|Last Update: March 16, 2008
|I recommend these two books which contain relavent information to the the movie and wreck.
Logging to the Salt Chuck by John T Labbe & Peter J Replinger
The Oregon-American Lumber Company by Edward J Kamholz
|The last 15 minutes of the Ring of Fire movie, including all the climatic scenes of the escaping locomotive, burning mill,
forest fire and collasping bridge can new be seen on my website in quicktime format.
Click HERE to see the last 15 minutes of Ring of Fire.
|Georgia-Pacific 2-6-2ST number 9, in its last days at the Toledo Mill, in Toledo, Oregon, 1960. Not long after this photo was taken, the
locomotive would plunge off of the Wynoochee river bridge into the river below, a half century after it was built. Its remains are still there to this
day. Photo courtesy of Gary Oliver GTC Collectibles GPC_9_2 Stan Styles Photo.
|In May, 2004, John and I were exploring the remains of the abandoned Simpson Timber Railroad, west of Shelton,
Washington. One of our goals on that trip was to locate the locomotive wreck site of the Ring of Fire movie. We had
heard that the steam locomotive and coach cars used in the movie were still at the bottom of the ravine today. There was
only one way to find out for sure.
The Story of the Georgia-Pacific # 9 wreck and the movie, Ring of Fire.
The Wynoochee River bridge was a huge wood trestle that crossed a deep gorge near the Simpson Grisdale logging camp. The bridge
accessed large stands of timber, and was built in the 1920s. It was abandoned when the timber was all cut, probably around the late 1930s
or so. In 1960, a movie company came in and struck a deal with the Simpson Timber company to blow up the bridge for the making of the
movie “Ring of Fire.” The plan was to put a live steam locomotive and two passenger coaches on the bridge, then collapse the bridge and
film the locomotive and two coach cars plunging to their death. Since the track on the bridge was removed when the bridge was abandoned
years earlier, it had to be relaid. Georgia-Pacific Corporation had just fazed out its fleet of steam locomotives in its closed down Toledo,
Oregon logging operations. Some locomotives went to local community parks for display, but one would be sacrificed for this movie. It was a
2-6-2ST tank steam locomotive, Georgia-Pacific # 9. (I have much more detailed information on this locomotive further down the page.)
|The Wynoochee River logging
railroad bridge under construction
From: Logging to the Salt Chuck
|Poster is from this website.
(Note the depiction of the scene in which this train was sacrificed at the top right of the poster.)
|The movie, which was set in modern (1960) times, would be about a local Sheriff who attempts to arrest two fugitives and a girl. Later, he is
taken hostage and roams the woods for much of the movie. The climatic scenes come after the Sheriff is rescued and the fugitives are
caught. While roaming the woods, one of the fugitives drops a cigarette, which causes a huge forest fire and threatens to burn the local town
down. Many of the final scenes include actual forest fire footage from the late 1950s. As fires cut off escape for the remaining town residents,
the hero Sheriff sees that the local mill locomotive is still steamed up and decides that he can hook up to a pair of passenger coaches and
push the townsfolk to safety over the railroad. A large gorge, spanned by a bridge, separates the towns people from safety. All they have to do
is get across it. The girl in the movie, who goes from villain to hero, tags along as the Sheriff jumps on the locomotive and tries to figure out
how to operate it. In a few seconds, the locomotive is pushing two coach cars into town. Then as the townsfolk climb aboard, it heads into
the burning woods. In the following realistic looking scenes, the locomotive fights its way through the burning forest. Upon reaching the
bridge, they find it on fire but still try to push across. Halfway across the burning bridge, the train gets stuck. The passengers are forced to
run off of the train and across the bridge on foot to safety. Then the climatic finale. The burning bridge begins to collapse. First the
locomotive goes, with the heros just barely escaping . Then one of the coaches and part of the bridges collapses. After a few second pause,
the remaining portion of the bridge and last coaching collapse into a pile of rubble. Then the movie ends, with most everyone safe.
|The below pictures are scenes from the actual movie. These are low resolution photos due to being copied off of VHS
resolution tape. Click here to watch the last 15 minutes of the movie including these scenes in Quicktime format.
|These scenes show the heros running to the locomotive, starting it up and hooking up to the two coach cars. The scenes you see here were
filmed in Vernonia, Oregon. The mill in the background in the Oregon-American and it is truly is on fire. Set on fire for the movie, the mill has
just closed down and was going to be torn down anyway. In the scene on the far right, the fire got so hot during the making of the movie,
crews had to stop filming and run away from the area. In real life, the engineer risked his life to save the locomotive.
