Funter Bay History: Locomotive Headlamp

May 26, 2016

While researching Funter Bay history I often find things that are not in their original context. Rural Alaska is a great case study of creative re-use. The cost of new equipment leads many things to be salvaged and repurposed in ways they weren’t intended. A great example is this old kerosene lantern. It had ceased being used for its original purpose, was modified into an electric wall lamp, then was abandoned again.

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The lantern is in rather rough shape, but still recognizable as a type used for headlights on small industrial locomotives.

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I suspect this lantern originally came from the Danvenport 0-4-0T steam locomotive used at Funter Bay in the early 20th century. The locomotive was abandoned around 1952 after a failed conversion to gas power, and most of the small parts were stripped between the 1950s and 1970s. The headlight may have become a decoration for one of the miner’s cabins, with a little work to allow an electric bulb to be added.

The locomotive from Funter Bay is seen below, compared to a Davenport drawing of a very similar model. The headlight mounting bracket is a U-shaped piece of sheet metal riveted to the boiler just forward of the smoke stack:

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Some details are labeled below. Intact locomotive headlights of similar design can be seen here and here.

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Keith Muldowney believes this may be from the Star Headlight Co, founded in 1889 and still in existence today as the Star Head Light & Lantern Co. Some of the company’s history can be found here. Star manufactured kerosene lights until about 1941, when they switched to primarily electric lights. Keith sent a great set of drawings for a similar Star headlight design:

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Star Headlight. Courtesy of Keith Muldowney

Other possibilities for the lantern’s original use include on a ship or underground in the mine, although carbide lamps were more common than kerosene for mining. It could have also been used on the surface at the mine or by a fish trap watchman. The locomotive origin is attractive but by no means confirmed! Hopefully I’ll be able to track down more information on this interesting artifact in the future.

 


Funter Bay History: Annual Cannery Reports

August 8, 2015

Salmon canneries such as the one at Funter Bay were required to file annual reports to the government, detailing statistical information on their catches, employees, and financial situation. These are recorded in the National Archives Record Group 22, Records of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Formerly the US Fisheries Bureau). A number these records can be downloaded from the NOAA document library, although they are not clearly indexed. I was able to find the annual reports for 12 of the 29 years (1902-1931) that the Funter Bay Cannery was actively working. The original PDF files can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

1904 header

Some of the information in the reports seems to contradict other sources in regards to the size and number of boats, demographics of workers, etc. I am not sure which sources are the most reliable, but the official nature and later requirement for notarized reports suggest some degree of accuracy with these. That does not necessarily mean they are *complete*, as there are plenty of hints elsewhere of “creative” legal loopholes. For example, boats described elsewhere but not listed here may have been owned privately by company executives rather than the company itself. It is also not clear if wages were calculated before or after any deductions for room & board, company store, etc.

In 1904 the Funter cannery was valued at $150,000 and had $80,000 in stock. It paid $27,000 in wages to 75 plant employees, including 25 White, 20 Native Alaskan, 30 Chinese, and 20 Japanese workers. In addition, 28 Fishermen were employed, including 17 Whites and 3 Natives. There was one 82 ton steam vessel worth $17,000 with a crew of 5, 8 skiffs, 3 lighters, 3 scows, and 2 pile drivers, together worth $12,500. The cannery handled mostly Red (210,000) and Pink (330,000) salmon, with smaller numbers of Silver (48,000), Dog (6,500), and Kings (800). Market value of the catch for 1904 through Ocbober was $147,463. All traps were in Icy Strait, Chatham Strait, or Lynn Canal.

In 1906 the value of the plant had increased to $300,000, and wages to $51,000. The number of fishermen dropped to 20 White men, while Cannery workers increased to 12 White, 35 Native, 44 Chinese, and 18 Japanese. An additional steamer was added but was not in regular use. One pile driver, 3 skiffs, and all 3 lighters vanished from the roster, the small boats were replaced by (or perhaps reclassified as) dories. Two more scows were added. In 1906 the cannery handled 600,000 Pink salmon, 220,000 Reds, 110,000 Dogs, 42,000 Silvers, and 900 Kings, worth $214,719.

