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Dunsmuir to Spokane

 

I only caught out of Dunsmuir once, in August 1974. My roommate (Dirty John) and I were just about to start school at Chico and we wanted to see the World's Fair in Spokane, Wash. We had both been hopping for several years. We drove DJ's old 55 panel truck to the old yards at Dunsmuir; got there around 10 am. We asked the yard crew what was heading north and when. They were very friendly and told us that a drag freight was changing crews around 11:30 am and yes we could climb around the old turntable, enginehouse and MoW cars while we were waiting (things were different in the 70's). At 11:30 we climbed aboard an empty auto rack (no doors in those days), stowed our gear and waited for them to swap engines. We passed thru the most magnificent mountains (Siskiyous) California has to offer and arrived in Klamath Falls at dusk. The mosquitos were huge but fortunately we caught out quickly on another drag going to Seattle. The following morning we had to get off in Wishram, Oregon just after crossing the Columbia river. We restocked in Wishram and waited for something heading east. By mid-morning we were flying along the north bank of the Columbia. The right of way had been blasted out of the high sheer cliffs and wires were strung along the rock face for miles. I think these were falling rock detectors. We made Spokane by mid-afternoon and found a hotel two blocks from the fair for $3.15 each a night (I told you things were different in the 70's). We spent a week at the fair and then headed for home. We caught a fast freight in the morning and by late afternoon were back in Wishram. We stocked up again and walked across the bridge spanning the Columbia. I can't recall now whether it was a lift or draw bridge but we climbed up to the bridge operators room. The operator showed us around and we proceeded to describe our recent exploits and our plans to catch the next freight that came across. He said the next one would be coming east from Seattle and turn south to cross the bridge. He told us there was no way we could catch it because it would be going about 35 mph thru there. After presenting a story in the true Jack London style of the misery and suffering that would befall us if we missed that train he reluctantly obliged us and gave our impending ride slow orders over the bridge. We crossed back over the bridge and waited by the turn. We know we only had a few seconds with which to get on board so we determined we would grab onto whatever we could and move to better quarters when it later slowed down. A half-hour later he appeared around the bend and we could see he was already picking up speed. Neither of us wanted to grab onto the locomotives necessarily but I didn't want to miss our ride out. I barely managed to grab the last engine but DJ didn't make it. We had contingency plans to meet in Klamath Falls if we got seperated so I knew I would probably see him soon. As it turned out he was able to grab the next train thru and was on his way to Klamath right behind me. The train never did slow down and in the 70's most roofwalks were gone so I was stuck. I climbed into the cab and went to sleep. I awoke around 3am and noticed that I was not alone. Someone else was sleeping on the other side of the cab. I quietly slipped out when we slowed down and caught an empty box about 5 cars back. Just before Klamath he woke up and climbed over the engines into the lead cab. He was one of the crew. I pulled into Klamath about 5am amd was immediately attacked by hordes of mosquitos. I had no bug spray. I left a note for DJ saying I'd wait for him in Dunsmuir and caught the southbound just pulling out, destination unknown. I made Dunsmuir late that night and slept in the truck. John and I both knew that if separated we could be days apart and agreed before hand to not wait overly long for each other. By morning, when John didn't show, I left him a note and hopped on a flat of lumber headed for Roseville. It was a beautiful autumn day and I promptly fell asleep. Around noon I awoke and looking back I remarked aloud that the town we just went thru looked remarkably like Chico. An hour later the Yuba City city limits sign confirmed my suspicions. I hopped off and hitched my way back to Chico. DJ showed up three days later, sunburned and covered with welts. He was stuck in Klamath for two days and was eaten alive. He still says he doesn't regret the trip but bug spray now is the first thing he packs.