|These scenes show the hero driving the locomotive into town to pick up the people and then drive on into the woods. Note how the fuel
bunker of the locomotive was removed so the actors could be more clearly seen in the movie. Also notice that the locomotive is really under
steam in these scenes. Note the pressure gauge in the picture on the right. In real life the engineer was behind the camera in the tender
telling the actor what to do and operating the locomotive himself.
|The passengers safely
escape out of the cars and
off of the bridge.
|The locomotive drive wheels
spin fruitlessly. The
locomotive is stuck on the
|The burning trestle causes
the rail to jam and stops the
train cold out in the middle
of the bridge.
|The scene showing the first
coach falling through the
bridge was mostly
shrouded by the steam
from the boiler explosion of
|In this scene, the loco has
just hit the side of the cliff
and burst into a large boiler
explosion of steam that
would soon engulf the
|The first sections of the
trestle and one of the coach
cars has quickly fallen into
the ravine by this scene.
|The last section of the bridge and coach to fall, lasted a few
more seconds and involves a couple of different camera
|The remaining section of
the bridge and the last
coach is just about to
|Note the mid-air flames as caused by the special effects
mistake, in these two scenes!
|The townspeople running off the
trestle. You can't see it here, but
on the TV, I noticed that the tracks
were laid down with only a few
spikes. Remember these tracks
had to be relaid for the movie as
the bridge was abandoned years
|This fire appears to be real
and was probably set after
the fact, if not caused by the
|A close up of the wreck
makes up one of the final
scenes in the movie..
|During the making of the movie, Georgia-Pacific number 9 was coupled to two passenger cars via its front coupling and was pulled out onto
the trestle with a cable from a cat on the other side of the bridge. The engineer, Ralph "Boomer" Reynolds had walked the old abandoned
trestle and had decided against steaming the locomotive across under its own power. A few months earlier, before filming in the ex-mill town
of Vernonia, Oregon, the fuel bunker of the locomotive was removed and a tender from another locomotive was attached. This allowed the
actors to be more easily filmed and viewed in the movie as well as turning number 9 into a more conventional looking steam locomotive
instead of the tank engine it was. In real life, Ralph Reynolds, the actual engineer of the #9, sat in the tender and directed the actor what to do
during the scenes in which he was actually steaming the train.
The trestle was already wired with explosives and ready to be blown up. Camera crews stood ready on the east bank in full view of the
bridge. While most of the fire shown in the movie were later added to the film as "special affects" apparently parts of the bridge were in fact set
on fire by using gas lines that were strung out onto the bridge. The first thing to happen was a small section of stringer under the locomotive
was cut to allow the locomotive to fall to it's death without collapsing the rest of the bridge just yet. Before hitting the bottom, #9 hit the side of
the cliff and part of the boiler exploded with a huge cloud of steam. Then part of the bridge was blown up and the first of the two coach cars
collapsed. For a few seconds, half the bridge and one coach car remained, almost suspended in mid-air. Then the entire rest of the
structure came crashing down. When the dust cleared, the two coach cars were in a crumpled pile on the west bank of the river. The
locomotive was nowhere to be seen. It was buried under tons of wood debris from the bridge. After the scene was filmed, the movie crews
packed up and left everything behind.
|Crews getting ready to film the
climatic scene for the movie "Ring
of Fire" in which the bridge would
be blown up.
From: Logging to the Salt Chuck
|A close up shot of
Georgia-Pacific's number 9, a
2-6-2T steam locomotive that was
sacrificed for the scene.
From: Logging to the Salt Chuck
|The scene shortly after the bridge
was blown up. The wreckage
remains there today.
From: Logging to the Salt Chuck
|Does the wreck really still exist? Yes!
Rail buffs continue to debated whether the famed wrecked still existed. Some say the locomotive is there, others say it’s not. But we solved
the mystery for ourselves, once and for all. The log jam from the bridge timbers may have existed for several years afterwards, hiding much of
the wreckage, so even visitors to the site shortly after the scene was filmed, may not have seen much. Although I've heard that most of the
logs burned and were gone within a few days. Martin E Hansen, who was kind enough to provide some historical photos for this article, told
me he visited the site in the 1970s.
John and I had the site plotted out on USGS maps. We knew exactly where it was, but we didn’t know how accessible it would be or if we
would find anything. My fear was that a sheer cliff and vegetation, would prevent us from being able to even look down upon the site. I
imagined that if we were lucky we might see some glimpse of the collapsed bridge below, but little else.
