In 1993 when Cal Northern made a deal with SP to operate several lines in Northern California, SP in effect forced them to take the NWP from Schellville to Willits as part of the deal. SP wanted out, but Cal Northern questioned whether the shrinking traffic justified the high maintenance costs that included four major bridges, track that had not had a tie program in many years, and the unstable geology of the Russian River canyon and Ridge hill. But Cal Northern agreed and their handsome green and cream units began serving the line.
I was very much involved with Cal Northern because GATX provided most of their locomotives. Cal Northern was a very well run shortline and for two years did their best to provide good service on the south end of the former NWP despite the deteriorating track and unstable geology between Cloverdate and Willits.
But in 1996 when SP sold the south end of the NWP to a group of public agencies, Cal Northern opted not to continue providing freight service for the new owners. At the end of July 1996 Cal Northern cut their operations back to Schellville. The new public owners created the "new" Northwestern Pacific Railroad to provide service. NEXT