By Todd Harp
White puffy steam rose high into the air. A train sounded its deafening horn that could be heard down at the mall. A Steam Donkey, which is a steam-powered winch, blew steam and made all kinds of chugging noises.
Last weekend was the start of the free summer steam train rides at Eureka’s Fort Humboldt State Historic Park.
Fort Humboldt State Historic Park sits above Bayshore Mall. In just a short drive and around one corner, visitors are transformed from city life to a beautiful country setting.
At the top of the hill the area opens up to a big field with picnic tables to the left and Redwoods trees to the right. At one end is the house that General Grant stayed, a logging museum and a loop trail that takes visitors through the past 150 years or so. On the other end is an outside logging exhibit and the visitor center.
Susan Doniger, California State Parks employee, said there is more than what is seen there.
“It’s a pretty deceptive little park,” Doniger said. “It looks urban and pleasant but there’s a lot of really compelling tragic stuff that happened here in the nineteenth century.”
Tragic events, such as, imprisonment and Native American Culture problems can be read about on signs posted along the loop trail.
“I encourage people to come learn about their own history in their own back yard,” Doniger said.
Adults and hundreds of kids lined up both days to take advantage of the free rides on the old locomotive and to learn about the history of the park.
Jeff Klemp, a member and volunteer of the Timber Heritage Association, talked about how busy it was for the two days.
“Yesterday, there were like 30-50 people in line waiting each trip,” Klemp said. “Today, we would leave behind three or four people at the station and by the time we returned there would be 20.”
Klemp was also pleased to see so many people turn out.
“Just to see so many people still express interest in it is wonderful,” Klemp said.
The steam locomotive, known as a Faulk locomotive, is an 1884 logging locomotive and one of the few that still operate today. The Faulk locomotive is powered by wood fire and still has the winch-like gypsy on the front which was used to pull logs up onto the train and other tasks. It was built by Marshutz & Cantrell of San Francisco and is one of the smaller locomotives.
Michael Kellogg, a Timber Heritage Board member, said that it’s a smaller locomotive because back in those days the only way to get one up here was by ship so they couldn’t haul the bigger ones.
The train rides gave kids the chance to find out about the old timber industry for the first time.
“Basically, we just like to be able to celebrate history and share it,” Kellogg said.
The steam train rides, hosted by the Timber Heritage Association, will be held on the third Saturday of each month through September.