Blue Lake Timber Company

&

Blue Lake Timber Railroad*

Formerly the Rockdale Lumber Company  


Welcome to the Blue Lake Timber Company website.  The mill is located in the Central Mountains near the picturesque Blue Lake and the still living historic town of Facko.  Since 1882 the first cut of Timber was milled (then under the name of Rockdale Lumber Company) for the nearby towns of Rockdale and Pinehurst.  Today the Blue Lake Timber Company continues its proud history by practicing sustainable logging.

Company Features:


History:  

The history of the Blue Lake Timber Company (ex-Rockdale Lumber Co.) is noted below by each logging camp the company has built and maintains.

1882

The Rockdale Lumber Company is formed and construction begins on the Rockdale mill on the banks of the Wall River.  The first cut occurs at Camp 1 located up the mountain near a place called "Blue Lake".  A very small support mill, various buildings and skid houses for the workers are constructed.  Although some lumber was milled at this site for the initial construction of the Rockdale mill, most of the logs were sent down the canyon grade to the town. This area would become the future township of Facko.

1883

Construction on the Rockdale mill continues but expands quickly when initial mill work is completed. Mill is fully finished during the Winter of 1883.

Logging Camp 2 is founded.  Logs from this camp are sent down the grade to the Rockdale mill via ox or horse cart and during the winter the logs would be dragged along the snow.  

1884

Logging Camp 3 is founded.  Located on the Western shores of Blue Lake, the clear cut by the lake proved to be a pristine location for heavier logging operations and during the Winter of 1884 the workers moved most of the buildings that were on skids from Camp 1 to Camp 3.  This site is closer to the Blue Lake grade road that decesends to Rockdale and the companies growing lumber mill.

Nearby, a small housing area referred to as "Facko" acts as the mountain headquarters for the company.

1885

 Logging Camp 4 is founded East side of Blue Lake.  Present site of Whispering Pines Resort

Logging Camp 5 is founded. Presently in reserve, harvested until 1889.

Logging Camp 6 is founded.  Presently area is part of protected long term logging research area.

Operations at Camp 3 became a hub receiving logs from the other camps to send down the Blue Lake grade road. The company kitchen opens its doors to the general public that come up to the lake.

Photo 2 * Photo 3

1886

Prime stands of timber are discovered in the high country.  Camp 7 is planned as new construction on a steep and narrow road begins from Camp 3.  Many areas beyond Camp 7 look like prime forests, but there is only one way up the mountain from Camp 3.

1887

Even though camp 7 does not exist, a new camp named Camp 8 is founded near the southern end of Blue Lake.  Logs are floated across the lake to Camp 3 where they are hauled out and sent down to the Rockdale mill.

The housing area known as Fakco becomes a township.

1888

After two years, the mountain road to the high country is completed and Camp 7 is founded. Looking down at Blue Lake in the distance, the gamble to build the road pays off with enormous strands of timber easily accessible.  

Camp 9 is founded later in the year to the North of Camp 7.

The company continues to rely on horse drags and ox carts to transport its inventory.

1889 to 1895

The logging way of life continues in the camps.  No new camps are built as all efforts are put into cutting the existing fields near the camps and moving the timber to the mill in Rockdale and the smaller mill at Camp 3. This period was known as the quiet time in the companies history.

The Rockdale mill is expanded to meet the demand from the nearby towns and even the growing cities of Del Mar and Bayshore place orders for the new lumber.

1896

Timber from the Rockdale mill is sent via barge down the Wall river to Bayshore harbor.  Both cut lumber and logs are loaded unto ships for transport to other cities and countries. This practice continues for many years.

A new standard gauge railroad line known as the "Highland Pacific" declairs to build a line from the city of Del Mar to the mountain city of Highland.

The railroad's appetite of lumber sparks another expansion of the Rockdale mill.

1897

Away from the main logging operations in another valley, the Blue Lake lumber company finds a prime strand of trees in Showe Valley.  The first camp to be built in 10 years and is constructed as Camp 10.  Showe valley is very close to the Rockdale mill , and due to the lower elevation, there are more strands of hard wood Oak and pine.

1898

From Camp 7 in the high country, another road is extended into the mountains along ridges and cliffs into the most pristine groves of timber yet discovered.

Logging Camps 11, 12 and 14 are founded in the high country above Camp 7.  Camp 14 was really Camp 13 but the cutters refused duty at the camp with such an unlucky number, the Vice President renamed it as Camp 14 and the issue went away.

Looking for another way down the mountain, another attempt at building a road is foiled by a massive landslide, a secondary result of a lightning started forest fire.  Camp 7 remains the only way down the mountain.

1899

As the clear cuts in the high country continued, new pastures and fresh grasses beckoned a few ranchers to bring their herds of cattle up for the late spring and summer.

In 1899, winter took hold of the mountain early and many heads of cattle were lost in the snows.

Timber operations continued to flourish.

