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To get the lumber from the top of a ridge or over a hill was a big problem for the early loggers. Unfortunately, that's where many of the trees to be cut were located. Caspar Lumber Company the Union Lumber Company (ULC) and other logging operations in the Sierras and the Pacific Northwest solution to the problem was inclines. Schematic map of Ten Mile BranchTypically a path was cut up the side of the hill and a steam donkey hauled another steam donkey to the top which housed the lowering mechanism. A railroad track was laid down the path and the loaded and unloaded cars were hoisted up and down the track.

The schematic map right (taken from A. J. Gray's 1990 book – "The Kid From Camp One") shows the locations (in yellow) of the nine inclines on the Ten Mile Branch belonging to the ULC. The grades on the inclines varied from 50 to 70 percent according to A. J. Gray's book.

Union Lumber Co. Camp 2 incline

Click photo to see slideshow

ULC's Shay loco was hoisted up the incline at Camp 2 and brought logs to the top of the incline where they were lowered and taken into Fort Bragg to be sawed.

One is inclined (apologies for the pun) to dismiss “stories” of inclines that were in excess of 70% grade. These “old wives tales” were true as the photos in the slideshow on left attest.

Dana Culberson, Fort Bragg’s long-time now retired tonsorial artist, was born at Camp 1 on the Ten Mile Branch. He recounted on more than one occasion how a car “got away” on the incline upriver from Camp 1 and hurtled through Camp 1, failed to make the curve and ended up in the river. According to Dana there were no injuries to man or beast.

Map of Caspar Logging Co. InclinesThe first two inclines (shown in yellow) on the map right belonging to the Caspar Lumber Company were just up one side of a hill. The third incline was used to get lumber from one side of a hill to the other – the logs were pulled to the top of the hill and then lowered down the other side. When more timber acreage was acquired on the side of the hill furthest from Caspar a tunnel was dug beneath the hill to replace the incline. Caspar Lumber Company never had a geared locomotive (Shay, Caspar Lumber Company used a Federal truck by equipping it with flanged wheels!!Heisler, or Climax) capable of operating on steep grades. So before the tunnel was built how did they bring the log cars to the bottom of the incline? The mystery was finally revealed in this photo on the left.

Hoist House for an incline


Caspar Lumber Company used a Federal
truck by equipping it with flanged wheels!!!!


The picture right shows the hoist
house for the incline.

The Caspar incline at work












The Caspar incline at work.

To get the lumber from the mill at Mendocino which was located up the river from the estuary of Big River a railway line was built up to the top of the cliffs from where a line loaded the lumber onto the ships moored in Mendocino Bay. Horses were used to haul the lumber up the hill on small flat cars. Big River inclineThe Ford House has models and photos showing what used to exist. The picture right shows the incline with the mill in the distance.

An incline in the Pacific Northwest

This photo (left) shows an incline built across a valley located in the Pacific Northwest. The size of the incline can be gauged from the man standing on the logs. Note also the two trestles that had to be built across ravines that cut across the path of the incline.

Railroads of the Yosemite Valley by Hank Johnston in collaboration with James Law

Railroads of the Yosemite Valley by Hank Johnston in collaboration with James Law.
Library of Congress Card 66-23393 Published in 1951

The book is a fascinating story about a railroad that has long since ceased to exist, The Yosemite Valley Railroad. We have included it in our sources because it contains in depth coverage of the inclines in use on the railroad to bring lumber to the Yosemite Lumber Company.

Property of Club Member Bill shepherd

Another picture of the incline at Camp 2 Car coming down incline, Smith Creek - Union Lumber Company. 1923 Incline with maximum grade of 78% - Smith Creek, Union Lumber Company. 1923 Trestle take-off at foot of incline, Campbell Creek - Union Lumber Company. 1923