A Brief History of Fortuna



The railroad revolutionized not only the lumber industry, but also Fortuna itself.

The railroad came in bits and pieces. They were originally built to haul trees to the mills and the finished wood products to the boat landings, but as the area developed were also used to haul freight, farm products, and of course, passengers. The Pacific Lumber Company had built a small section from Scotia to Alton and then to its mill in Carlotta. The completion of the tunnel through Table Bluff in 1885 allowed the Eel River and Eureka Railroad to make daily scheduled runs from Eureka to Alton, where passengers and freight would switch to Pacific Lumber Company trains for the journey to Scotia and points south. Before long the track was extended to Dyerville, at the confluence of the Main Stem and South Fork of the Eel River, and local trains made stops at all the small settlements along their tracks, bringing news and mail, picking up farm produce and passengers.

 

NWP Railroad Depot ca. 1914. The horses and the 'iron horse/ NWP #13 are patiently waiting for their next journeys. Note the carriage with the surrey top parked next to the depot's front door. This was 'rapid transit' at its finest! The NWP Depot was located at the foot of 8th Street. As seen by the milk cans next to the freight wagon, the daily trains were crucial to getting local products to market.

NWP Railroad Depot ca. 1914.
The horses and the 'iron horse' NWP #13 are patiently waiting for their next journeys. Note the carriage with the surrey top parked next to the depot's front door. This was 'rapid transit' at its finest! The NWP Depot was located at the foot of 8th Street. As seen by the milk cans next to the freight wagon, the daily trains were crucial to getting local products to market.

By 1893 a railroad depot had been built in Fortuna. Work had been started to link the North Coast's railroads with the rest of the world, and on Dec. 1, 1914, the first regular train from out of the area passed through Fortuna at 9:20 p.m. and arrived in Eureka at 10 p.m. Fortuna became a regular stop between Eureka and San Francisco, which gave Fortuna a direct link to the rest of the world as it allowed travelers easy access to the area. Trains also became the fastest way for mail to be transported between towns.

The railroad put Fortuna in a perfect situation by having the rail line to town as well as having local roads to Ferndale and other towns to the north and south. By having connections in every direction, Fortuna began to grow and the other smaller towns in the area began to lose their prestige. People even began to take the train to Fortuna instead of taking the ocean steamers to Eureka. 

The old railroad depot was moved to Rohner Park in the mid 1970's and is now a free museum in Rohner Park that chronicles Fortuna's railroad history and its contributions to the town.

 

Depot Museum in Fortuna's Rohner Park. Taken around 1990, this image is seen on the most well-known postcard of Fortuna. Due to its unique location, design and harmonious color, the Depot Museum building was (and still is) a magnet for photographers.

Depot Museum in Fortuna's Rohner Park
Taken around 1990, this image is seen on the most well-known postcard of Fortuna. Due to its unique location, design and harmonious color, the Depot Museum building was (and still is) a magnet for photographers.

Next: Henry Rohner, Fortuna and Rohnerville

 


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- from the History and Business Directory of Humboldt County, Nov. 1890 -
ALTON HOUSE
Lot M. Brown, Prop'r
Alton, (Junction) California
Opposite Depot, Junction E. R. and P. L. Co's R. R.
SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATIONS FOR FAMILIES AND COMMERCIAL TRAVELERS
$1 TO $1.50 PER DAY
NEW HOUSE
COMFORTABLE BEDS
GOOD FOOD
Tourists, Pleasure-seekers and Sportsmen can reach every point in the County more readily from Alton, than from any other location.