Yreka Western Railroad's Baldwin 2-8-2 No. 19 steam engine will be auctioned on Friday, Oct. 25, in a sheriff's sale, and John Nixon is spearheading a movement for local residents and organizations to purchase the locomotive and donate it to the people of Siskiyou County.
A writ of execution issued by the Siskiyou County Superior Court on March 17 ordered Yreka Western Railroad to make good on its debt to Chelatchie Boiler Works, Inc., Camas, Wash., for boiler work completed and two years of annual inspections.
The amount was approximately $153,000 with a daily interest from date of writ of $38.77.
On Aug. 22, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department took possession of No. 19 to be auctioned at a sheriff's sale to satisfy the judgment. The opening bid is set for $157,000.
Mary Jo Culp, civil processor for the sheriff's department, will perform the sale and said that unless someone files something to stop it, it will go through as planned.
"I hope my client will be able to recover the money owed to them," Robert Winston, attorney for Reed-Nickerson, said. "If the people would like to have it there, it would be nice if the engine stayed in Siskiyou County."
The Daily News was unable to reach Yreka Western Railroad president and chief executive officer Court Hammond by press time. Joan Reed-Nickerson, president of Chelatchie Boiler Works, Inc., chose not to comment.
"The Yreka Western Railroad has been in a very difficult situation because of the closure of the CORP (Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad) and hasn't been able to do business for a number of years," said Michael Cogen, an attorney who has represented Yreka western on a number of occasions. "I think Mr. Hammond has done an amazing job of trying to preserve the railroad in face of very adverse circumstances, and his work should be appreciated."
With the sheriff's sale approaching, Nixon is garnering support to purchase the locomotive engine and keep it in Yreka. He said he is in talks with several established 501(c)(3) nonprofits to accept tax-deductible donations to purchase No. 19 on behalf of Siskiyou County citizens.
His goal is to acquire $250,000 in the coffers.
"Yreka Western Railroad is stuck in limbo," Nixon said.
He added he's looking for two kinds of supporters: donors and volunteers. Donors would help generate the capital needed for the "acquisition, repair and maintenance of the locomotive and retention, permanently, in Yreka for the public benefit."
The volunteers would serve on various committees to support the locomotive engine, such as a fundraising, operation, licensing and insurance committee. Nixon pointed out each would be responsible for an aspect of the retention and operation of No. 19.
"We're fortunate that the folks who have been working on that locomotive all these years are here," Nixon said. "We've got conductors, mechanics and engineers; we've got a wonderful rich, diverse group of people who have interest in the railroad."
Should Siskiyou County citizens own No. 19, Nixon said the committees will keep it in operational condition and make it a static display when not running.
He added it could be taken out for community events, such as the Montague Balloon Fair and Siskiyou Golden Fair, and there would be potential for resurrecting old favorites, including the race the train bicycle race and the train robbery event.
One donor Nixon has been in talks with is interested in making No. 19 a part of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
"There will be lots of opportunities to be community oriented," Nixon said.
However, Nixon did note that he did not think the engine would run until the present ownership of the railroad changed hands.
The Pacific Locomotive Association, Sunol, Calif., was also interested in persevering No. 19. Henry Baum, association president, said, "This one is exciting because its closest to being operational for an engine of its size."
However, at its Saturday board meeting, the organization decided not to bid. Baum cited the "convoluted legality" regarding proper ownership of the engine as the determining factor.
Those interested in supporting the movement to keep and maintain the No. 19 in Siskiyou County may call Nixon at (916) 600-8235.
The sheriff's sale is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 25, at 10 a.m. It will take place at 300 E. Miner St., Yreka.