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Gridley Herald - Gridley, CA
  • Scrapping history

  • The Yreka Western Railroad’s (YWR) famous No. 19 Baldwin steam locomotive may be changing hands soon in an ongoing saga that has left local residents doubtful that the historic railroad will ever operate again.
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  • The Yreka Western Railroad’s (YWR) famous No. 19 Baldwin steam locomotive may be changing hands soon in an ongoing saga that has left local residents doubtful that the historic railroad will ever operate again.
    The YWR is considered by many Siskiyou County residents to be an invaluable piece of local history but over the past year, local residents have observed railroad track and cars being dismantled and sold for scrap while creditors fight over what remains.
    YWR President Court Hammond says the railroad cars that have been scrapped are not owned by the YWR and the company is “conducting ourselves under the federal authority and obligations assigned to us.”
    Recently, the Daily News aquired court documents that have placed ownership of the rare No. 19 in the hands of Joan Reed-Nickerson of Chilatchee Boiler Works (a.k.a Chilatchee Locomotive Company) of Camas, Wash.
    Two of the documents aquire – a Writ of Execution and a notice of civil judgement – were filed with the Siskiyou County Superior Court in late March, but Nickerson has yet to take physical possession of the locomotive as it is locked in a warehouse on the YWR property in Yreka. The Daily News  reached Reed-Nickerson by telephone but she was unwilling to comment on the situation.
    Hammond says “she won’t get possession” of the locomotive and her legal standing is flawed. He said the YWR does not own the No. 19 and his lawyers are actively working to stop her from taking possession of the locomotive. He declined to identify the current owner.
    According to the judgement rendered by Superior Court Judge Laura Masunaga, Reed-Nickerson “is entitled to, is hereby awarded, and may take possession, of the following collateral: Baldwin 2-8-2 Steam Locomotive No. 19, Construction Number 42,000.”
    According to the judgement document, the YWR owes Reed-Nickerson a debt of $141,513, which she is now entitled to satisfy by taking possession of the No. 19 locomotive.
    Last summer, the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA) in north eastern Oregon contracted with Hammond’s Sierra Nevada and Pacific company to operate the No. 19 on the WURA’s Eagle Cap Excursion Line beginning in June of 2012. However, the No. 19 never made it to north eastern Oregon. Instead, it stayed in the warehouse in Yreka.
    In December 2012, the La Grande Observer in Wallowa County, Ore. reported that the contract with Hammond had been terminated because he failed to fulfill the terms. According to the report, Hammond still “owes money to WURA and to various vendors, and has failed to pay for insurance.”
    In addition to Reed-Nickerson’s  lien against the YWR,  the Daily News has also aquired documentation of a long list of other tax and creditor liens against the YWR, Court Hammond and several other companies he is involved with. The city of Montague also holds a lien against the YWR in the amount of $105,000.
    Page 2 of 3 - Montague’s lien was filed in November 2008 and encumbers “All equipment, machinery, inventory, receivables and all other items of value associated with and/or attached to the Yreka Western Railroad Company.”
    Montague Mayor Jayne Keller said the lien was a result of a loan the city made to the YWR to help pay employee salaries and operating expenses until commercial traffic was restored to the Siskiyou Line. Keller said Hammond hoped that commercial traffic would restore a revenue stream to the YWR, but five years later the line has not reopened and is not likely to for at least another year.
    In the spring of 2012, the Daily News reported that the YWR began pulling railroad tracks from sections of its line and selling the metal to scrap dealers.
    In May of 2012, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO)  served YWR with a cease and desist order on behalf of Montague to stop the company from removing track or scrapping any other machinery, equipment or assets encumbered by their lien.
    Track removal continued intermittently throughout most of 2012, but Hammond says the removal was legal because track was only removed from spur lines and not the main line. He says “Montague has their own version of what belongs to the YWR” but he’s letting the lawyers sort that out.
    In March, the YWR began cutting rail cars into scrap in front of its Yreka depot. At least two passenger cars were completely dismantled at that location and more cars are currently being destroyed for scrap on a section of rail just off of Phillipe Road between Montague and Yreka.
    On March 20, Montague filed another complaint and the SCSO served the YWR with a second cease and desist order to stop the destruction of rail cars.Documents attached to the order state, “It has come to our attention that you are in the process of cutting up railroad cars that were used as security for your [loan].”
    As of April 17, railroad cars continued to be scrapped at the location near Phillipe Road.
    Keller said of Hammond, “He may know how to operate a rail line, and he has great ideas. I just think maybe he is not a good fiscal manager.”
    She said Montague has a very big interest in saving the YWR because the city’s past, and possibly its future, are deeply rooted in the railroad. She wants the public to understand that if all of the railroad’s assets are sold to satisfy debts “there will be nothing left” upon which to rebuild it and a very important piece of local history and economy will be gone forever.
    Hammond contends that he is only scrapping cars because he needs money to pay his attorneys, the wages of three local employees of the YWR and to maintain the line. He said federal law requires that the line be kept in operating order and the business remain open as long as it is not in abandonment status.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Nobody sees the other side of this,” says Hammond. “We’ve been preserving that line since 2008 without any revenue. If the community is so concerned about the future of the railroad someone needs to step up and buy it, but they haven’t. I’d say the city is going to get exactly what they deserve. They’re going to lose that railroad eventually.”
    Look for more coverage of these issues in upcoming editions of the Daily News.
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