NEAR GLENDALE, Ore. — It was the sound of steel on steel as crews from the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad rush to get their line through Cow Creek Canyon back in operation.
It was shut down more than a week ago when fire burned most of the deck from this century old bridge, and damaged tracks and ties a quarter mile away.
“The steel structure is still okay, so right now we’re just replacing the bridge deck itself, which is basically railroad ties and spiking them down,” roadmaster Dale Summers explained.
Not all the damage was done directly by fire, in terms of warping rails or burning ties. In this case, a giant pine tree came down off the hill above and actually broke the rail in two.
“Just around the corner we have what’s called a track buckle due to the intense heat in the area,” Summers added. “Made the rail expand which added too much rail to the structure and made it buckle out.”
Some shippers whose shipments are stranded south of the damaged line wondered if the Siskiyou Summit could be used, at least temporarily.
“The fire agencies’ letting us come back in here and get going,” Summers said. “This makes more sense than trying to get back over the mountain.”
Damage near this bridge indicates the fire burned very hot, while occasional smokes continue to drift into the sky on the hillsides above. Most of the fire has moved on to other ridges. As for the railroad, it should be back in operation by the end of this week if repairs go as planned.
The Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad operates nearly 390 miles of rail line in Southern Oregon and Northern California. The company’s website says they handle some 17,000 carloads of mostly lumber, plywood and logs a year.