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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 337

A piece of history restored on safer ground

A piece of history has been moved, board by board, to a new location inside the Headwaters Forest Reserve near Eureka.  A train barn (some say a more correct term is engine house) now stands along the Elk River Trail, looking much as it did in the late 1800s when it housed locomotives used to haul logs to the lumber mill at Falk.

A team of preservationists working as part of a U. S. Forest Service Enterprise Team worked closely with staff from the BLM Arcata Field Office to move the building.  It was taken from an eroding site along the South Fork Elk River to higher ground along the trail where interpretive signs tell the story of Falk, a lumber town that once boomed harvesting and processing the redwoods of Headwaters.

The forest was slowly consuming the train barn... 
More forest overgrowth

Above, the forest was slowly consuming the train barn when the Headwaters Forest Reserve came into public ownership.  Preservationists believe that it was able to withstand the forces of nature because it was well built from redwood, which resists rotting.

Because the barn was built to handle the massive weight of railroad locomotives, it rested on huge 16-inch redwood beams, below.  The inside of the old barn was a rubble of broken flooring and vegetation, second photo.

16-inch redwood beams, after disassembly of the building above it
Portions of the old floor, before disassembly of the building remains above it

Disassembly of the building was a painstaking process.  Scaffolds were erected and bracing used as workers focused on preserving as much of the old building as possible for the reassembly at the new location.  They didn't just knock down the old building.  They took it apart, piece by piece.

Workers stand on a complex of scaffolding while they work to dismantle the old structure
The inside of the old barn was a rubble of broken flooring and vegetation

At the new location, a concrete slab was poured for the barn's new foundation.  Builders began laying out the new building while the final pieces of the barn were still being hauled by highline across the South Fork Elk River about a mile away.  Not all materials could be salvaged, so some new redwood boards were stockpiled for the construction project.

New redwood lumber lies on a concrete slab poured for the barn's new foundation
New redwood lumber stockpiled for the restoration

Restored to its former simple glory, the new barn now stands nearly complete (window shutters and an access trail are still to come).  The BLM intends to use the site and the new interior space as part of the interpretive program that presents to visitors the story of Headwaters -- its past, present and future. 

A view of the completed barn
The new floor in the interior of the restored barn

With the building in place, the BLM Arcata staff will be engaging members of the public in a process to determine how best to use the space for educational and interpretive programs.  Public workshops will be held July 9 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. where public ideas will be welcomes.  Anyone interested in participating should reserve space by calling the Arcata Field Office, (707) 825-2300.

- J. Fontana, 6/08 - with additional photos by Brad Job, Rich Caum, and Bob Wick

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 337

Last updated: 06-23-2008