Saturday, February 23, 2008

Arthur W. Keddie's Dream

Western Pacific Railroad 805D, Oakland California, November 27, 1960. I was all of 17 when a family visit to California over Thanksgiving led to me finding this gem! This unit was purchased to power Western Pacific's “California Zephyr”The California West Wind – between Salt Lake City and Oakland, from March 22, 1949,until March 22, 1970.

As you may recall, the Northern Pacific had “Sue, the Stewardess-Nurse”; the California Zephyr had the

The Western Pacific Railroad ran 930 miles of steel from Salt Lake City over Beckwourth Pass, through the famous Feather River Canyon, terminating in Oakland.

A Scotsman and surveyor named Arthur W. Keddie hung his shingle out at Plumas, California. He was hired to survey a wagon road across the Sierra through Beckwourth Pass, named after a mulatto scout who found the pass in 1850. Keddie was elated at “finding a crossing of the Sierras with grades too easy to waste on a wagon road!” Beckwourth Pass, at 5,221 feet, was a full 2,000 feet lower than Central Pacific’s 7,085-foot Donner Pass!

Keddie had a number of false starts, but finally found the money and power he needed to finance his dream, and in 1903 incorporated with
George J. Gould, financier and philanderer. On November 1, 1909, the Last Spike was driven at the Keddie, named in his honor.

After the demise of the “California Zephyr,” she ended up in freight service. You can see her now at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum at Portola, California.

Railroad Stuff: Western Pacific Railway 805D, General Motors FP-7, 1,500 hp. Built EMD 1950, serial number 9004. Trade-in to GE; Sold to Wellsville Addison & Galeton; then to Louisiana & North West 49; then to
Feather River Rail Society, 1987.

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