T he California Door Company was established in 1884 in Oakland, California. The Doe Brothers; Bartlett, John and Charles, E. H. Kitteridge, George and Nathan Wilson. The new company constructed a plant in Oakland to produce window sashes, doors and architectural moldings. The plant became the largest on the West coast.
In 1899 the company purchased 30,000 acres of timberland in El Dorado county. Included in the purchase was a sawmill in the woods at “Dogtown”, so named for its location along Dog Creek near the Consumnes River. The mill was a crude operation utilizing oxen teams to move logs to the mill. Steam tractors were tried in 1901 but were found insufficient.
In 1902 the company renamed Dogtown, calling Caldor. The name Caldor is an amalgam of the company name. A new steam powered mill was constructed and Dogtown Creek was dammed to become the mill pond. 36 miles to the west, in Diamond Springs, the company constructed a planning mill located along the Central Pacific (later Southern Pacific) Placerville Branch. Lumber was then shipped to the plant in Oakland.
Construction of the railroad began in December 1903, when a second-hand Baldwin 2-4-2T from the Ferries & Cliff House Railroad in San Francisco was purchased. Several flat cars were purchased from the California & Nevada Railroad, which was out of service in Emeryville. A series of short logging flat cars were constructed by the company in Oakland, with hardware cast in Emeryville and Placerville.1
On February 9, 1904, the Diamond and Caldor Railway was incorporated. Construction progressed on the railroad. And the line was constructed to a maximum grade between 3-4%. A second locomotive, a two-truck Shay from Lima Locomotive Works arrived in October.
The railroad was completed and hauled lumber in the 1905 season. That year the company also received 10 cars from W. L. Holman in San Francisco. These cars were lettered D. S. & C. Ry. In the first year of operation the railroad added a third locomotive, a sister to Shay #2.
The railroad had been incorporated as a common carrier and hauled passengers on the regular freight trains. 1908 purchased cars from Eastern & Western Lumber Co. of Oregon.
Improvements continued through the teens. In 1917 the railroad received Shay #8 and the first Seattle Car & Foundry log cars arrived. Additional cars would arrive in 1921 and 1925 from the Pacific Car & Foundry Co.
The mill at Caldor burned in 1923 and was replaced with a mill in Diamond Springs. Now the railroad hauled the logs straight from the woods to the new mill. Service was continuous until the Great Depression. The Mill ceased operation in the spring of 1930 and remained closed until 1934.
Abandonment of the railroad came in 1952 when the railroad was fined for not having automatic couplers on their equipment, required since the Railway Safety Act of 1893 went into effect in 1903. The company could not justify the cost to upgrade and switched to trucking instead. Scrapping began April 12, 1953.
After the railroad was removed the company became known as the Caldor Lumber Company. In 1956 the operation was sold to the Winton Lumber Company and later sold to American Forest Products in 1964. The mill ceased operation in the 1980s, but it wasn't until sometime between 1999 and 2001 that the final demolition of many of the buildings in Diamond Springs occurred.
Collected Diamond & Caldor Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.
Cut-Over Land Study: California Door Company.
Biennial Report of the State Forester of the State of California, 1914 (Vol. 5)