern Pacific map, 1901

The CC&SM's main reason for being was to feed logs to the J. Hobbs Wall Company Saw and Shingle Mill in Crescent City. Its rails also served warehouses near the Municipal Wharf, as well as the Wharf itself. Info on this line is scarce,with one source saying that the line fell into disuse during World War I, and another stating that it wasn't abandoned until 1940. The 1915 Sanborn Insurance Company map below shows the general arrangement of the railroad within Crescent City's limits. The links immediately below show portions in detail.

J. Hobbs Wall Company Saw and Shingle Mill

Crescent City Municipal Wharf

North End Equipment

The "Yellow Peril"

For the first few years, passengers rode in conventional passenger cars, but in late 1914 C&OC purchased the above motor car, dubbed the "Yellow Streak" due to its color. As the the railroad's conditions declined, the car came to be known as the "Yellow Peril", a play on words of a xenophobic term of the day. The car served most occasions until passenger service was dicontinued in 1924. Postcard photo: Wx4 collection

Old Number 1

Engine #1 remained a wood-burner throughout her life. Here we see her at Grants Pass in September, 1939. How long she had been out-of-service by then is anybody's guess, but probably at least since the aquisition of #301 in 1927. (Photo: Ken Frick; Wx4 collection)

A year later, Engine #1 was now becomming overgrown with blackberry vines, and we can catch a glimmer of other C & OC equipment, the car on the right apparently being a log car. The engine is said to have fallen victim to a WWII scrap metal drive. Too bad, eh? (Photo: Ken Frick; Wx4 collection)

Number One's Vital Statistics
4-4-0 / 17x24 cyls / 63" drivers / 130 lbs. b.p. / 72,100 lbs. total weight / 43,200 on drivers / 12,166 TF / Rogers #2078, 10-1872, in service 11-4-1872
Built as Central Pacific # 180, to Southern Pacific # 1287, to SP # 1524, vacated 11-10-10; to Grants Pass & Eureka # 1 3-13-11 via dealer, N.B. Livermore, to C&OC #1; scrapped 1942. Thanks to logging and shortline info guru Jerry Lamper for ferreting-out the stats from the SP Steam Locomotive Compendium, Shade Tree Books, 1987.

The mainstay, Number 301

Number 301 came from the Hetch Hetchy Railroad (#3) to Grants Pass in 1927, about three years after passenger service was discontinued and about half of the line fell into disuse. The remainder was operated by the Beaver Portland Cement Company (later Ideal Cement) as an industrial carrier. Here we see her in September, 1940, shortly before she was replaced as first line power by Ideal Cement # 103, a larger piston-valved 2-8-2. (see roster, below). (Photo: Ken Frick; Wx4 collection)

Here's an earlier photo of # 301 taken on June 16, 1936 in almost the same spot as above. Note that she had a more conventional headlight then, but was otherwise pretty much the same as in 1940. Info on the back says that she was found "in service" in April, 1945. Presumably, she was retired after the Applegate River brige washed out in 1950, ending C&OC's limestone hauling business. (Photo: D.S. Richter; Wx4 collection
# 301's Vital Statistics
2-8-2 / 21 x 24 cyls. / 46" drivers / 165 lbs. BP / 167,000 lbs. total weight / 131,000 lbs. on drivers / 31,330 lbs. TF / Baldwin #35780, 1910
Built for Youngstown & Ohio as #1; to Hetch Hetchy Railroad #3, 1919; to C&OC #301; 1927; to Ideal Cement Company #301, 1941; probably retired in 1950 after limestone hauling ceased.

Camera Shy #201
2-8-0 / 51" drivers / ex Central Pacific # 48, SP # 2508 acquired 4-21-11 / scrapped 1942? or earlier? (Photo: Oldtimer, pg. 20)

The Last Steamer

# 103 / 2-8-2 / 48" drivers / ex Pacific Portland Cement / acquired 1941 / lettered for Ideal Cement / scrapped 1957 (Photo: someday)

Not Suitable for Interchange
Judging by the date (1940) and quality of the photo, we're guessing that this photo of boxcar 1503 was, as with some of the photos above, taken by Ken Frick. (Wx4 collection)

The Oldtimer, Vol II, No. 1, July 1963; Josephine County Historical Society, Kerby, OR
A very rare 33 page pamphlet on C&OC with many photos (none of which appear on this page).
Railroading in Southern Oregon and the Founding of Medford, by Bert and Maggie Weber; Ye Galleon Press, Fairfied WA, 1985
Chapter 11 covers the history f the C&OC, but not as extensively as above volume.
Hetch Hetchy and Its Dam Railroad, by Ted Wurm; Howell-North Books, Berkeley, 1973; reprinted by another publisher, I believe
Number 301's stats came from page information came from page 286; Many photos of engine as HH #3, and one photo of her as #301 taken in 1938 (pg. 275) in nearly the same spot as the above photo. The engine's early teething roblems on HH RR on page 139.
Ten Spikes to the Rail, Twohy Brothers - Early Day Northwestern Railroad Builders, by John Roger Twohy; Goat Rock Publications, Jenner, CA, 1983
Chapter XII describes the Twohy Brothers' ownership and somewhat grandiose plans for the C&OC.
Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, Volume III: Oregon, Washington, by Donald B. Robertson; Caxton Printers, Caldwell ID, 1995
Has loco / equipment rosters and brief hisorical data for Grants Pass end.
California Railroads, by Alvin A. Frickworth; Golden West Books, San Marino, CA, 1992
This encyclopedia has brief info on the Crescent City and Smith River Railroad and successors; no roster info.
California and Oregon Coast Railroad; The Western Railroader, Issue 230; Francis A. Guido, editor: San Mateo, CA
I know that I have it around here someplace...