There were only three railroad tunnels built for the railroads along the Redwood Coast. Two were built on the CWR (Skunk) Railroad and the other was built on the Caspar Lumber Company’s railroad.
Just outside Fort Bragg a 1,112 foot bore, CWR Tunnel #1, runs through the rocky hill between Pudding Creek and the Noyo River. The tunnel was completed more than a century ago, in 1893 and is still in use on the California Western Railroad (CWR) Skunk line . The tunnel was built by skilled Chinese laborers but not before there a near riot in Fort Bragg. A mob decided that it was improper for the work to be given to the Chinese. The sheriff rode over on his horse from Ukiah and told the mob they could do the job if they wanted but when it came time to start none of the mob was willing to do the tough, dangerous job of digging through the mountain.
The above, commonly held version of events surrounding the building of Tunnel #1 does not comport with the version reported in the Fort Bragg Advocate of 1892 – click the More Info button below to read the story.
January 6th, 1892
The Fort Bragg Redwood Company (a predecessor of the CWR) have had a number of surveys made during the past few months. Several changes of the railroad grade is also contemplated.
January 27th, 1892
Work on the Fort Bragg Redwood's tunnel on Pudding Creek has been commenced. Last week cabins were built in the vicinity for the workmen.
February 3rd, 1893
On Monday, January 28th 1892, Fitzgeralds Brothers who have the contract of building the tunnel on Pudding Creek Road had about forty Chinamen arrive here from San Francisco on the Steamer Noyo. Shortly after landing they were taken by train and left at their destination, between three and four miles from town. About midnight the same day, men to the number of over one hundred from this place (Fort Bragg), it is said with masks over their faces and armed with muskets, axes, etc. visited the Chinese camp and huddled them all together, marched them down the railroad track with what little baggage they hastily gathered and escorted them below Noyo, telling them to keep on traveling south. They went down the coast until they reached Mendocino, where food and shelter was given them.
The following day they were brought back to the city. Sheriff Standley arriving a little ahead of them, to give them the protection of the law, if it was found necessary. Immediately after arriving, Sheriff Standley swore in a number of deputies.
The night the deed was executed, was one of the severest of the winter. The rain fell in torrents and the wind blew in fitful gusts from the southwest. It was a night which might well be taken advantage of for the successful carrying out of such an object, as the elements themselves seemed to be at war with each other, thus drowning all noise which under the circumstances might have given the plot away before it was fully developed. Such are the facts of the case, given in an impartial manner, as they have been told to us by parties, who have pretty good reason to believe knew something of the circumstances. It is also claimed that the Chines were abused. Some reports have been circulated to the contrary, but as we know nothing of the case outside of reports, we cannot say whether they were true or not.
The feeling in this section against the Chinese is inclined to be bitter at anytime, and when Mr. Fitzgerald found such to be the case he says he telegraphed to his brother in San Francisco not to hire any Chinamen; unless he could not get white men suitable for the work. His brother says that the white men desired could not be obtained and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could get the Chinamen to come up here who would fill the bill and had experience in tunnel work.
Tunnel work, they say is very dangerous and disagreeable, and few white men care to risk their lives at such work, and this statement seems to be substantiated in this connection, for we understand that quite a number of white men employed by them on the tunnel, have quit work already.
They say they use Chinamen at the most dangerous part of the work, which is ahead of the men that timber, where it wet and slushy, and where cave-ins and accidents very often occur; also where air is most impure, and the deadly fumes of gas are inhaled. They also say in a camp of Chines employed for this purpose about one-third are on the sick list all the time. They work three or four days and then lay off to recuperate for a like period.
When the Chines arrived at the camp, Mr. Fitzgerald says there were about 15 white men already ahead of them. This statement refutes the reports that only Chinese were employed. The Fitzgerald Brothers say they are only too willing to give employment to all the white men that come along, if they give satisfaction.