In 1910 the reporting form changed slightly. The cannery was reportedly worth $500,000 and had 3 resident superintendents and 20 salaried clerks and employees. Wages for salaried employees were $18,600, cannery workers $47,800, fishermen $25,000 and transporters $3,600. The total work force included 51 White, 106 Native, 77 Chinese, and 38 Japanese. The cannery had 2 steamers, 15 rowboats, 10 lighters and scows, and had added back one pile driver for a total of two. Eight fish traps were reported. The sailing vessel General Fairchild is mentioned as being owned, but not used. Production is listed this year in terms of cases, with 9,610 cases of Coho (Silver), 16,668 of Dog (Chum), 40,805 of Pink (Humpback), and 31,583 of Red (Sockeye). Reds were in two can sizes.  In addition, pickled or salted fish are reported in this year, including 2 barrels of whole King salmon and 11 barrels of King bellies. Total value appears to have been $392,081.80 (from 1910 to 1915 the totals are not given explicitly, and the income sheet seems to have been used as a scratch pad). This year also introduced the notary requirement, with company secretary M.G, Munley acting as notary for owner James T Barron.

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In 1911 there were 61 White, 90 Native, 75 Chinese, and 48 Japanese employees. The company now had 25 rowboats and 11 lighters and scows. There were 12 stationary fish traps. 10,946 cases of Coho, 20,224 of Dog, 43,844 of Pink, 341 of King, and 23,928 of Red salmon were produced, apparently worth $415,477.06. No pickled fish were reported this year. Manager Fred Barker signed off on the 1911 report instead of Barron.

The 1912 report deals mostly with the type of salmon caught, and does not contain income, equipment, or employee data (one or more pages may be missing). 750 Kings were caught in Icy Straight between Excursion Inlet and Point Couverden (the Homeshore stretch). 187 Kings were caught in Chatham between Funter Bay and Point Retreat. All Kings were caught between June 10 and July 10. A total of 351,309 Reds were caught between June 12 and Sept 1. 508,050 Pinks were caught between June 20 and Aug 20. 69,853 Coho between July 15 and Sept 12, and 354 Dog salmon between June 12 and Sept 12. Most of the fish of each species were caught in the traps at Homeshore.

The 1913 report goes back to detailing workers and boats. This year saw 79 White, 48 Native, 44 Chinese, and 44 Japanese employees at the cannery. There were 13 stationary traps and 3 pile drivers. One skiff had disappeared since 1911. 6,164 cases of Coho, 19,766 of Dog, 60,230 of Pink, 220 of King, and 25,494 of Red salmon were packed. No salt/pickled fish were reported. Total value seems to have been around $413,192. A detailed report similar to the 1912 data is appended showing how many fish were caught where on which dates.

The 1915 report changed format again, now reporting vessel names (Gas launch Buster and Steamer Anna Barron were the two large boats, there was also an unnamed gas launch). 17 staked traps were listed. Employees included 62 White, 51 Native, 75 Chinese, 30 Japanese, 4 Filipino, 1 Korean, and 4 Mexican (earlier reports did not have so many categories, and could have lumped Filipino and Korean workers into another category). Sockeye were packed in three different can sizes, for a total of 22,231 cases, King production was 339 cases, Coho 4,996, Pink 48,450, and Chum 16,873. Total value was $311,547.64.

1916 saw 107 White, 63 Native, 64 Chinese, 38 Japanese, and 4 Filipino workers, with total wages paid of $100,000. 23 staked traps are listed. The pack included 134 cases of Kings, 15,560 of Red, 15,028 of Coho, 65,809 of Pink, and 25,292 of Chum worth $495,015.80. A note stated that the cannery did not count individual fish, but estimated catch numbers based on cases packed and average weights. superintendent H.W. Chutte signed off on the 1916 report.

1918 saw 93 White, 50 Native, 46 Chinese, 44 Japanese, 14 Filipino, and 3 Mexican employees, paid a total of $129,500. The gas boat Barron F was added to the roster. The number and type of traps stayed the same. More species were packed in different can sizes, including 1/2 lb “48s”, 1lb flat cans, and 1lb tall cans. 6,570 cases of Coho were packed, 41,590 of Pink, 28,732 of Chum, 577 of King, and 26,274 of Red, worth $568,438.46. James Barron went back to signing off on the reports.