We came upon a gate to the road that was the old railroad grade to the bridge. This we expected and planned for by bringing our mountain
bikes. The bridge site was about 2 miles past the gate. An easy ride on the relatively flat grade. Upon reaching the site, we saw a trail
leading down a steep embankment, but no wreckage and no sign of the bridge log jam. I was beginning to feel disappointment. We
proceeded down the trail to what amounted to a ledge and looked down. There it was! The Wynoochee wreck site. Our first discovery was of
the two coach cars on the east bank. One appeared to be mostly intact, but quite rusted. The other was an entangled jumbled mess of
twisted rusted metal. There was no sign yet of the locomotive, or surprisingly, of the log jam from the bridge collapse. Almost all signs of
the collapsed bridge and log jam were gone. But then as we began the dangerous slow climb down to the wreckage, things went really
wrong. John fell off of a cliff, nearly 40+ feet to the ravine bottom, narrowly missing the jagged metal wreckage by inches, but still falling hard.
We still debate how he survived, but the consensus is that an old fire hose that was strung down to the bottom years ago from previous
explorers, slowed his fall. In the end, he was pretty banged up, but not severely injured. However, this did cut our exploration short and
limited the number of pictures we were able to take at the scene. I couldn't get all the way down to the wreck site safely as I had to fetch rope to
help John get back up. I had only one view of the wreckage.
While at the bottom trying to recover from the fall and plan the ascent back up the cliff, John discovered that the locomotive did in fact exist. We
could see what appeared to be three of the six main drive wheels sticking out of the water. But the rest of the locomotive was submerged
upside down in the creek. From above, I could also clearly see what I initially thought was the rear locomotive tender sticking out of the water.
Martin Hansen pointed out that this could not have been the tender as it actually survived the bridge collaspe and was saved. (See below for
more info.) Instead, it must have been one of the trucks of one of the coaches that broke off during the impact. The 2-6-2T did not normally
have a tender as it was a tank locomotive. The water tank and fuel, which are normally carried in a separate tender car on most steam
locomotives, are stored on board the main chassis on this design. But in the movie, you'll note that a tender was hooked up to the
locomotive. See below for more information on the tender that was used.
The mystery was solved. Georgia-Pacific # 9 remains here in her final resting place as she has for more than 44 years.
It was our fault for not being prepared to access this site properly. We easily could gotten ourselves seriously hurt or killed. But we do plan to
return much better prepared and properly photograph and document the site. Even with what little we were able to see, I was thoroughly
amazed. It made the entire trip very much worth it. Of all the rumor and stories of old steam locomotives left in the woods, this one is real.
There really is an old steam engine abandoned, probably very much intact at the bottom of this ravine.
|Unfortunately, from my vantage point, these were only angles I could photograph of the
coaches. You can clearly see one of the passenger coaches on it's side. Part of the shell
was ripped open like a tin can. The interior completely stripped by decades of raging river
water. I believe this to be the second coach that fell through the bridge. I hope to return to the
scene later this summer and photograph much more.
|This appears to one of the
trucks of either the locomotive
or one of the cars. I originally
thought the tender went into
the drink and this was it, but
thanks to Martin E. Hansen for
|These were taken by John at river level. Here you can see one of
trucks of the coaches. When I made these pictures, I thought the
wheels were of the tender, but that piece of equipment was actually
saved from destruction. Unfortunately, the locomotive was almost
completely submerged, but you can see that it clearly exists.
|More wreck pictures from the river level.
Unfortunately, John was too busy recovering
from the fall and planning his dangerous
ascent back up the cliff to worry about taking
more. I believe this is the first coach that fell
and rolled onto it's side.
|John at the bottom of the wreck site. These were only decent shots I could get of the
wreck site, from my vantage point. They show John making his way back up the cliff
side with minor injuries. You can see that the inside of the coach cars appear to be
totally bare of any seats or hardware.
|This picture illustrates the
dangers here. That's me at the
top. John fell from up there
down to the bottom, below the
view of the picture.
|Ward Baggentoss was kind enough to send me these photos that he when he visited the site himself.
On the left shows a much better picture of the other car. On the right is a really nice close of up of one of
the car trucks. Note the brake shoe visible against the wheel. Thanks for the pics Ward!
|Dave Collins was kind enough to share this picture of when he visited
the site several years ago.
|The availability of the movie "Ring of Fire" today.
Ring of Fire was never popular enough to later be converted to VHS and sold or rented to the public. As a result there are no known copies of
commerical VHS tapes of the movie that I could find. However, it was occasionally shown on late night cable TV in the 1980s and early
1990s. As a result, a few people have taped the movie and saved it. I found a copy through someone who read this story and knew a person
in Vernonia, Oregon who had done just that. Vernonia is where much of the town scenes and the burning mill scenes for the movie were
filmed. Also most of the extras are Vernonia residents. The person whom I purchase a copy of the movie from is willing to sell more copies
at a reasonable price to anyone that asks if you Email them. This copy is from a viewing on the TNT channel in the early 1990s. The
recording quality is fair. I did run into one blacked out spot in the beginning that lasted a few seconds, but it's only for a few minutes.
