Butte County Railroad

Butte County Railroad

Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Butte County Railroad
locale=Butte County, California
hq_city=Chico, California

The Butte County Railroad was a convert|31.5|mi|km|sing=on class II railroad that ran from a connection with the Southern Pacific Railroad at Chico, California to the Diamond Match Company lumber mill at Stirling City. The railroad operated from 1903-1915 and then became the Southern Pacific's Stirling City Branch.


The Butte County Railroad was granted a franchise on November 11 1902 and incorporated on February 24 1903 or March 2 1903. Construction of the line commenced in April 1903 and seven months later (November 1 1903) service commenced between Barber (1 mile south of Chico) and Magalia. The line was built using 75# rails and with grades as steep as 3.75%.

Within a month (November 27 1903) of reaching Magalia the line was sold tothe Southern Pacific Railroad via SP's non-operating subsidiary holding company the Chico & Northern Railroad. SP's Chico & Northern Railroad immediately leased the line back to the Butte County Railroad for operation. A year after commencing construction the line was operating all the way to Stirling City and completed on April 15 1904.

The Chico & Northern Railroad was finally dissolved into SP on February 29 1912. The Butte County Railroad's lease with SP expired on November 30 1915. The Butte County Railroad was dissolved two months later on January 21 1916 at which point the line became the Stirling City Branch and was operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad.


Skyway Road from Chico to Stirling City loosely follows the route of the entire railroad line.
*Barber (1 or convert|2|mi|km south of Chico)
*Butte Creek
*Magalia, California (SP MP 203.2)
*Stirling City

Motive Power

The Butte County Railroad used four steam locomotives to run on the line
# Baldwin 2-8-0 Consolidation Type (Builder No. 20192) built in March 1902 and was later SP #2503
# Baldwin 4-4-0 American Type (Builder No. 9711) built in December 1888 that was later SP #1304
# Baldwin 4-4-0 American Type built in 1887
# Schenectady 2-8-0 Consolidation Type (Builder No. 29704) that was built new for the Butte County Railroad in April 1904 and later became SP #2502.

Abandonment and the line today

The last regular service by the Southern Pacific over the line was in 1974 and the tracks were removed in 1979.

According to Union Pacific Track Charts, the ICC authorized abandonment of convert|26|mi|km of the branch from Milepost 189.0 (east of Chico) to Milepost 215.46 (end of the line at Stirling City) on December 3, 1977. The ICC again authorized abandonment of 3 more miles of track at Chico between Mileposts 185.69 and 189.0. Today, what remains of the branch is now known as the Stirling City Industrial Lead and runs from the junction with the mainline at Chico (MP 185.0) and ends at 185.69, running next to the Diamond Match Company. [cite book | author=| title=Union Pacific Railroad Condensed Profiles (Track Charts) 19. Roseville Service Unit| location=Omaha, Nebraska| pages=Table 328|publisher=Union Pacific Railroad| date=November 11, 2002| editor=| ICC Fin Docket Number AB-12 (Sub 76)]

The grade is still visible between Magalia and Sterling City where it crosses Skyway Road. The Magalia Southern Pacific Deport (an SP Common Standard No. 22 design) [http://webpages.charter.net/altalair/sp_cs22_depots.html] remains at its original location and is now a restaurant (Lovin Oven Bagel Cafe at 6818 Depot Lane). The grade between Magalia and Paradise is a trail.


*cite web| url=http://www.steaminthewoods.com/DiamondMatchCo/OO_diamondmatch.htm| title=Diamond Match Company| work=Marc Reusser's Steam in the Woods - Logging Website| date=2007-10-21| accessdate=2007-10-21|
*cite book | author=Fickewirth, Alvin A.| title=California railroads: an encyclopedia of cable car, common carrier, horsecar, industrial, interurban, logging, monorail, motor road, shortlines, streetcar, switching and terminal railroads in California (1851-1992)| location=San Marino, California | publisher=Golden West Books| pages=19| year=1992| editor=| id=ISBN 0-87095-106-8
* [http://www.barberyard.org/diamond_match_er_8_8_03.htm "Life and Times of Chico, a City of Fortune," by Debra Moon]

Further reading

*cite journal
author = Stephens, Kent
year = 1990
month = Spring and Summer
title = Steel Rails on the Ridge, the Butte County Railroad
journal = California Territorial Quarterly
volume = | issue = Issues 1 & 2
pages = | id =
url = http://www.californiahistory.com/90.html
accessdate =2006-04-11

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