1900

Logging Camp 15 - The farthest camp is founded in the high valley of Mount Bruno.  The camp is able to host one of the largest crews in the field.

Gold and silver are found near Camp 14.  A small mine quickly grows as word gets out that there is gold in thar hills.  The miners are quick to form a corporation and secure most of the claims in the area thus preventing a major gold rush.

1901

Logging camp 7 has become choked with timber awaiting the journey down the treacherous steep road to Camp 3.  Orders are sent to reduce operations at Camp 9, 11, 12, 14 and 15 from farther up the mountain.  So many accidents occurred on this grade that the name of "Dead Man's Grade" serves as a reminder of its danger.

To improve capacity and safety of the route, the company decides to finally build a railroad to move the massive inventory of timber. The first leg would be to build a grade from Rockdale mill to Camp 3 up the Blue Lake Grade road.

1901 Spring

The Highland Pacific Railroad was contracted by the Rockdale Lumber Company to build the companies logging railroad.  Although the railroad would belong to the lumber mill, the Highland Pacific Railroad would hold 25% of its companies revenues and maintain trackage rights.

Starting from the Rockdale mill, a narrow gauge line was laid to Camp 3.  Plans to extend the line to Camp 7 would require 2 switch backs up the steep "Dead Man's grade". Construction of this line would begin in 1903 after the Blue Lake Grade was completed.

1902

Construction of the narrow gauge railroad from Rockdale to Camp 3 continues.  Due to the construction, getting logs down the Blue Lake Grade was constrained, the company would store the logs in Blue Lake. At one time it was so full of logs that a man could almost walk across any point of the lake to any other point.  

A small lumber mill is constructed at Camp 14 to provide timbers for the expanding mine operations.  The Narrow gauge line was completed and the first train of logs were sent down the hill.  

1903

Almost as soon as the train is unloaded at Rockdale, several miners request transportation up the grade to Camp 3 so they can join the other miners near Camp 15.  The conductor agrees to allow the men to ride on an open flat.  Word spreads quickly that the new railroad is providing passenger service up and down the grade.  The company tries hard to discourage the policy when it sees another money making opportunity. A single passenger coach car is built and fares are strictly enforced.

Construction of the grade to Camp 7 begins right away.

1904

The cattle ranchers begin their first cattle drive out of the clear cuts of the High Country.  The drive down the grade during the construction of the railroad almost ends in disaster for both the ranchers and the railroad.  The lumber company reluctantly agrees after pressure by the Highland Pacific to provide cattle cars for the trip when the railroad is opened to Camp 14.

1905

Construction of the narrow gauge line to Camp 7 is completed.  Four trains run load after load down the grades to Rockdale mill.  The mill in Rockdale expands to meet the demand and capacity is at an all time high.  

Population in the valley and mountains more than triple as the narrow gauge railroad becomes a "rapid" transportation system. When the lumber company would refuse special trains, the Highland Pacific would be ready to pick up the business. The HPRR picks up cattle contracts to Camp 7 and begins regular mail and passenger service to the town of Facko.

1906

The  "European Hotel" opens in the town of Facko along with a several new saloons. The town becomes a romantic tourist destination by reputation and people from as far away as Del Mar City come to enjoy the small town and the wonder Blue Lake.

The Lumber Company announces plans to extend the narrow gauge line from Camp 7 to the Camp 14.

As soon as the announcement is made, the Highland Pacific Railroad sees an opportunity to provide the miners and cattlemen with freight services the railroad would supply.

 The Rockdale Lumber Company agrees to limited track rights and retains ownership of the new branch.  

1907

The line is completed to Camp 14.  The lumber company quickly plans and extension to the large Camp 15 site. Construction of the Chappell Trestle begins near Mt. Bruno.

A severe landslide forces the railroad to find another route to Mt. Bruno, and eventually two routes to Camp 15 will be built allowing the railroad to run log trains in one direction as a loop.  For many years this proved to be very profitable.

1908 - The End and Beginning

The Rockdale Mill is slightly damaged by a wild flood but the final blow came a few weeks later during the reconstruction when a fire of unknown origin totally destroyed the rest of the lumber mill.  

Mining companies make bids for the Rockdale Mill site, and with negative pressure from the town council, the Rockdale Lumber Company decided not to rebuild the mill at Rockdale.  The company decided instead to expand its operations at Camp 3 and build a new mill near the friendly town of Facko.

Because of the ill tensions between the Town of Rockdale and the Rockdale Lumber Company, the decision was made to rename the company as the Blue Lake Timber Company.  Camp 3's name was changed to Blue Lake Timber Company Mill.

1909

The Blue Lake Lumber Mill was quickly expanded and reworked. Moving logs from Camp 8 in the Showe valley became awkward as they must pass through Rockdale and climb the Blue Lake Grade.  It is very rare that Logs must climb rather than decsend, so special train crews were trained to handle these loads.

