Paul, Amira and I drove up the I-5, just before Christmas, to meet my family at the Oregon Coast. I was taking my turn at driving as we passed the Mt Shasta area. I have family history here and my senses always heighten. I described it, in a personal journal a while back, as a physical reaction. I feel a tingle, an electricity and I perk when we pass through the area. Mt Shasta, the mountain itself, feels like family to me. My cells seem to know that I began here. On an impulse, I left our intended path for the Oregon Coast and pulled off the freeway onto Crag View Drive. My grandparents used to live on Crag View. I have memories of time spent with them there. I thought, just maybe, I could find their old home. At the bottom of the offramp, I saw a sign for the Railroad Park. I turned that way instead.
I hadn’t seen the park in years. The birth of this park was Carl Clement’s idea. Carl is my dad’s father and my grandpa. He died in 1988. I need to talk to my family to learn more, but I did do some research online and found a little more information.
At its inception, what is today the Railroad Park Resort was originally intended to be much more. As per a story about the operation in the Western Railroader, the idea for the park originated around 1961 with Carl Clement, then editor of the Dunsmuir News. Carl and others involved with the project formed the non-profit Siskiyou Recreation Development League to manage the project, and they initially named the site the Dunsmuir Transportation Museum.
Had the original intentions come to fruition, railroading would have been only a part of the overall site. They planned a transportation and logging museum complete with a model railroad of the Dunsmuir yards and portions of the mainline north and south of town, a depot, an operating railroad on a mile and a half long loop surrounding the park, an Indian village, a 16th century Swiss chapel, a working steam powered sawmill, a toy factory making toys from native wood, horse drawn vehicles, balloon ride, saddle horses, pony rides, and hiking trails.
The portion about everything that was originally planned for the park… the grand vision… makes me smile. It syncs up perfectly with my memory of my Grandpa. Constantly generating, Grandpa’s mind moved fast and far with inspiration and ideas. The fact that the original plan for the park was the railroad park plus the kitchen sink… it just fits.
Stopping here with Paul and Amira was a strange experience for me. I felt like I was merging two parallel worlds that don’t usually meet or connect. Paul never got to meet my Grandpa or Grandma. They never knew their great-granddaughter. They would have adored her, of course! There are conversations that Paul and my Grandpa should have had… that they both would have enjoyed. I know it.
I was surprised by the strength of my emotions. I was impacted by seeing a physical place like this, that is the direct result of, first an idea and then, the work done by my Grandpa and others inspired by him. A quarter of a century after my Grandpa’s physical body has passed away… this still remains. There are a lot of other things about him that remain too, but they live in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved him.
There are no markers here that acknowledge my Grandpa’s role in the creation of this place. I was struck by the fact that, quite likely, it won’t be long and no one will know that this place is a remaining, living part of my Grandpa’s fingerprint from his life and adventure on this beautiful planet.
After the park, we did go find where my grandparents had lived. It was the opposite experience of coming here. Here, I felt connection. Here, I felt some of the essence of the soul that played here on this planet. I didn’t feel that there.
My Grandma Clement died in 1981. Grandpa Clement died in 1988. My Grandma Olsen died in 2005. And Grandpa Olsen, my mom’s dad, died on February 6th. With his death, all my grandparents are gone. Our family friend Ruth, said to my mom in her condolences, “Carol, I am sad for your loss. No matter at what age one loses their parents there is a loss of a grounded feeling.” I feel a bit of this, now that all my grandparents are dead. Being at the railroad park though, I felt some of that grounding and connection reappear. It doesn’t require a physical place to reconnect, but it does help.
The day of of visit, as you can see in the photos, was clear and bright. The weather was crisp in the sun and frozen in the shade. It’s the kind of weather that you don’t feel complacent in. You remain alert. It was beautiful. Being there, it’s an experience that I’m glad to have lived and now have in photos, memories and my heart. I’m grateful that I followed a whim.