Mystery Flat Cars at Fort Bragg CA c.1893-94

Discussion of specific prototype locomotives and other equipment of all gauges.
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon May 02, 2016 6:19 pm

Mystery Flat Cars at Fort Bragg CA c.1893-94

Post by FtBraggKev » Mon May 02, 2016 7:03 pm

Howdy, gang!

Attached is a detail from a large-format cabinet card now in the collections of the Fort Bragg-Mendocino Coast Historical Society at Fort Bragg. The scene was made on the standard gauge Fort Bragg Railroad. OK, I hear ya...this isn't a standard gauge forum. Bear with me, please.

Everything in the photograph -- except for the central flat car with a few barrels on its deck -- is known about or recognized. But the flat car is a big mystery at this time. CA RR Commission assessments made in 1911-12 of the FBRR's successor California Western RR & Nav Co do not show any such flats on the roster, and virtually everything that was on the FBRR slid over, so to speak, onto the CWR&N's equipment roster.

What I think I'm seeing is a 28-foot or 30-foot narrow gauge flat car on standard gauge trucks. Adding to the frustration factor are the "alien" reporting marks: either "P. C. Co. 6" or "F. C. Co. 6" -- and neither makes sense to me. The nearest remotely possible ID relating to "F. C." might -- might -- be Fitzgerald Bros., a railroad engineering and tunnel building outfit based in the Bay Area, and the firm which handled the drilling of FBRR's first tunnel, now CWR's "Tunnel No. 1" -- completed in August 1892. But as far as I know, they did not supply any rolling stock to that project; the evidence on way or the other in that regard is slim to none. Alternatively, the FBRR in that time served Pudding Creek Lumber Co's mill at Glen Blair, 6 miles E-NE of Fort Bragg but as far as anyone knows, the PCLCo had no railroad at all until 1903 when it was bought -- in part -- by Fort Bragg's Union Lumber Co -- and reorganized as Glen Blair Redwood Co. Only after 1903 did it get rolling stock or motive power, so this car shouldn't logically be part of Pudding Creek Lumber Co's assets.

Anyone out there recognize the reporting marks, the car, or have any reasonable input as to what builder the car might have sprung from -- based on known visible details?

Big thanks in advance.

--Kevin Bunker, FB-MCHS Board Member-Historian

Randy Hees
Posts: 464
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Re: Mystery Flat Cars at Fort Bragg CA c.1893-94

Post by Randy Hees » Tue May 03, 2016 8:04 am

The car architecture and castings are very consistent with Carter Brothers practice, most likely a 15 ton car built after 1886. About 1886 John Hammond aka the "California Car Works" Would build similar cars with similar or identical castings, and after 1894, William Holman would be in the business as well. By 1907, there were lots of surplus narrow gauge cars, which could have served as casting donors for a standard gauge flat car.

All three of the builders could have (and generally appear willing to) adapt the typical "California style" narrow gauge design to standard gauge. Small orders of freight cars are largely undocumented by the newspapers...

The trucks seem correct, but set too far in from the side sills, suggesting that the car was not just sitting on standard gauge trucks, but may be the "standard" ng car built (or rebuilt) as a wider standard gauge car. I note that the two lateral truss rod washers (on the car sill, at the bolsters) seem to be further apart than expected, suggesting a larger bolster than found on the "typical" narrow gauge car. The draw bar height seems correct, also arguing against a NG car on standard gauge trucks... especially considering how low the car sits on its trucks.

Construction companies commonly had railroad equipment, particularly on larger projects, where a steam shovel might be used. In many cases it is documented that the construction owned equipment remains on site after work is done, sometimes abandoned, sometimes sold cheaply to the host railroad or a nearby railroad. A wooden flat car was not very valuable (less than $500 new, half that used), so if there was not an imediate need on another project could be forgotten. On the other hand that car looks to be in good condition, in much better condition that would be expected after service on a construction project. The low car number is consistent with either a small logger (but no bunks, the the deck is in too good condition for a log car) or a construction company... One additional thought... this car appears to sit lower that other standard gauge designs... and a low deck car would be hand shovel loading friendly. If there was a steam shovel involved, the construction company may have depended primary on 4 wheel tilt cars, commonly identified in the west with Western Wheeled Scraper, called "Steam Shovel cars by some builders, but made by most car builders including the Carter Brothers... Those cars are more likely to have left with the steam shovel, with this flat held for timber and supply transport forgotten... If this photo is early 1890's, the car would likely be worn out by 1910... Life expectancy of a Carter flat on the SPC was 10-15 years...

Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...

User avatar
Posts: 104
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2009 2:45 pm
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Re: Mystery Flat Cars at Fort Bragg CA c.1893-94

Post by r3feetr » Tue May 03, 2016 2:04 pm

The lettering on the flat car looks like P. C. Co to me. A newspaper search for P. C. Co. lead me to Pacific Construction Company. Interestingly the Fort Bragg Railroad and the Pacific Construction Company both incorporated in 1885. It looks like P. C. Co. built a lot of bridges and that sort of thing. I couldn't find an article that linked the two companies directly but here is the search link. ... 22-------1

Post Reply