1920 saw a change in name from Thlinket Packing Company to Corporation. The fishing method also started to shift drastically towards floating traps (12 reported) and away from staked traps (9 reported). Buildings were valued at $257,500 and trap sites at $400,000. Workforce included 94 White, 22 Native, 40 Chinese, 44 Japanese, and 7 Filipino, and wages were $115,500. One floating trap worth $1,200 was reported lost. 5,126 cases of Coho, 12,663 of Chum, 17,971 of Pink, 167 of King, and 15,445 of Red were packed, for $262,916.23.

After 1920’s drastic decrease in sales, 1921 saw a smaller workforce of 52 White, 65 Native, 24 Chinese, 15 Japanese, and 8 Filipino, paid a total of $63,152.42. The Steamer Anna Barron was reportedly taken out of state. The company by now had 31 rowboats and 16 scows. 1 pile driver is listed. Only 5 staked traps and 6 floating traps are listed, along with 1 rented trap and 6 trap frames which were hauled out on the beach and not in use. Production ceased on the smaller cans (except for Reds), total pack was 8,250 cases of Coho, 10,114 of Chum, 13,820 of Pink, 126 of King, and 9,916 of Red, worth $187,095. Sales Manager C.F. Whitney signed off on this year’s report.

1922’s report had 68 White, 42 Native, 23 Chinese, and 25 Filipino employees, paid $51,020. 4 staked traps and 6 floating traps were used, 3 trap sites were leased from another company. 2 Floating traps were reported washed away, for a loss of $8,400. The smaller cans made a reappearance and were especially popular for Sockeye, with a total production of 4,901 Coho cases, 4,017 Chum, 17.023 Pink, 30 King, and 11,755 Red. Value was $103,025.

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These falling numbers may have led to the property’s 1926 sale to Sunny Point Packing. The marked decline of the salmon runs after 1920 was due to overfishing and the ongoing proliferation of fish traps (which peaked around that year). After 1920 there were many new regulations and attempts at protecting the fish stocks, but by 1953 Alaska’s salmon industry was declared a major disaster by the Federal government. Fish traps were outlawed after statehood in 1959, and modern boat-based fisheries are more tightly managed and regulated.

For those still awake and wanting more statistics, the original reports are below:

1904 Report of Salmon Operations for Funter Bay Cannery
1906 Report of Salmon Operations for Funter Bay Cannery

1910 Report of Operations by Funter Bay Cannery
1911 Report of Operations by Funter Bay Cannery
1912 Report of Salmon Operations by Thlinket Packing Co
1913 Report of Operations by Thlinket Packing Co
1915 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Co
1916 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Co
1918 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Co
1920 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Corporation
1921 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Corporation
1922 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Corporation


Funter Bay History: Cannery Tender Operations

February 27, 2015

Some photos from July of 1920 show several of the cannery tenders (fish handling boats) and barges at the Thlinket Packing Co.

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Above, the Anna Barron maneuvers two loaded fish scows up to the cannery wharf. This vessel is discussed further here.

A close-up of one of the scows shows a full load of salmon fresh from the traps:

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Below is another Thlinket Packing Co boat, the Barron F, seen in front of the cannery wharf with Highwater Island and Mt. Robert Barron behind. This 98-year-old boat is still working the West Coast, I have a number of photos courtesy of the present owner available here.

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Unlike the Anna Barron, which was configured as a tugboat, the Barron F was a packer or cargo vessel with large midships hold. The Funter Bay cannery had several of each type of vessel, used somewhat interchangeably depending on the task at hand.

The next photo shows a scow, now emptied of salmon, being loaded with waste from the canning line. Elevated wooden bins held heads, guts, and other unwanted bits of fish until they could be dumped into a scow. The scow was then towed to deeper water and dumped. This kept the cannery smelling slightly better, with fewer bears nosing around, than if the waste were simply dumped directly in front. The cannery’s oil tank is visible on the point in the background.

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In the last photo, we see one of the cannery tenders towing a piledriver out of the bay. The profile of the vessel suggests it might be the Anna Barron. Smoke is coming from the pile driver’s steam engine, which suggests it will soon be at work on one of the fish traps outside the bay.

piledriver


Funter Bay History: Electricity

March 25, 2014

Electric power began replacing direct mechanical drives in Alaskan industry in the early 1900s. The first adopters were larger companies who could afford the investment in new equipment, but smaller operations soon learned the efficiency and flexibility of electric motors.

