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California \ Molino Timber Company

The Molino Timber Coompany.

By: Lennart Elg

Santa Cruz Public Library.

T he Molino Timber Co. was organized to log a tract of redwood lumber owned by the Loma Prieta Lumber Co. This lumber had previously been passed over due to the difficult terrain. To bring out massive redwood logs would require a standard gauge railroad, which was too expensive. However, split logs could be transported by a more basic narrow gauge operation. A gauge of 30" was chosen as the Loma Prieta Lumber Co. already was using some equipment of this gauge.

The Molino Timber Co's operation started with an incline with an elevation of 657 ft and a maximum grade of 67 percent. A third rail was laid from the bottom of the incline along the Southern Pacific's Loma Prieta branch to Molino Station, just west of Loma Prieta's mill. Above the incline, a small yard included storage and repair sheds, a blacksmith shop and passing tracks with a car repair spur. It took ten miles of track to reach camp #3, the maximum extent of the line, at a distance of three miles from the incline. Camp #3 was located 1300 ft above the incline camp, at 2300 ft.

Santa Cruz Public Library.

Only one locomotive was used above the incline, a diminutive 10 1/2 ton two truck Shay, one of the smallest logging Shay ever used. The cars were equally unique, running on German-built Orenstein & Koppel trucks. Ten bulkhead flatcars were constructed by Molino carpenters, sixteen feet long, four feet wide, with link-and-pin couplers and hand brakes (both couplers and brakes were most likely mounted directly on the trucks). The road also had several four-wheel maintenance-of-way cars. Below the incline, a small internal combustion engine took the loaded flat cars downgrade to Molino Station where they were unloaded.

Santa Cruz Public Library.

After the area was cleared, the equipment was taken down the incline, and went to work for the Loma Prieta Lumber Co., which already owned the Union Construction/Empire City ten-ton Shay #1786. When the Loma Prieta operation ceased in the early twenties both Shays were put up for sale but found no takers, and eventually they were cup up for scrap.

Revised: December 7, 2015.

Reference Material Available Online:


An On30" conversion of the MDC Shay kit would be close in size to the 10 ton Molino Timber locomotive. The MDC steam engine and crankshaft can be cut down to two cylinders, and the cylinders should be beefed up a little.

The Orenstein & Koppel trucks were basically of the same type used on WWI trench railways. They can be reasonably modeled using European "Feldbahn" kits.


Collected Loma Prieta Lumber / Molino Timber Company Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

California \ Molino Timber Company
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