California Western Railroad
RS-12 Diesel-Electric Road Switcher
Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton – 1955
Railroads of Hawaii – 1992
Maintained in operating condition
at the Travel Town Museum
A “Diesel-Electric” locomotive uses a large Diesel engine to turn a generator that produces electricity; this electrical energy is then used to power traction motors mounted on the locomotive’s wheel axles.
California Western Railroad No. 56 was one of two Model RS-12 diesel-electric road switchers built for the McCloud River Railroad in April 1955 by the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation. Baldwin had been a long successful builder of steam-powered locomotives, but their attempted transition to production of modern Diesel locomotives was ultimately unsuccessful. Thus relatively few Baldwin Diesels were manufactured and only a handful survive today.
The pair of locomotives built for the McCloud River line were originally numbered 32 and 33 and were designed for multiple-unit operation. Both locomotives were equipped with dynamic braking equipment to assist in train handling on the mountainous logging railroad in Northern California.
In 1970, both locomotives were sold to another northern California logging railroad, the California Western Railroad. Headquartered in the coastal town of Fort Bragg, the California Western renumbered the locomotives “55” and “56” and used both to pull freight trains as well as their famous “Super Skunk” passenger trains. By 1992, No. 55 had been retired and No. 56 had been relegated to mostly yard switching duty at Ft. Bragg. No. 55 was eventually scrapped, but No. 56, along with many spare parts from 55, came to the Travel Town Museum in 1992 for preservation and operation on Travel Town’s own proposed railroad through Griffith Park to the Los Angeles Zoo, known as the Crystal Springs & Cahuenga Valley Railroad.
Consider making a donation to help our museum volunteers restore the trains and improve your Travel Town experience!
The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925, when ‘motorcars’ were introduced to carry passengers and mail on the California Western Railroad line. These single unit, self-propelled railcars were powered by early gasoline engines and had pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm. The combination of the fumes created a very pungent odor, and the old timers living along the line said these motorcars were like skunks: “You could smell them before you could see them.”
You can still ride the famous Skunk trains between Ft. Bragg and Willits, California! Check out: https://www.skunktrain.com/