Oregon Trails: Gold Hill Rail & Timber

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NEAR GOLD HILL, Ore. – The first few decades of the 20th century were times of great growth and development all across Southern Oregon. Mines were re-opened, cities and orchards were growing, and timberlands were feeling the woodsmen’s axes and saws for the first time in our area.

This brushy trail along a hillside on the right fork of Sardine Creek, barely a mile over the hill from the house of mystery, is something of a mystery itself. It appears this was the roadbed for a small narrow gauge logging railroad that operated a hundred years ago as part of the Gold Hill Lumber and Railroad Company.

Stock certificate from May of 1925 was issued by the president of the Gold Hill Railroad and Lumber Company, John A. Baxter, to himself for 175 shares, at ten dollars a share. Two months before, in March 1910, the local “Rogue Magazine” reported, “the Gold Hill Railroad and Lumber Company have commenced construction of a railroad from Gold Hill to the lime deposit a few miles west of that place, thence to the timber country of Foots Creek…the lime deposits will be opened up at once, the machinery having already arrived and as soon as it is placed, operations for the burning of the lime will commence on a large scale. A large mill will be built at Gold Hill, which will saw the logs hauled from the timber belt into lumber…”

That’s where there was a lime mine and several thousand acres of timber to cut. The lime kiln is probably the same one that used to be where the Laurel Hill Golf Course is now, but about the same time another logging operation was getting underway at the headwaters of the right fork of Sardine Creek. There are some stories they may have used gravity to bring loaded log cars to a possible mill site on right fork and/or down at the junction of right and left forks. The empties were then pulled back by horse or mule power on a small gauge line similar to those used in mines.

The Gold Hill news of June 25th 1910 heralded that, “locomotive number one is now at work on the Gold Hill Railroad and Lumber Company’s Kane Creek Line. It arrived from Portland on Monday and was placed on its own rails Thursday, since then it has been busy transporting machinery and material to the mill and hauling out rails for the extension of the line.

Joseph king is engineer of the “Kane’s Creek Flyer” as the train has already been christened, while Fritz Hammersly, as fireman “keeps her hot!” But the company only survived about ten years, and by the time world war one was over it was going through several changes of ownership, and no one seemed to be able to make a go of it. And the Kane Creek Line never did get to Foots Creek. It’s been nearly a hundred years since the last logs were hauled on this old railroad line.