McCloud River #19, a Return to Steam?

Locomotive manufacturers love to celebrate production milestones, it’s a public relations story for them. Well, McCloud River #19 was locomotive #42,000 produced by Baldwin Locomotive Works. That’s a lot of locomotives for 1915! Other milestones may have received more hoopla but #19 made more headlines during a storied career – and now appears poised to steam again.

McCloud River #19 at the Yreka Western Railroad (Photo: Drew Jacksich via CC by 2.0)

Brief History of McCloud River #19

McCloud River #19 was built in 1915 for the Caddo & Choctaw Railroad and was put into service in Arkansas. The Baldwin built steam locomotive features a 2-8-2 (Mikado type) wheel arrangement. She originally burned coal, but was later converted to oil burning.

The locomotive quickly became an employee favorite during her time on the railroad. She even picked up the nickname ‘R.L Rowan’ in honor of an engineer on the C&C. But after only a few years in the states, the locomotive was sold to the United Mining Company in Mexico.

#19 on excursion (Photo: Drew Jacksich via CC by 2.0)

The locomotive spent four years in Mexico hauling trains for the mining company. When the locomotive returned to the United States, an inspection of the locomotive turned up bullet holes. This led crew to unofficially nickname the locomotive ‘Pancho’. (Pancho Via had been a prominent Mexican bandit turned military man in the early years of the century.)

From Mexico to California

In early 1924, McCloud River acquired the locomotive that they would number #19. As the little Class III railroad grew during the early 1920s, McCloud River jumped on the opportunity to add the Mikado in its quest for more powerful locomotives.

The move paid off as the locomotive served the railroad for nearly three decades before being phased out by diesels in 1953. McCloud River #19 quickly found work again as she was sold to the nearby Yreka Western Railroad that same year.

The 110+ year old locomotive could steam like this again soon. (Photo: Drew Jacksich via CC by 2.0)

Early on, #19 was used for freight service, though she would primarily be used for excursion service on the railroad. In 1970, the locomotive made her way to the Oregon Pacific & Eastern through a lease facilitated by the parent company of the railroads.

Over the next 17 years, #19 would become a crowd favorite for leading excursions. It didn’t hurt that she appeared in two major films during that time: The Emperor of the North in 1972 and Stand by Me in 1986. But when OP&E was sold in 1987, the locomotive was sent back to California.

Once back on the Yreka Western rails, #19 was overhauled and put into excursion service, though her use became sporadic, especially near the end of her career. By 2008, the railroad ceased operations and the locomotive was put into storage. After nearly a decade of legal battles, the locomotive was sold via a sheriff’s sale in 2016. Purchased by Jerry Jacobson, the locomotive made her way to the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum and returned to her McCloud River #19 lettering.

Current Status

Home at the Age of Steam since 2017, McCloud River #19 is currently undergoing work at the museum to hopefully see her return to steam soon. To follow McCloud River #19 on her journey to steam or learn more about the museum and roster, be sure to visit the Age of Steam Museum website.

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