Some 1920s-era knob and tube wiring for lights at the cannery:
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Despite the growing popularity of electricity, electric lights were slow to gain a foothold. Kerosene lamps continued to be popular in many houses and cabins well into the 1980s. Despite being a fire hazard, kerosene was relatively cheap and convenient to use.

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Portable lighting moved slowly from lanterns to battery flashlights. In local mines, carbide lamps remained popular into the 1970s. A mixture of portable lights are seen below, including an older brass carbide lamp, 1930s electric (battery) railway lantern found at Funter, and a 1970s carbide lamp:
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Part of a larger “Radio Battery” ca 1950s:
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C-cell batteries, probably from the 1960s:
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Early electric generators were usually small and ran only part of the day for equipment use. Pelton wheels were popular for locations with reliable streams, as mentioned in my post on water & hydropower. Generators or dynamos could be added to existing water wheels, or to existing steam or internal combustion power systems, or tacked onto small portable engines from tractors or other machinery. Several large-scale hydroelectric projects were envisioned at different times in the past, but never built.

There are a number of old “Oil” engines (usually diesel or semi-diesel) around Funter Bay, and a few gasoline engines. Some of these started out supplying mechanical power, and were later converted to generators.  The smaller units had a tendency to disappear from their original locations, as they could be shoehorned into a fishing boat with some effort. As such, there are not as many left in-context, and while you can find them in use as lawn decor, or lying on the beach, or half-buried in the woods, it’s less clear where they originally came from.

Part of an engine that wandered around the beach in front of our house, occasionally being used as a convenient “big heavy thing” to anchor boats or logs to:
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Going in the other direction, diesel boat engines with alternators attached were popular as land-based generators when I was younger, and could be had cheaply from vessels upgrading their equipment. These required well-insulated sheds set away from the house to keep the noise down, but not so far as to incur line loss.

A generator from approximately the 1950s:
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I believe this is part of an International Harvester tractor, retrofitted onto a skid base with a rather massive alternator tacked onto it:

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The 1940s-era generator shed at the cannery (with water tower in the background). This was previously the “oil house”. The generator supplied the superintendent’s and caretakers’ houses at the West end of the property, and later supplied some of the boardwalk lighting and lights in other buildings:
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Exterior insulators for electrical wires at the cannery. These were a mixture of ceramic and glass.
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A utility pole at the cannery, with some smaller ceramic insulators. Most of these poles were simply untreated logs stuck in the ground, and many are now getting crowded out by trees.

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A close-up of a ceramic insulator with rubber-coated wires:

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Power generation is still a complicated process at Funter Bay, often with high fuel costs.  Many properties have begun moving towards alternative energy solutions and new technologies like LED lighting, solar, and wind power.


The Funter Bay Railroad

July 17, 2013

In the first half of the 20th century, Funter Bay had a small railroad running to mine workings at the base of Mt. Robert Barron (originally known as “Funter Mountain”).

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A short mine railroad was first reported in 1895, when a newspaper article described plans for “about 1,000 feet of railroad track” running along the beach to various mine tunnels. This would likely have carried ore carts pushed by hand or pulled by draft animals.

Newspaper reports state that workers began laying 36-inch narrow-gauge rails towards the mountain in 1912. Originally, this track consisted of 4×4 wooden rails, spiked to an existing corduroy wagon road bed. The rails could have had strap iron on top, as did other wooden tramways in the area.  A 1920 inventory of company assets describes the line as 4000′ of 36″ gauge surface tram, and a 1921 map labels it “wooden tramway”. It was elsewhere listed as a “tram road” (many of these terms are used interchangeably in describing small railroads). Initially four ore cars of about 3 tons were used, these had steel wheels and wooden boxes, and were hauled by mules along the wooden track. Although a “locomotive boiler 40hp with 40hp engine” is inventoried in 1920, this seems to have been connected to a sawmill at the time and not related to the tram.

