The first Albion mill was water powered. It was one of the earliest mills on the northern coast and was built by Captain William Richardson in 1851 and located about three miles up the Albion river.
The "big" mill (see picture left) at Albion was owned by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which was a subsidiary of the giant Southern Pacific Railway Company. Redwood railway ties are the best money can buy and they were about all that the Albion mill produced. Nearly all of the production was used for the construction of the Southern Pacific of Mexico. The mill closed in 1929.
If you walk under the present day road bridge you can see (see picture right) a few pieces of the magnificent pier you see stretching into the bay in the picture above.
The picture left shows the Albion Mill, Hotel and Office. The schooner being built in the background, top middle is the Sotoyme
A forerunner company of the Southern Pacific had ambitious plans for the Albion railroad. The Mendocino Beacon on February 23, 1907 reported that the Fort Bragg and Southeastern RR (as it was then called) "will begin construction from Wendling to Cloverdale or possibly to Healdsburg. Connections south to Caspar and Fort Bragg Railroads to be made this summer." The railroad never expanded south, east or north.
In their early days the mill towns on the Mendocino Coast were pretty isolated and there was precious little entertainment to occupy loggers and railroad men in their off-duty hours. The two diversions were booze (witness the large number of bars and saloons) and females and often the female was someone else's wife or girlfriend. In the June 16, 1908 Mendocino "Beacon" there is a report of Section boss J.L. Reed shooting Engineer Jack Keener at the Southside Hotel. The "Beacon" opined that Reed was justified in his actions with the laconic comment, "there was a woman involved".
Route 128, from the beginning of the woods to Navarro, runs along the route of the Albion railroad. Along the route, on the right, you will see a sign for "Gschwend". Christine Gschwend was the name of the first white baby girl born in the valley - she was the daughter of the mill supervisor. The end point of the line was at a point named "Christine".
Prime sources of the story of the railroad operated by the Albion Mill on the Albion Branch of the Northwestern Pacific are the Northwester Fall-Winter 1996 magazine and The Albion Branch by Stanley T. Borden contained in Issue 264 of The Western Railroader which was published in December 1961. Click here or on the cover of the Western Railroader (right) to read the complete e-copy. A pdf version can be downloaded here.
These pictures were taken in 2008 on a (back aching) canoe trip up the Albion River to see what, if anything, remained of the Albion Branch railroad. As the pictures attest there was quite a lot of remains.
Albion – Mendocino Historical Review
Unknown date of publication - Vol IV, No. 2
A very slim but useful history of Albion from the date of the original land grant in 1844 to about 1923. The contents are a real potpourri - there are diary entries, cuttings from newspapers and school photos with pupils all identified as well as a broad selection of photos.
The Bancroft Library has a huge collection of digitized photos. The ones in the gallery (click photo on left to view) are ones we have found pertaining to Albion and the mill operations there.