A public meeting was held in Fort Bragg Redwood's Company Store Friday evening, which was largely attended by the citizens of this city. Sheriff Standley called the meeting to order, stating that he thought it was a good idea, and one that might prove of some service to him, to have a short talk with the representatives assembled in regard to the late disturbance.
He stated that all the county officials were deeply interested in keeping the order of the community and would land all the means in their power for the maintenance of peace, which he said he expected those present to do.
He instructed his deputies how to act, telling them while on duty to pay no attention to the talk of those around them, but to be on the alert, and not to act rashly, but with due deliberation, and not to resort to force until all other means had failed.
He informed those present that an officer of the law called on them to assist him in maintaining the peace, that they must assist him or else they were liable to a fine of $1,000.
Sheriff Standley said that the ringleaders were known and that their movements were closely watched.
He also stated, while on the subject, it may not be amiss to state that several arrests have been kept from being made, only by the earnest pleas of some of our citizens. Arrest we are told are liable to be made at any moment. We hope that none will follow.
Quite a few of those present made short speeches, all being of the unanimous opinion that law and order must be maintained at any price.
If citizens are needed to quell any disturbances which may arise in the future in regard to the case under consideration, Fort Bragg has plenty who will respond to the call.
BACK AT CAMP
Saturday the Chinese were sent back to Camp. They commenced work yesterday morning.
Sheriff Standley is the wrong man to trifle with, and if they are troubled again, the perpetrators will be severely dealt with.
February 17th, 1892
Forty Italians arrived here on Wednesday on the Steamer Protection from San Francisco, to work on the tunnel on Pudding Creek.
March 9th, 1892
Friday afternoon we took a run up Pudding Creek to have a look at the tunnel the Fitzgerald Brothers are building for the Fort Bragg redwood company, by whom we were kindly received, as well as by Mr. R. B. Markel, the company's civil engineer. Work is proceeding nicely. There is a crew of sixty five white men working beside a number of Chinese.
It is thought that the workmen on each side will not meet before July or August.
August 17th, 1892
The enterprises undertaken by the Fort Bragg Redwood Company, running a tunnel through the dividing ridge between the Noyo River and Pudding Creek, had been successfully accomplished. On Monday afternoon of last week the workmen succeeding in blowing a hole through and by the last of this week the tunnel will be completed, through which trains will be able to pass next week.
This tunnel, located east of Fort Bragg, crossed under the Sherwood Road about three miles inland.
Harry Holmes found his first employment in this area, working as foreman of the Chinese crew. He may have been recruited in San Francisco at the same time as the Chinese, as he came to that area about this time. He had just come from Canada where he had been employed in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and had experience in the building of railroads, tunnels as well as snow sheds.
When the tunnel was finished the Union Lumber Company (ULC) was able to extend its logging operations into large stands of timber they had recently bought the other side of the hill. Within five years the CWR stretched eastward 10 more miles. Besides logs being hauled to the mill, passengers rode inland to where they boarded a stagecoach to Willits. By 1904 the railroad stretched 18 miles to Alpine.
It was not until 1911, after the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP) reached Willits, did the CWR make it "over the hill" through a second 795 foot long tunnel, CWR Tunnel #2, at the top of the last 1,740 foot hill before Willits to allow it join with the Northwestern Pacific’s San Francisco to Eureka route. Tunnel #2 was bored over seven months by Nelson & Co. out of San Francisco – two 12-hour shifts at each end, with 20 men on each shift. Until the Tunnel was finished all the lumber from the Fort Bragg mill went to market by sea from Union Lumber Company’s pier in Fort Bragg.
The Caspar Lumber Company’s tunnel was built to access timberlands that were acquired from the Union lumber Company along the South fork of the Noyo River. Unfortunately the timber was on the other side of the ridge north of Hare Creek where the Caspar Lumber Company had its railroad. Tracks were laid up Bunker Gulch and at the head of the gulch, 480 feet above sea level, a 1,000 foot tunnel was built. The tunnel, which still exists and runs under Route 20, was finished in 1903.