Between 1920 and 1926, the track was upgraded with steel rails, laid on the same corduroy grade in between the existing wooden rails (which had become rotten by that time). The new line was approximately 25″ gauge, and seems to have used 20 or 25lb steel rails (30 tons of 20lb rails were purchased around 1926, along with frogs and switches, to supplement an existing stock of 11 tons of 20 and 25lb rail). Twelve additional all-steel ore cars were purchased second hand from the Gastineau Gold Mining Co in Juneau (which had shut down and begun selling off equipment in 1921). Also in 1926, consulting engineer A. A. Holland recommended that the track be straightened, graded, and ballasted to prevent derailing. Holland suggested that cars should be hauled by cable due to the grade near the mountain, noting that locomotive haulage would require new track to take the steepest part of the hill more gradually.

1926 photos showing wooden rails with and without steel rails laid between them:
Funter Track

Some of Holland’s suggested improvements were implemented in 1928, when a letter to Governor Ernest Gruening reported construction of a “surface railroad” and purchase of a locomotive and cars. The wooden roadbed was replaced with gravel from mine tailings. After 1932 the line is referred to on maps and documents as a railroad, vs a tramway. This distinction may have had two factors behind it. For one, many early tram/railroad lines in Alaska used wooden trestles or ungraded track for their entire length to avoid the cost of permanent gravel grades. The switch from corduroy to graded roadbed at Funter would have been a significant upgrade. Secondly, the use of a steam locomotive seems to have boosted the status of small operations. One or two-mile short lines with locomotives were more often called “railroads” while five or ten-mile horse-drawn lines often remained “tramways”.

The company acquired a used 0-4-0T “Dinky” saddle tank steam locomotive around 1928. It seems to have been built by the Davenport Locomotive Works, but no identifying marks are left. It is anecdotally reported to be surplus from the Treadwell mines, which used steam locomotives at least until 1912-1913. Treadwell suffered a collapse in 1917 and finally shut down the last shaft in 1922, then sold the remaining equipment and property to the Alaska Juneau mine in 1928. As the AJ used electric locomotives of different gauge, the surplus steam locomotives were probably made available at bargain rates.

0-4-0T locomotive from Funter Bay:
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The locomotive may have looked something like this when operating.
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The total height is about 6′ (Treadwell’s specs called for a 5’7″ maximum clearance). This would have been considered a “contractor’s locomotive”, a type frequently used on temporary track in construction sites, to move dirt or materials around before dump trucks became common. Mines found them convenient due to their light weight and ability to handle uneven, steep, or sharply curving rails. I am not sure if the locomotive had an open cab (as apparently did most of the steam locomotives at Treadwell), or if it had an enclosed or even removable cab (at least one Treadwell locomotive was ordered with a removable cab, and a wooden cab could have been added later). Southeast Alaska’s climate would make at least a roof desirable, other small locomotives in the area had standing-height cabs when there were no clearance restrictions.

Here are some similar locomotive configurations that could have resembled this one:
Davenport locomotive with enclosed cab (larger version than this one).
Small locomotive with open cab.
Similarly sized locomotive (this one a Porter) with low-profile cab.

Such locomotives and light railroad equipment could be mail-ordered new or used from catalogs or classified ads in industry magazines.

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Front view of Funter Bay steam locomotive:
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Eventually, the rail line from the beach to the mountain was 4100ft long. A branch of about 1500-2000ft ran parallel to the beach just above high-tide line, connecting older mine workings along the shore. A report from around 1915 mentions “several miles of railroad” running “along the shore and back into the various tunnels”, but this seems a bit optimistic. Ore carts were hauled underground by mules, and later by electric battery locomotives (several documents mention multiple electric locomotives purchased prior to 1956, including a 3-ton GE). The tunnels along the beach are now collapsed or flooded.

Funter Track 2

Two sizes of rail wheels and axles lying on the beach at Funter Bay, the larger gauge set may have been from the 36″ gauge mule tram:
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Railroad trestle at Funter Bay in the 1920s:

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Courtesy of Alaska State Library, MS 247 1_02

The following picture shows some track along the beach and what might be a switch:

dual gauge

Courtesy of Alaska State Library, MS 247 1_01

Today the beachfront track is mostly washed out, rusted away, or buried under decades of organic debris which are slowly forming new soil on top of the railway.

