Feather River Canyon, Portola, CA 96122 (population, 1,957) Page 2
This is not a location per se but a scenic region (like Cajon Pass) with many RR photo ops though 60+ miles of
beautiful Canyon country. Trains are relatively few, but the scenery is spectacular. The GPS location arbitrarily chosen
was Portola, CA 96122 site of The Western Pacific RR Museum.
GPS: N 39.80514, W 120.47348 The Western Pacific RR Museum, Portola, CA Google map
Scanner: UP 160.875 , (Oroville to Keddie); UP 160.515 , (Keddie to Portola); BNSF 161.100 
Railroad: Union Pacific Western Div, Feather River Sub
Description: On 1st November 1909, the last transcontinental railroad to be built in the United States was
completed when a golden spike was driven on the Spanish Creek trestle at Keddie in Northern California. So was born
the Western Pacific.
The Western Pacific, the idea of Arthur W. Keddie, ran from its connection with the D&RG at Salt Lake City in Utah
through Nevada and Northern California to terminate on the shores of San Francisco Bay at Oakland. Absorbed into
the Union Pacific along with the Missouri Pacific in 1982, the Western Pacific has left many indelible features stamped
on the railroad maps of North America. The Western Pacific was built with the intention of not exceeding a gradient
of one per cent. By using a route surveyed through the Feather River Canyon, Arthur Keddie managed to maintain this
grade, and in so doing did not exceed 4000 feet altitude in his crossing of the Sierras. The Central Pacific (later
Southern Pacific) running 45 miles to the south, reaches to over 7000 feet in its crossing over Donner Pass. Although
the lower altitude on the WP route means it is not plagued by Donner Pass’s heavy snowfalls, the canyon does suffer
from heavy rains, and frequent rock slides.
Arguably the most interesting portion of the former Western Pacific is the Feather River Canyon, now the Union
Pacific's Canyon Subdivision between Oroville and Portola. This section of line is 116 miles in length, although the actual
"canyon" portion between Pulga and Keddie is only approx. 42 miles. This section of line includes the famous "Keddie
Wye" bridge (officially the Spanish Creek Trestle) and "Williams Loop".
From everything that I have read about the Feather River Canyon, It would be best to take a day or so to familiarize
yourself with Route 70, photo locations, and turnoffs before attempting to plan railfanning there. There are several
railfan trip accounts of Feather River Canyon on the Internet and I found them all informative, but sometimes
confusing. I would certainly study maps and guides well as well as “case the joint” before I attempted railfanning there.
Be sure if you do go, though, to take a scanner, your Altamont Press timetable, TRAINS Hot Spot Guidebook, plenty
of food and water, and the biggest, best telephoto lens you can afford as well as extra memory cards and batteries
for your camera. Fill your tank with gas at every opportunity.
Editor's note: I have borrowed freely from first person railfan trip accounts on the Internet and here wish to
acknowledge the articles’ authors: John Oxlade, Nathan Holmes, The Plumas County Tourism, Recreation and
Hospitality Council, and others unknown. TGR
Keddie Wye; Google Map
Williams Loop; Google map
An excellent Railfan guide is available for download from the Pumas County Visitors Bureau (go to trains under "things
to see and do")
Approximate # trains per 24 hours: Less than 20
Disclaimer: I have not been to this location. Info is from the Internet and TRAINS Magazine. I would welcome
pictures, additions, or corrections to this page. Pictures and new info will be credited on the page. e-mail me at
|“The fact is, I was never too bright in school. I ain't ashamed of it though.
I mean, how much do school principals make a month?” - Muhammad Ali
Denver Todd is The Gregarious Railfan
Todd Sestero publishes the RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.
TRAINS July 2015