October 19, 2006
HEAVY METAL: The forklift and length of chain were probably not the best tools for dismantling the locomotive. Bob Felter and Mike Kellogg had already begun taking the antique railroad engine apart. Removing the smokestack was the next step in the process. Marcus Brown looked on without comment as Felter looped part of the chain around the stack then began pulling it upward, taking the forklift to full extension; the retired history teacher Kellogg warned that the tension seemed wrong.
Kellogg was right, and as Felter tried to ease the large piece of metal up it slid out of the chain noose and clattered to the ground. No one was hurt, and the stack seemed no worse for wear, but it suggested some of the difficulty laying ahead for Timber Heritage Association volunteers like Felter, Kellogg and Brown.
You've probably seen Marcus Brown's picture in the papers or on TV talking about the ambitious plans of the Timber Heritage Association, the nonprofit he heads, or more recently asking for help retrieving "No. 37," a historic steam locomotive that once hauled lumber locally. The THA purchased No. 37 back east and would like to haul the engine back to Humboldt County.
The group has been working for years to drum up interest in establishing of a museum preserving and celebrating the history of logging in the county, and an associated Humboldt Bay Excursion Train. Recently the dream has focused on placing the museum on land in Samoa, and the THA has been marshaling support for acquisition of a parcel there to display the collection of trains and other logging equipment they've assembled over the years.
But right now there's a more pressing problem. For around 30 years, the association has gathered hundreds of tons of historic logging-related material on a parcel owned by Simpson Timber off Hwy 299 near the Mad River, paying a nominal rent for the privilege. The collection currently includes seven locomotives, a steam-powered saw mill, a couple of decrepit cabooses, boxcars, flatbed log hauling cars, old boilers, yarders, logging trucks and countless other pieces of Humboldt history.
Earlier this year Simpson sold the land to Garth Sundberg, a McKinleyville resident who plans on using it for a truck repair yard. Last week Sundberg's lawyer sent an eviction notice to Kellogg, who serves as THA treasurer. The association has until Dec. 31 to move all the material off the property -- otherwise, it's off to the scrap yard.
The group has an alternate site for the material, a parcel near Field's Landing owned by Woody Murphy from Humboldt Bay Forest Products. Right now they're looking for help, and not necessarily funds so much as physical labor and equipment capable of hauling a mountain of heavy metal (not that money is not needed).
"We're faced with a daunting task," said Brown. "Our goal is to preserve the collection; if we persevere, we'll eventually find a home for the museum, but we need people with heavy equipment and knowledge. We don't know how to do it. We need help big-time."
Those willing and able to provide assistance are asked to call Mike Kellogg at 443-2957. For more on the THA, go to www.timberheritage.org.
photo and story by Bob Doran
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