The oldest and most recent addition to the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture's collection of donated railcars came from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, where it was bound to be scrapped until a collaborative effort brought it to Weed.
A 128-year-old Southern Pacific railcar named Shasta was lifted onto a new set of tracks Saturday at Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture in Weed on Saturday.
This oldest and most recent addition to the Center’s collection of donated railcars came from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, where it was bound to be scrapped until a collaborative effort brought it to Black Butte for the chance to be restored.
“It’s going to be an extensive restoration process,” said Bruce Shoemaker of Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture, “but we’d like to restore it to its condition as a business car from the time it was based in Dunsmuir.”
Originally built by Pullman for the Northern Railway as a first-class coach in 1888, the car was rebuilt as a business car and renamed SP 109, Shasta, and released for service November 30, 1909 according to local railroad historian John Signor. Shasta was based out of Dunsmuir until it was retired in 1930.
Shoemaker said he was originally approached about three years ago with the prospect of the railcar donation from the museum. Considering the rough condition of the car, he originally hoped to find a large building to store it in, such as the old engine house in Dunsmuir.
The decision to set the car up in the Black Butte yard was something Shoemaker said only came together in the last two months.
With the help of the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society and the Southern Pacific Railroad Historical and Technical Society, Shasta was delivered to Black Butte on the back of a truck on Friday, April 29. The wheels, or trucks, arrived separately the following morning.
Shoemaker said transportation costs were covered by the facilitating organizations, as well as a substantial private donation.
After laying a short railbed and tracks for the historic car to rest on, the trucks were set up and the car was lifted from a trailer with two large cranes. The car weighs over 90,000 pounds with the steel trucks attached.
Carlton Cranes, an operation out of Burney with extensive experience moving railcars, and a group of Black Butte volunteers spent several hours preparing to lift Shasta onto its trucks on Saturday morning.
Between $4,000 and $5,000 in funding remains to put toward restoration, and the Black Butte team is counting on continued support from volunteer efforts and financial contributions.
Weatherization is the top priority for the Shasta railcar restoration project. “We’re lucky we’re nearing the end of the rainy season here,” Shoemaker said.
Prior to getting moved into storage inside the former Southern Pacific erecting shop in Sacramento, Shasta sat outside from 1977 until 200, where weather and occasional vandalism took its toll.
The roof has been leaking since the mid-1990’s, and the car is coated in lead paint.
Shoemaker said this is the oldest railcar he knows of in the region. “We thought these were old,” he said, gesturing to the yard of preserved boxcars and cabooses from the 1920’s. Those cars are now used as art spaces, miniature museums of railroad memorabilia and music venues for the creative railfans that pass through Black Butte on a regular basis.
Fundraising efforts will continue, and Shoemaker hopes restoration of the Shasta business car will begin as soon as possible. Black Butte’s annual work party is scheduled for May 19 to 22, and Shoemaker said fundraising merchandise will be available for purchase soon.
Anyone interested in learning more about SP 109, or supporting the project with volunteer labor or a financial contribution can find more information at www.bbcrc.org.