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California Northern Railroad

California Northern Railroad
CFNR #105 EMD GP15-1.
Reporting mark CFNR
Locale Northern California
Dates of operation 1993–present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Length 255 miles (410 km)[1]
Headquarters Davis, California
Website [4]

The California Northern Railroad (reporting mark CFNR) is one of several Class III short-line railroad companies owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. It operates over Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) tracks (now Union Pacific Railroad) under a long-term lease.

The CFNR was originally owned by the Park-Sierra Rail Group (owner David L. Parkinson of St. Helena, CA), who also owned the Arizona and California Railroad and the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad. The CFNR was later sold to RailAmerica in 2002.[1] Genesee & Wyoming, another shortline holding company, bought RailAmerica in December 2012.

The railroad transports mainly food and agricultural commodities, as well as stone products. It moved around 26,000 carloads of goods in 2008.[1]


  • Lines Operated 1
    • SP & Old NWP (Suisun/Fairfield - Willits) 1.1
      • Current Suisun/Fairfield - Schellville 1.1.1
      • 1993 Operation between Schellville - Willits 1.1.2
    • SP's West Valley Line (Davis - Tehama) 1.2
      • Construction Completion Timeline 1.2.1
    • SP's West Side Line (Tracy - Los Banos) 1.3
  • CFNR Interchanges 2
  • Equipment 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Lines Operated

SP & Old NWP (Suisun/Fairfield - Willits)

Current Suisun/Fairfield - Schellville

Presently, the CFNR only operates between Suisun/Fairfield to a connection with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad at Schellville, California. The CFNR also operated into Vallejo, California over the original California Pacific Railroad mainline that was constructed in 1867/1868. Due to the new construction of homes, apartments, and commercial buildings in 2010, the CFNR abandoned the line due to a new rail carrier coming in and operating the line. Mare Island Naval Base, in Vallejo, is coming back alive to the newly established Mare Island Rail Service out of Olympia with scrap metal, rock, and boating material being shipped in and out of the Island. A facility on the Northern part of the island operated by rail contractor Alstom is currently repairing Capitol Corridor cars used by the Amtrak California Amtrak California fleet around the Bay Area for passenger service.

CFNR operates over the Union Pacific's Martinez Subdivision with trackage rights between Suisun/Fairfield and Davis during weeknights for power changes and the Suisun/Fairfield based Local which interchanges cars between Suisun/Fairfield and Davis.

1993 Operation between Schellville - Willits

Originally, in 1993 the CFNR operated much further than Schellville and their operation extended as far north as Willits, California. At Willits the CFNR interchanged with the North Coast Railroad. The North Coast Railroad ran from Willits - Eureka, California over the old NWP.

The CFNR also interchanged with the California Western Railroad at Willits. The California Western Railroad runs west from Willits to Fort Bragg, California.

SP's West Valley Line (Davis - Tehama)

The CFNR currently operates over SP's former West Valley Line. This line between Woodland and Tehema was constructed by Central Pacific's subsidiary, the Northern Railway. The track between Davis and Woodland was built by the California Pacific Railroad and at one time extended as far north as Yuba City/Marysville via Knight's Landing.

The California Pacific and Northern Railway/Central Pacific came under the operational control of Southern Pacific between 1885-1888.

Construction Completion Timeline

  • September 23, 1869 Davis - Woodland - Knight's Landing (California Pacific Railroad)
  • July 1, 1876 Woodland - Williams (Northern Ry/Central Pacific)
  • December 28, 1879 Williams - Willows (Northern Ry/Central Pacific)
  • July 31, 1882 Willows - Orland (Northern Ry/Central Pacific)
  • September 27, 1882 Orland - Tehama (Northern Ry/Central Pacific)
  • July 1, 1888 Willows - Fruto [5] (West Side and Mendocino Railroad/Northern Ry) Branch currently ends at Johns-Manville Fiberglass Plant west of Willows