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The steam locomotive was used until around 1951, when the owners seem to have decided it was inefficient. I am not sure if it was fueled by wood or coal, but feeding it would have been time consuming either way. The owners attempted to “modernize” the unit by converting it to a Plymouth gasoline engine. Such was sometimes the fate of other steam locomotives in Alaska and elsewhere. An untitled, undated (but probably from 1951 or ’52) note in government files mentions that the conversion cost $1,000. Another note in the file mentions work on a Plymouth engine cowling and head in April 1952. Another sheet mentions that “A steam locomotive for use on the surface tramway was being converted to gasoline power.” and that the $1,000 price tag included “Repairs to locomotive surface and aerial tram (haulage)”.

locomotive conversion

Since the front of the dinky locomotive was cast to the frame, it would have been hard to simply cut the boiler off. The miners used the old standby of Alaska repairs: If you don’t have the right tool, try dynamite! The story goes that they simply blasted the boiler off the frame, resulting in severe cracking to the front casting:

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The gas engine conversion proved to be underpowered; the unit worked on level ground but was unable to make it up the hill between the waterfront branch and the main line to the mountain. The whole rig was abandoned until the early 1970s, when it was salvaged by railroad enthusiast Jim Walsh and moved to Nevada.

A map showing part of the former rail line. The beach section is not shown.

RR map 2

By the late 1950s, maps begin show the line as a road rather than a railroad or tramway, the mine having switched to trucks for transportation. Today there is essentially nothing left of the railroad at Funter Bay. The tracks have all become buried or salvaged for other projects (such as Ray Martin’s marine railroad and planned logging railroad). The land is privately owned and not generally open to visitors.

The locomotive is probably the last major artifact left from this line, and I am greatly appreciative of Jim Walsh’s time and generosity in letting me see it! I am still searching for additional information on this locomotive, such as the construction year, ownership history (Treadwell or otherwise), mechanical specifications, or even old blueprints, but I’ve been unable to track down many details (I spun off another page on small Alaska railroads based on information found during this research). If any readers know of a source for such information, or a possible line of inquiry, I would love to hear about it! As usual, my email address is (replace <AT> with @): gabe <AT> saveitforparts.com


Funter Bay Mystery Engine Part II

June 27, 2013

Funter Bay resident Gordon Harrison sent me some additional photos of the mystery engine at the cannery. He has marked it with a steel pipe and buoy so it’s more visible to boaters, being located close to the dock it’s something of a hazard to navigation.

Gordon - Engine 1

Gordon - Engine 2

Looking closely, it seems there are two cylinders and maybe two valve chests (one on each end). There also seems to be a round flywheel and rectangular tank at the base of the engine, with a pipe leading to the tank, although it’s hard to tell what’s metal and what’s rock under all the kelp and barnacles!

If anyone happens to recognize the specific type, model, or even just approximate age of this engine, I would love to hear about it! John Taubeneck reports that it looks like a “Fore & Aft” compound design.

As mentioned, I’m not sure if the engine reached its current home via a sunken boat at the cannery wharf, or if it was used or stored on the wharf and fell through as the structure rotted. Aside from potential salvage, there was another reason that engines and other equipment were sometimes moved around: Even if obsolete for propulsion, a big chunk of cast iron makes a nice anchor for a mooring buoy! Someone could tie a raft of logs to part of a wreck, float if off at high tide, and then drop it where they wanted to moor their boat. Various things around the bay probably are or were tied to rusty engines on the bottom. Maybe this one was in transit and got left where it now sits?

Here’s a diagram of a steamboat boiler and engine layout from around 1905:

(From Rankin Kennedy, Modern Engines, Vol V via Wikimedia commons).

On a side note, in the background of the 2nd picture above, you can see the small yellow sailboat that my sister used to have (now owned by Del Carnes), I had previously put some photos of it on my project page.

Coincidentally, I happened to be in the Lake Tahoe area last week, and stopped at the Tallac Historic Site. They happened to have a compound engine from a local steam boat, laid out on display with drive shaft and propeller. The valve chests and support frame look a little different, but this shows how such an engine would have been set up.

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This engine and drive train came from the steamer Tod Goodwin, which operated on Lake Tahoe from 1884 to 1898. More information is available in this book.

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