I also have the last 15 minutes of the movie stored on this website and is downloadable HERE. It's in quicktime format.
|Picture showing the wreck site after the
bridge collapsed, showing that the site
was still smoldering. Courtesy of
Martin E Hansen.
|Another picture of Georgia-Pacific # 9. This
time, taken in Siletz, Oregon in Sept, 1958.
Photo courtesy of Gary Oliver GTC Collectibles
GPC_9_1 Earl Spencer Photo
|More details about Georgia-Pacific Number 9
Georgia-Pacific number 9, actually started out life in April, 1925 as Manary Logging Company number 9. Manary purchased her for use on the
initial development of the Siletz division, located north of Toledo, Oregon. It turned out the be the last locomotive Manary would perchase
before selling off the division, including number 9, to CD Johnson Lumber Company in the late 1920s. Number 9 would spend its last few
years under Georgia-Pacific ownership, when GP bought the entire division and Toledo mill in 1951. Georgia-Pacific continues to own the
huge paper located in Todelo today, but the logging railroad and all of the operations north of Toledo were abandoned in 1960. Three of the
steam locomotives owned by GP were donated to various cities around Oregon and all three exist today. The rest, except for number 9, were
scrapped. Number 9's fate would be a little more spectacular.
Number 9, was built by Baldwin as a 2-6-2T saddle tank engine, c/n 57709, in April, 1925.
|These photos were taken during the movie production and show's
how the stock rear oil bunker was removed and a tender from O-A
# 105 was added.
Three above photos are courtesy of Martin E Hansen.
|This photos shows # 9 in
1955 still painted in the CD
Photo courtesy of Marc
Steam in the Woods.
|This photos shows # 9 at
the end of her career around
1959. Photo courtesy of
Gary Oliver GTC Collectibles
GPC_9_2 Stan Styles
|This Ring of Fire memorabilia collection belongs to Martin E Hanson. The round builder plates are the originals from the number
9 and were removed from the engine before the bridge collapse scene. One builder plate was originally obtained by his friend.
The other, which was thought to have stayed on the engine when it went into the river, was found by Martin on Ebay. The stunt
director of the movie had apparently removed it as well. Now both plates are now together, preserved in Martin's collection.
Courtesy of Martin E Hansen.
|About the fate of number 9's temporary tender. It wasn't destroyed in the movie.
I had originally thought I spotted the remains of the #9 tender in the river. However I was wrong.
The following information and correction is courtesy of Martin E. Hansen who emailed me:
The tender that was filmed in the wreck was not destroyed. When in Vernonia, the #9 was converted into a tender engine by removing the oil
bunker and borrowing the tender from Oregon-American 2-6-2 #105. The scenes in Vernonia and at Simpson were shot with #105's tender
When the trestle scene was shot, there was a cable attached to the tender that was attached to a Cat that was out of the scene. The timbers
under the #9 had been saw-cut to cause ONLY the #9 to fall into the river. The cat pulled the tender from #105 safely off the trestle as the rest of
the scene rolled on.
Thanks Martin for the correction and interesting information! As a side note, the #105 tender was later reattached to its locomotive, which went
on to be used on the Vernonia South Park and Sunset Steam RR from 1961-1969. A passenger excursion railroad that ran out of Vernonia,
Oregon. The # 105 then later went to the Oregon Pacific and Eastern railroad. It appears to survive today. The tender and original locomotive
are owned by Fred Kepner. As of 1999, this picture was taken which showed the tender in a field separate from the locomotive. (picture from
the this website.) Here's an older picture of the # 105 with it's tender, when it operated as a logging locomotive for the Long-Bell Company.
|Additional information & first hand accounts shared by those that were involved with the making of the movie.
|The following message was from Roy Reynolds who's father was the actual Engineer of the
number 9 during the making of the movie.
My dad, Ralph Reynolds (also known as ‘Boomer’ ) of Vernonia was the actual engineer crouching in the tender behind David Janssen in
much of the movie. When the loco got too hot in the fire beside the burning planer mill and was abandoned, he was in the tender and crept
forward to move it out of the fire as the rest of them dashed for safety. I remember going with him to the Wynoochee trestle and walking out on
it before it was rigged with explosives. He told me the director suggested at one point that he run the train out on the trestle for preliminary
filming. After looking it over carefully, he declined and the cat with the cable was used. I was in High School when the film was shot. Quite a
number of classmates skipped classes to join in the ‘burning town’ scene.
