of a Three Part Series
|The Spectacular Death of Georgia-Pacific Number 9 and Where
it's Remains Are Today.
|Georgia-Pacific 2-6-2ST number 9, in it's 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.
It's remains are still there to this day.
Photo courtesy of Gary Oliver GTC Collectibles
GPC_9_2 Stan Styles Photo
|Note to Readers:
Because of the significance of this find and more photos that were sent to me, I've created an
entirely new page about this wreck site. So, for a ton more information and pictures, please visit my
new Georgia-Pacific No. 9 - Ring of Fire Wreck Site Page.
|Georgia-Pacific # 9 and the Wynoochee River Bridge.
After hiking back to camp, we packed up and headed toward the site of the old Wynoochee River bridge. This would the crown jewel of
our trip if we were successful in locating what we were there to find. As the story goes, the Wynoochee River bridge was a huge wood
trestle that crossed a deep gorge near the 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 Stimpson Timber company to blow up the bridge for the movie “Ring of Fire.” The plan was to put a actual 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 it’s fleet of steam locomotives in it’s Oregon coast logging operations, which was also
closed down. Some went to local communities for display, but one was sacrificed for this movie. It was a 2-6-2ST tank steam
locomotive, Georgia-Pacific # 9.
The locomotive was coupled to two passenger cars on it’s front coupling and slowly pushed the coach cars out onto the old trestle.
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. Then, the bridge was blown up in sections with small explosives. The first series of explosions sent just a small section of the
bridge and locomotive into the ravine. Before hitting the bottom, #9 hit the side of the cliff and part of the boiler exploded with a huge
cloud of steam. Then another section and one of the 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 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.
Incidentally, the movie “Ring of Fire” was apparently somewhat of a bomb at the box office. I did see it on video and have to say by
1960s standards, it really wasn't that bad. Still, a very sad ending to a historical railroad bridge and locomotive.
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. I’m sure the
site was long forgotten by most and ignored. And today, few people know about it. 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, narrowing 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
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.
|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 the
|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 hope to return
to the scene later this summer and photograph much more.
|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
|These were taken by John at river level. Here you can see one of
trucks of either the locomotive or railcars. When I made these
pictures, I though 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 wrecking 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,
but we plan to return later this year.
|John coming back up the cliff from which he fell. This area is extremely
dangerous. I do not recommend climbing down to the site under any
circumstances at all. But if you choose to do so at your own risk, please
bring proper gear and experience. If someone gets hurt down here, the
area will likely be permanantly closed off.
|Note to Readers:
Because of the significance of this find and more photos that were sent to me, I've
created an entirely new page about this wreck site. So, for a ton more information and
pictures, please visit my new Georgia-Pacific No. 9 - Ring of Fire Wreck Site Page.
|If anyone has any further information or pictures about the Simpson (or related) Timber
Railroad please let me know. You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Copyright © 2004 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or
websites. Simply Email me. I may not have authority to grant permission regarding some photos that were only loaned to me by others
specifically for this website. Every effort has been made not to include other's photos without the proper permission and credits, however, if
you see any photos which belong to you and that I don't have permission to use, I apologize. If you send me an Email, I will remove the
photos immediately or give proper credit, which ever you wish.
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