The Gregarious Railfan
Feather River Canyon, Portola, CA 96122   (population, 1,957)              

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 [51], (Oroville to Keddie); UP 160.515 [27], (Keddie to Portola); BNSF 161.100 [66]
(Gateway Sub)  

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

.           T
rip Report   
Railroad and Railfan - Photoline      
Feather River Canyon - by Locomaniac    
Feather River Scenic Byway   
.              Feather River Canyon Detours in June 2013 by RailfanJunction  
Railfanning Keddie and Williams Loop, California: November 21, 2009 by Feather River Rail Productions  
Vastly Scenic Feather River Canyon [4K] Aerial RR Feature March 2019    
Feather River Keddie Wye Drone View: Union Pacific Autoracks 9/4/2017