Fakco was already a blustery township, but when fire took the Rockdale mill, and the company relocated, the town of Facko exploded with people.  Many of the workers in Rockdale simply boarded the train and moved up the mountain.  The weather was cooler and there was little chances of wild floods.

1910

If it were not for the new Highland Pacific Railroad, the town of Rockdale would have become a ghost town.  The Highland Pacific Railroad was quick to buy depressed properties in Rockdale as they began construction of a standard gauge 2% climb through the mountains that is now called Alco Grade.  In two years (1912) the HP Railroad completed its grade construction and linked the small towns of Rockdale, Essex and Pinehurst to the coastal cities of Bayshore and Del Mar.  

As the main Highland Pacific Railroad was expanding, costs for running it's narrow gauge operation to the mines and freight service to the mountain towns was not profitable.  The Highland Pacific sold it's 25% share back to the Blue Lake Timber Company and ceased operations.  The Timber company briefly provided services "as lumber traffic allowed".

Unsatisfied with the Timber company rail service, the miners, cattle ranchers and mountain towns filed a lawsuit in Bayshore County Courthouse and the Garner Mining Company was able to create their own railroad.  The "Garner Mining Railroad" was founded and trackage rights were guaranteed from the Mountains to Rockdale Junction on a "forced" schedule that was approved by the courts.

This caused some tension between the Timber Company and the Garner Mining Company and several mysterious accidents occurred on both railroads.

1911

The Garner Mining Company and Blue Lake Timber Company track sharing plan continued to erode.  The Highland Pacific convinced the Timber Company to convert to standard gauge track and enter a new partnership with them.  The company agreed and new construction of standard gauge over existing narrow gauge right away was accomplished by simply adding a third rail.  All narrow gauge tracks in Facko were ripped out and replaced with Standard gauge to be serviced by Highland Pacific trains.

Again the Garner Mining Company filed suit in to stop the Blue Lake Timber Company and Highland Pacific from expanding any more and thus cutting off its business.  The court agreed and placed an injunction against the HP and Lumber mill from any further expansion.

1912

Although the lawsuit stopped the railroad from expanding, plans were already in the works to expand the line to Camp 7. The lumber mill seeing the advantages of new standard gauge engines and their increased capacity continued to lay track up Dead Man's Grade to Camp 7.

The Garner Mining Company filed its 3rd suit to stop the expansion but it backfired when the judge decided that the previous judgment entitled the Timber Company Railroad to complete their plans as stated, but no further.

This action forced the Timber Company to continue both narrow gauge to its existing camps and standard gauge operations.  Thus, the Timber company is both narrow and standard gauge to this day.

Also during this year, the Highland Pacific Railroad completes its construction of Alco Grade along it's mainline.  Rail service is provided to the town of Pinehurst.

1913

The Mining company continued its war against the Timber company as the two were forced to share trackage rights to the town of Rockdale in order to access the junction with Highland Pacific Railroad.  As the Highland Pacific entered the town of Pinehurst, the Mining Company was quick to engineer a new route to bypass the timber traffic at Rockdale.  A short spur from the Highland Pacific in Pinehurst would allow transfer of Mining Company goods at this location.  

1914

The Highland Pacific Railroad created so much new traffic that the interchange in Rockdale was renamed as Rockdale Junction.  A new quarry (not related to the existing Garner Mining Company) located between the Showe valley and Rockdale brought even more traffic to the Rockdale Junction.

The Highland Pacific built new tracks for the interchange over the historic Rockdale Lumber mill site.

1915

As the Blue Lake Timber Company continued to log on the Western slopes of the Central Mountains, another logging organization began to purchase stands of timber on the Eastern Side.

The Badger-Creek Lumber Company made its presence known and warned the Blue Lake Timber Company not to make any claims to the Eastern slopes.  A friendly agreement was struck between the two companies and to some degree, the companies would loan or lease equipment as available to the other.

(External Website:  Badger-Creek Lumber Company)

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1916

History being researched now...



* The Blue Lake Timber Company is  not a real company as it only a model... part of the Highland Park Society of Model Railroad Engineers Model H.O. Train layout.  The branchline railroad of the lumber company is contained on the larger layout of the "Highland Pacific Railroad".  This is a "model Website" presenting the Blue Lake Timber Company, the Highland Pacific Railroad and the fictitious towns of the layout as if they are in fact the real thing.  The purpose of this is to provide a history, story line, and some "color" for the members and guests of the Highland Pacific.  

This website could also be used for educational purposes concerning logging and mining near the turn of the century.

Please enjoy, but if you plan to do business with these fictitious companies, please note we will be happy to do so as long as it is 1/87 scale.

The Highland Pacific, and Blue Lake Timber Company is owned and operated by the Highland Park Society of Model Railroad Engineers.  The Badger-Creek Lumber Company is owned and operated by Paul Templer in the United Kingdom.  Paul is an avid logging railroader and harmonica player.  Please check out his wonderful website and photos of his layout.  Although he is in England, our two companies share the same fictitious geographic location on some mountain in the Pacific Northwest.

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