Train Simulator’s Feather River Canyon route is now available, and Gary Dolzall takes us on a tour of its extraordinary landmarks
“No man will ever be fool enough to build a railroad through that canyon.” – Collis P. Huntington
Collis Potter Huntington was one of the giants of American railroad history. Together with Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, he was one of the “Big Four” who created and built the Central Pacific Railroad, the western leg of America’s great transcontinental railroad, and its successor, the Southern Pacific. And Huntington, too, had a hand in building the immensely successful Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Which is to say that C. P. Huntington was hardly inclined to cower at any railroading-building challenge.
But “that canyon” – California’s Feather River Canyon – was so imposing, some untamed, so rugged, as to give even Collis Huntington pause. Indeed, when Huntington and his “Associates” had charted out the Central Pacific, a routing over the Sierra Nevada via the Feather River Canyon was considered, then dismissed in favor of Donner Pass, even though passage via Donner would require a summit some 2,000-feet higher than a route along the Feather River.
And so it was left to the genius of Arthur Walter Keddie, the funding of the Gould railroad empire, and the coming of the twentieth century for the Western Pacific to be laid down through the Feather River Canyon (see the article, “Feather River Magic, available here.)
Now, the railroad route that even Collis P. Huntington felt could not be tamed comes to Train Simulator! Set in the late 1960s, Dovetail Games’ Western Pacific Feather River Canyon route is now available at the Steam Store, and includes Western Pacific’s stylish General Electric U30B diesel; WP’s venerable Electro-Motive F7A and F7B units; two styles of Western Pacific 50-foot boxcars, a 1960s-style piggyback flat with trailers; a bulkhead flatcar; and a Western Pacific bay-window caboose. Also included are a variety of career and railfan scenarios, and the Feather River Canyon route is certain to be a favorite of Steam Workshop contributors.
In celebration of the release of Train Simulator’s Feather River Canyon route, let’s take a look at some of the captivating and unforgettable landmarks featured on the route. – Gary Dolzall
Recommended Additional Reading
Oroville Roundhouse: Born of the steam era, Oroville’s 18-stall roundhouse remained a busy base for locomotive maintenance well into the 1970s. At the western terminus of the new Train Simulator Feather River Canyon route, Western Pacific GE U30Bs and EMD F7s – the two featured locomotive types included with the route – are readied for their next tasks. All screenshots by Gary Dolzall.
Oroville Feather River Bridge: The WP’s Oroville Line Relocation project of the early 1960s, necessitated by the creation of Oroville Dam and Lake, began just east of Oroville with a 1,108-foot-long bridge built on a 3-degree curvature and that crosses an after bay of the river where the waters stand more than 100-feet deep. Bound for Oroville, a trio of WP F7s clatter over the long, curving, multi-span bridge.
West Branch Bridge: On a railroad filled with infrastructure and engineering marvels, the West Branch Bridge is unique in that it carries both the Western Pacific main line (on its lower level) and State Highway 70 (on its upper level) across the West Branch of Lake Oroville. A trio of WP GE U30Bs is just clearing the bridge as auto and truck traffic scurries overhead on Highway 70.
Tunnel 8 and North Fork Bridge: No doubt the signature location on WP’s 23-mile line relocation is the east end of 8,856-foot-long Tunnel No. 8, where WP trains exit the long tunnel and immediately ride high across the North Fork of Feather River atop a magnificent concrete arch span that rises 200 feet above the riverbed. On the new Train Simulator Feather River Canyon route, a trio of U30Bs with priority piggybacks in tow roll across the 1,000-foot-long span.
Pulga: Long a favorite location of railroad photographers, the “over and under” bridge crossings of State Highway 70 and the WP at Pulga provide a classic backdrop for a set of veteran Western Pacific F7s making their way east on the Train Simulator Feather River Canyon route.
Stairway of Power: In the latter half of the twentieth century, the rushing waters of the Feather River were harnessed both as a water supply and to provide electricity for central California. The Pacific Gas & Electric utility operates a series of dams and power stations throughout the canyon which are often referred to as the “stairway of power.” Near the north end of Pulga siding, eastbound Western Pacific U30Bs stride past one of the dam facilities
Rock Creek Trestle: The curved open-deck girder bridge which stands at Rock Creek – milepost 248 on the WP – has long been another favorite haunt of train-watchers and photographers. On Train Simulator’s new Feather River Canyon route, an eastbound manifest is just completing its crossing of the trestle, no doubt providing the conductor riding in a WP bay-window caboose a magnificent view.
Tobin: The interlacing of Western Pacific’s main line and State Highway 70 – the Feather River Highway – extends through much of the canyon and occurs again at Tobin, where the WP is riding high over the highway. A quartet of WP U30Bs are rolling east across Tobin’s 260-foot-long truss span bridge
Honeymoon Tunnels: Much of the Western Pacific’s Feather River Canyon route is dotted with tunnels short and long, and nowhere more so than west of Belden, where the main line stands right alongside the river bank and dives through countless bores. Famous as a place for California Zephyr promotional photos, the “Honeymoon Tunnels” host an eastbound freight headed by a “Zephyr” silver and orange Western Pacific U30B.
Spanish Creek Trestle: On a railroad of countless landmarks, the single most famous landmark surely is Spanish Creek trestle at Keddie, which with two inspiring silver trestles brings together WP’s east-west main line and the “Inside Gateway” route. Snow has dressed the Sierra Nevada as a trio of WP U30Bs bring a freight down the Inside Gateway and onto Spanish Creek trestle on the new Train Simulator Feather River Canyon route.
Clear Creek Trestle: Across the valley and within sight of Keddie on the Inside Gateway line stands another impressive trestle – this across tributary Clear Creek. The new Train Simulator Feather River Canon route includes the rugged and scenic segment of the Inside Gateway from Keddie to Crescent Mills, California, and a trio of WP F7s are making the climb out of Keddie.
Quincy Junction: Seven miles east of Keddie stands Quincy Junction, where the Western Pacific interchanged with the Quincy Railroad short line and a set of WP F7s are making a lumber pickup. The short line operated from the junction some three miles into Quincy proper and primarily served the bustling lumber trade. The trackage and lineside facilities of the short line are included in Train Simulator’s new Feather River Canyon, providing an opportunity for unique shortline operations to complement the big-time railroading of Western Pacific’s own majestic and challenging passage through the Feather River Canyon!