Saturday, June 21, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #2

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

A new, modern sawmill was constructed and the locale was renamed “Caldor.” Mr. Anton Hassler, Sr., was designated as the new mills superintendent. He had emigrated from Germany and was working for the California Door Company, which at that time had a contract to manufacture and install sash and doors during an expansion and remodeling project at San Quentin Prison at San Rafael. He moved to Caldor as superintendent in 1902 when the new sawmill was completed.

The new mill was unique in that the log pond, supplied by water from Dogtown Creek, was elevated above the operating floor of the mill, allowing the floated logs to be lowered by gravity down the log chute to the mill floor for placing on the log carriage. The sawn lumber was then transported to Diamond Springs where a new planing mill has been constructed. Rail service from the Diamond Springs mill was available via the Central Pacific (Southern Pacific) Railroad to the Oakland sash and door plant.

The sawn lumber from Caldor Mill was first transported to Diamond Springs on lumber wagons drawn by mule teams. This was a slow and difficult task. Oxen were then tried for a time to see if they could improve on the situation, but they provided no appreciable advantage. The progressive company then brought in chain driven steam tractors to do the hauling job in 1901. A review of the situation made it apparent, however, that a railroad would be the only reasonable solution to the transportation problem.

A railroad route was surveyed in 1901 and a wholly owned subsidiary of the California Door Company, the Diamond and Caldor Railway, was incorporated as a common carrier in 1902. Officers of the railroad were W.Y Kellog, President; C.W. Doe, Vice President; F.A. Merquire, Secretary; E.H. Kitteredge, Treasurer; and W.I. Wilson, General Manager.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

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