MONTAGUE, Calif. – A plan to move the historic “Blue Goose” steam locomotive from Yreka to an excursion railroad in northeast Oregon is closer to being derailed. Documents received by NewsWatch12 this past week seem to indicate a mounting pile of debt and legal problems could delay or sidetrack the project first hinted at a year ago and announced last spring.
Last spring, Yreka Western owner Court Hammond signed a deal to move the Blue Goose steam engine to a northeast Oregon line, the Wallowa Union Railroad. Repairs are still not done and the engine is still in the railroad’s shop in Yreka with no date for moving it, and the Wallowa Line could be running out of patience, while mountain of debt could derail the whole project. One of the lien holders is the city of Montague, which says Hammond owes them about $100,000 from a 2008 loan.
“As far as we know, under our agreement, it’s an asset of the railroad, and so we have some say over it, and as far as we’re concerned the cease and desist order that we have received also applies to the engine,” stated Jayne Keller, Mayor of Montague.
The gravel roadbed is all that’s left of the track were the Blue Goose used to come into town and let off its passengers to explore and shop around Montage. All that’s left now are some railroad ties and some steel rail that didn’t get cut up for scrap. A cease and desist order from the city claims that not only is the Blue Goose part of the railroad and should remain in town, but that no more track can be taken out.
“I’m not sure the city is in the business to run a railroad, but we certainly owe it to the people of Montague to recoup as much of the funding as possible,” Mayor Keller said.
An article in the La Grande observer newspaper, about liens pending against the Yreka Western, prompted a pair of e-mail responses from Hammond who says efforts to sell the Yreka Western do not include the steam engine, and it will most likely never run in Yreka again. Court Hammond is also the owner of the Sierra Nevada and Pacific Railroad, which is the company that contracted to operate the 64-mile long Wallowa Union earlier this year. He was not available for an on-camera or telephone interview; neither did the Wallowa Union return calls.