In 2009 CFNR repaired the Thomes Creek Bridge in Corning for a connection in Tehama, CA with the Union Pacific Railroad. Currently CFNR uses the last 4 miles of the West Valley Subdivision leading to Tehama Wye as a 200 car parking lot of centerbeams for the Union Pacific Railroad. The Hamilton City Branch is also used to store centerbeams for the Union Pacific Railroad due to the closure of the Holly Sugar Beet Plant and the Sierra Nevada Beer Plant which moved to Chico. Due to a severe drop in traffic in 2011 the CFNR abolished the Monday-Friday Corning Flyer and re-established it as a Monday, Wednesday, Friday operation with the crew base being "on-call" Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bell Carter Olive Company is still the primary customer on the Northern part of the line, along with Land O'Lakes in Orland and Artois Feed & Grain in Artois. Many customers on that end of the line have moved to private trucking companies to transport their goods due to lower prices.

SP's West Side Line (Tracy - Los Banos)

This mainline route was formerly known as Southern Pacific's "West Side Line" and at one time extended from Tracy, California and then south through the West side of the San Joaquin Valley (I-5 corridor) via Patterson, Gustine, Newman, Los Banos, Oxalis and then east to Fresno via Ingle and Kerman. California Northern Railroad now operates the northern section of the line from Tracy - Los Banos. SJVR operates the southern section of the line from Oxalis to Fresno and was at one time owned by Port Railroads, Inc. (PRI; also a Kyle subsidiary) and operated by the SJVR. On 1996 April 24 the PRI was merged into the SJVR. Both the PRI and SJVR were already Kyle Railway subsidiaries. The section of track between Los Banos and Oxalis was abandoned by Southern Pacific in 1993 and the tracks were removed soon after. The Southern Pacific constructed the track from Tracy to Newman (37 miles) and from Los Banos to Armona (near Fresno) in 1891. Southern Pacific's overnight Owl passenger train (#57/58) operated over this line between San Francisco and Los Angeles into the 1960s.

Primary traffic on the West Side Subdivision is food and agriculture based commodities such as Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Grain, and other Agriculture goods. An ethanol facility located near Tracy, CA is starting to maximize production which brings in more traffic for the CFNR including Grain, Corn, and fuels used to run the facility to produce the ethanol. The Tracy Crew is a Monday-Friday operation but may work an occasional Saturday if a customer needs switching out. The crew base is located in Tracy, CA where CFNR interchanges with the Union Pacific Railroad.

CFNR Interchanges

Union Pacific Railroad:

Northwestern Pacific Railroad:

Napa Valley Railroad:


Motive power for the California Northern had consisted of over a dozen GP15-1 and four SD9 locomotives built in the mid-to-late 1950s.[2] Currently, California Northern owns nine locomotives, as several have been sold to other railroad companies, including Union Pacific, Fillmore and Western Railway, Trans Canada Switching, Hudson Bay, Mosaic, Twin Mountain,and San Joaquin Valley Railroad.[3] In 2009 the railroad began a program to replace their existing fleet with new fuel-efficient locomotives, known as "gensets", or <3GS21B>, built by NRE Locomotives.[4] 80 percent of the funding for the purchase of these new locomotives comes from a grant from the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District

As of December 2011 the following GP15-1 locomotives have been moved from CFNR property to other RailAmerica properties across the entire system. CFNR 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111. CFNR GP15-1's 109 and 112 are being kept as backup units in case any of the new "gensets" have mechanical failures, if a train needs more motive power, or for special assignments within the CFNR property.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "RailAmerica's Empire". Trains Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing). June 2010. 
  2. ^ Edward Lewis
  3. ^ Epling, David (2006). "California Northern Roster Photo Gallery". California Northern Railroad. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  4. ^ Staff. "N-ViroMotive 3GS-21B ULEL Switcher". National Railway Equipment. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  5. ^ Treleven, Mike (August 9, 2009). "On track with a clean, efficient new locomotive".  
  • Lewis, Edward A. American Shortline Railway Guide - 5th Edition, Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1996. ISBN 0-89024-290-9
  • Robertson, Donald B. Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History - Volume IV - California, The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1998. ISBN 0-87004-385-4
  • Walker, Mike. Steam Powered Video's Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America - Poster Merger Edition - California and Nevada, Steam Powered Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-874745-08-0

External links

  • [6]
  • Unofficial CFNR Railfan Page
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