Monday, September 28, 2009

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #11

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.

From the time the sawmill was established in 1902, and with the creation of the logging railroad to supply its raw material needs, the lumber operation expanded and prospered. Extensive bachelor living quarters, family houses, shop, mess hall, store and community hall were built up surrounding the mill at Caldor. Close to 200 people, including the families of the mill workers were now living there.

The mill and logging operations shut down in the wintertime due to the heavy snows and most of the people moved into Diamond Springs for the winter months. For several families, however, this was their only home and they stayed there year round after having put aside up to a six month supply of food staples.

On August 13, 1923 a disastrous fire completely destroyed the sawmill at Caldor, bringing to a close its twenty odd years of operation. After an analysis of the damage and overall efficiency of the operation, it was decided by the board of directors to build a new sawmill at Diamond Springs.

Construction was soon underway and a new larger, electrically powered mill was completed in 1924. During this time the mail line railroad from Caldor was extensively repaired and rehabilitated and a new 65-ton, 3-truck Shay was ordered to supplement the existing locomotives.

Engine facilities near the new mill site were expanded and the D&C mainline from Caldor was made ready to covert it to hauling logs instead of sawn lumber. Facilities at the new mill included a log pond that could accommodate 2-1/2-million board-feet of logs.

For the next five years the nation-wide building boom and good times placed a heavy demand on the woods and sawmill operation. In 1929 the Wall Street Stock Market crash occurred and the failing national economy forced the closing of the Diamond Springs mill the following winter. The logging and mainline locomotives and rolling stock were brought into Diamond Springs and placed in storage. Lumber for a curtailed operation at the Oakland door plan was once again obtained on the open market.

In 1934 the California Door Company acquired the services of Mr. Chalmers Price, a highly-qualified lumberman, and instructed him to start up the logging and sawmill operations at Diamond Springs and Caldor. Extensive rehabilitation of the mill and D&C Railway to Caldor was necessary as the five years of inactivity had taken their toll. The D&C mainline was realigned at some locations and shortened slightly to 33 miles. In the springs of 1935 logging and sawmilling operations were again underway.

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