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Home > Album: Historic Images of Fortuna and the Area

Arcata Wharf

In 1855, the Union Wharf and Plank Walk Company completed a two-mile wharf across the mud flats to the deep-water channel in the north bay. A wooden railroad track set to a gauge of 45 inches ran from Union to the end of the wharf and provided a connection between dry land and the shipping channel farther out in the bay. In 1908 this railroad partially burned but it remained operational until the 1920's. Pilings from this old wharf are still visible in the mud flats near Arcata's boat launching ramp. The first "train" was a four-wheel car powered by a single horse. Passengers coming from Eureka to Arcata on the ferry, Gussie McAlpine, were met by the horse-drawn car and taken into Arcata to the depot located on the site of the present Post Office. In 1875, the horse-powered locomotive was replaced with a steam locomotive, called the Black Diamond. This is considered by many to have been the first railroad in the State of California.
The Arcata and Mad River Railroad was incorporated in July, 1881 as a successor to the Union Wharf and Plank Walk Company. At this time the existing track was extended through Blue Lake to Korbel. Known as the "Annie and Mary", it carried timber products, agricultural products and passengers. On good-weather weekends, its cars were often filled with picnickers heading for Camp Bauer at Korbel. High school students living in Blue Lake rode the Annie and Mary to school in Arcata. Ericson Photograph Collection, Humboldt State University Library