Ralph was an engineer and master mechanic for Clark Wilson and later for Oregon American and Long Bell. He died in 1989 at the age of 92.
He often ran the shay #102, now in Vernonia. I went to work with him a few times one summer when I was a kid and watched the dismantling
and removal of skidders etc. We took them as far as Keasey and left them for #105 to take on into Vernonia.
He quit [the Clark and Wilson] in 1933 and married my mom, went on a long honeymoon then returned to Vernonia and went to work for OA in
the woods. Later, not wanting to be away from the family so much, he took a job in the mill that didn’t involve working on the engines. He ran
#105 from time to time when Chet Alexander went on vacation.
|The following message was from Wendy Mathews Carpenter who lived at Camp Grisdale near the site of the bridge and
who's family was involved in the filming of the movie.
I have so many stories of Camp Grisdale that I don't even really know where to begin! My parents lived there when I was born, and I am the
youngest of four children. When Ring Of Fire was filmed, I was a baby so therefore was not in the movie like my siblings! My brother and oldest
sister were among the "stand in" cast members along with our mom. Joyce Taylor was very friendly and interacted with the crowd that would
gather to watch the filming. David Janssen was more standoffish and did not mingle with the crowd. Joyce was especially friendly with the
children, and my oldest sister, Kathleen, was apparently one of her favorites. They corresponded with each after the film was done, and we are
still in possession of the photographs and letters Joyce sent to her. There was also a Simpson Timber Company magazine/newletter that was
published periodically "The Lookout", and we have the copy that featured the making of the movie. My sister's son has all of photos, letters, etc.,
so if you are interested in seeing any of it, I would be happy to have him contact you. I know he would be happy to share it with you and provide
you with copies, if you are interested.
One thing about the film that you may not know, the scene that was shot of the trestle collapsing was actually filmed by one of the men who
lived at Grisdale at the time. His name is Jim Sutherby, and he and his wife reside in Montesano, Washington. He talked his way into being with
the film crew while they shot that scene, knowing it was basically going to be a one shot opportunity. I believe they had some kind of set up with
a cable across the canyon and film crew was in some kind of car that went across. Not real sure about the set up, but my brother or Jim
Sutherby could clarify that point for you if you wanted to know. Anyway, if you watch the movie, you will see a slight difference in the picture
quality as Jim was using his home movie camera! But apparently the crew thought his was the best shot, so they used it in the movie.
The movie poster that you link to in your website is actually available for purchase through a movie nostalgia site on-line. I have one, and so
does my nephew and my brother. I have mine framed as it is in a pretty fragile condition. Amazingly, it was only $20. It's awesome to actually
have one that hung in a movie theatre when this movie was being shown.
I have shared your website with my family, and old friends from Grisdale. Everyone is very impressed with what you have put together. This is a
subject that is very near and dear to us! Some of us kids who grew up together in Grisdale still stay in touch, and it's a pretty tight knit group.
|If anyone has any further information, corrections or would like to share any photos, historical or modern, about
the wreck site, please email me anytime. I would love to post more information and more photos on this website
about this wreck site. Any corrections are more than welcome.
The site of this wreck is extremely dangerous. We found this out the hard way. This article is in NO WAY meant to condone or encourage anyone to visit the wreck
site without the proper climbing gear and experience and possibly permission from the land owners. You enter the site at your own risk. Also remember, this site is
private property, owned by the Simpson Timber Company. Restrictions on access could be in place at any time. Although we did not see any no trespassing signs
there at the time, there is a locked gate, implying restricted access.
Also, if you do visit the site, I implore you not to pilfer the site for souvenirs. This is an extremely rare and historical site. It should remain intact for other visitors to
see or at least preserved in a public museum in our opinion.
|Return to the Railroad History Page
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|Copyright © 2004, 2005 Brian McCamish
All Rights Reserved
|The Spectacular Wreck of a Steam Locomotive
and Where its Remains Are Today
|This realistic scene show the
locomotive driving through
the woods. The fires that
surrounded the locomotive
and coach cars appeared to
be real in these scenes.
|Look to the far upper left and
you'll see the locomotive just
starting to fall off of the
trestle. One small section of
the bridge was cut up to
cause the loco to fall into the
|This scene showing the
first coach just after it lands
in the drink and rolls onto
|DVD's of the movie Ring of Fire are now available from the Vernonia Sentary Market.
Email them for more information and to place an order.