Mossbrae Falls is one of the Mount Shasta area’s most beloved landmarks. The beautiful waterfall erupts from cliffs and cascades gracefully into the Sacramento River below. Historically, a visit to the falls necessitated a 1 mile hike along the Union Pacific’s rail line north of Dunsmuir. The route often left hikers in dangerous territory when trains passed by, squeezed between the railroad and the steep drop-off down to the Sacramento River below. In 2010 the Union Pacific closed off access to the route, keeping all but the most motivated from visiting the waterfall. Several groups have worked together to bring a new route to the falls into being. Unfortunately, efforts so far have failed. However, on June 20th, a unique event took place that may be an important part in the sequence of happenings that may finally make the dreamed-of trail to Mossbrae Falls a reality. A non-profit group, Friends Of The Mossbrae Trail, organized a special outing on the Union Pacific’s main rail line through southern Siskiyou County.The event was intended to bring together important participants in the process, encourage those with decision making authority and raise awareness of the effort to provide the public with a means to enjoy this incredible waterfall. In addition to the Friends Of The Mossbrae Trail, representatives of the Union Pacific, the city of Dunsmuir and the Saint Germain Foundation were present.
The heart of the event was a special train ride on classic rail cars up the Sacramento Canyon to the switch yard at Black Butte, just south of Weed. Beginning at the rail depot in Dunsmuir, the engines and vintage cars headed north through the Sacramento River canyon, passing Mossbrae Falls en route. The train continued at slow speeds up the canyon, following along rarely seen sections of the Sacramento River. It then climbed out of the canyon by way of the infamous Cantera Loop and the elongated Sawmill Curve. After that, the locomotive picked up steam and pulled the consist at higher speeds through the town of Mount Shasta before angling west and skirting around Black Butte to an old Union Pacific rail yard at the Black Butte station. Here the train turned around and then retraced the route back to Dunsmuir. Along the way, passengers mingled, discussed the beauty of the region, the future access to Mossbrae Falls and the bygone days of luxurious rail travel.
The train, dubbed the “Mossbrae Daylight”, included five vintage, fully restored passenger cars pulled by a pair of Amtrak engines. Included was a dining car, a magnificent vista dome car and a baggage car that had been converted to dance floor and a bar. While the doors on the baggage car were left open so passengers could enjoy the ride in the open air (kept safe by railings installed in the doorways), the vista dome offered a sunny, panoramic view of the incredible scenery. The other cars provided plenty of room for people to mingle, walk around and enjoy the ride. The cars were fully staffed and fantastic catering was provided to all the passengers. As befitting the elegance of the cars, the service was attentive, friendly, and impeccable.
I was joined on the trip by my five year old son, whose wonder at the marvelous cars, powerful train and endless brownies will be a lifelong memory I will cherish. He was especially amazed that he could get up and walk around while the train was moving. It was a far cry from today’s safety seat standards and one that he enjoyed thoroughly. I enjoyed myself immensely as well, gratified that I might play some tiny part in bringing about a new trail to Mossbrae Falls. I would like to offer a deep, heartfelt thanks to everyone who organized the trip, including the Union Pacific and Rail Ventures. I hope that progress was made in bringing this project to completion.
The railroading event was a unique happening in the hiking community here in Mount Shasta and the plans discussed have the potential to bring about a world-class hiking trail. The plans for the Mossbrae Trail will be discussed at length in a follow-up post. I would encourage everyone to support this effort. The completed trail will be an iconic Mount Shasta hike!
I apologize for the crudity of these images. It was difficult to capture things from a moving train while talking and wrangling an excited five year old!
Click to enlarge: