[nggallery id=98]—By Sharyn Cornelius
Shasta County historian Dottie Smith, of Palo Cedro, is on a mission: to locate the steam locomotive that fell off a ferry into the Sacramento River near the Deschutes Road Bridge over 100 years ago and then to raise it from its watery grave. Though she and her supporters failed to find the “J. G. Kellogg” on their first attempt last Saturday, Smith is undaunted. “We’ll be back,” she said as the search ended. “Finding something that’s been buried that long is bound to be a process of trial and error.”
Equipped with two important maps–one that showed the location of the dredged channel which enabled the ferry to float right up to the tracks of the Bella Vista/Anderson Rail Line, and another that showed where divers had seen the engine during construction of the modern bridge in the early 1970s–volunteers with metal detectors searched the shallows and sandbars in line with that channel. Dave Freeman Tom Wulfert, Dave Hartman and Tom Keefer, aided by Shasta County Supervisor Les Baugh, donned waders and clambered down the steep bank to the river’s edge where they worked for over an hour hoping to hear the tell-tale whine from their metal detectors that would indicate a sizeable object beneath the surface. They concentrated their efforts on a triangular gravel bar at the mouth of Stillwater Creek that they believed could have formed around the sunken locomotive.
Meanwhile on the bridge above, Richard Moseman, the contractor whose divers had come upon the locomotive while surveying the river bottom, was pointing out to Smith where they had said it was—in the deep water beyond the triangular sandbar, out of reach for the volunteers in waders.
After the search ended, several people came forward with additional information to stoke the fires of hope. One gentleman said he recalled seeing a photograph of the locomotive in the river taken when it was briefly exposed during the severe drought in the late 1970s. And Shasta County Supervisor Glenn Hawes called Smith to report he had personally seen it sticking up through the sand at that time. He described it in the same place Moseman had pointed out to her.
In an email dated Jan. 17, Smith writes “I am now 100 percent certain [that the locomotive is still in the river]. Saturday proved to be a very fruitful day. . . [We gathered] more information and more positive sightings by at least four reliable and believable eye witnesses. They all saw the locomotive back in the 70s and 80s and all claim it’s in the same place without knowing where the other witnesses saw it. We were close to it on Saturday, but not quite close enough. . . . So now it’s time to regroup and organize another search.”