April 1, 1911
Merced Evening Sun
Lumber Mill to go To Merced Falls

      The board of trustees of the Chamber of Commerce held a conference last evening with F. M. Fenwick, the head of the Yosemite Lumber company, in order to discuss the possibility of having the company locate its mill at Merced. Heretofore, Merced has not been considered as a possible mill site and the indications are that it will be located at Merced Falls. Mr. Fenwick stated that it would be necessary to have a body of 160 acres of land for the mill, with a mill pond of 15 acres. It was the opinion of the trustees that those conditions could not be met at Merced. First, it would be hard to get that body of land adjoining the town on the line of the Y. V. railroad; and, secondly, the furnishing of water for the mill pond would be a serious question.

      Plenty of water is available in the winter time, but during the wet months the lumber company doesn't operate. It is during the dry season of the year that they have to have the water in the mill pond. At Merced Falls there is a fine mill pond already provided in the river itself, above the dam. Mr. Fenwick stated that it is possible a sash and door factory might be established at Merced, as a result of the operations of the lumber company, but that it would have to be an organization independent of the lumber company.

April 8, 1911
Mariposa Gazette
Yosemite Lumber Company to Start Cutting Timber

      Another enterprise that means much to Merced is to be launched in the immediate future. The Yosemite Lumber Company, which last year purchased 15,000 acres of timber land on the north fork of the Merced river in Mariposa county, has about completed arrangements for the development of the property. The plans include the construction of an incline railroad and establishment of a mill and a sash and door factory.

      The incline railroad, which will be about six miles in length, will be built from the Yosemite Valley Railroad at a point near El Portal to the high tableland in the mountains between El Portal and Wawona, the power for transmission of the cars being furnished by a hoist at the top of the incline.

      The mill will probably be located at Merced Falls owing to the fact that it is out of the fog belt and the further fact that the company will have log pond room there in the river above the dam. The sash and door factory will possibly be located at Merced.

      The mill is to have a capacity of 200,000 feet of lumber daily and will employ from 200 to 300 men constantly. The company proposes to work its logging camps eight months each year, during which time it will accumulated a four months’ surplus of logs, thereby being able to keep the mill running twelve months each year. From 300 to 400 men will be employed in the logging camps. It is estimated that the incline railroad, mill, sash and door factory etc., will cost in the neighborhood of $300,000.

      F. M. Fenwick is president of the Yosemite Lumber Company and is the moving spirit in the enterprise. - Merced Express.

July 1, 1911
Merced Evening Sun
Company Acquires 150 Acres and Will Devote 50 to Mill Plant
and 100 to Townsite - Expect Mill to Start Next Spring - 400 Men
Will be Employed - Merced Benefits


      Merced Falls is to secure the big lumber plant of the Yosemite Lumber Company, F. M. Fenwick, president of the company, having closed up on more than 150 acres of land located on the north side of the river, covering the old townsite of Merced Falls, the Ruddle land on the west, the Nelson land on the north and a portion of the Blake estate, which joins the Nelson land. Negotiations for this site have been pending for a number of weeks, and it was thought at one time that a site at Mast, further up the river, might be selected, but the company was finally able to secure all of the land it desired in a body at the falls and the deal were quickly closed.

      The location of this saw mill plant at the falls means much for Merced county. It also means for Merced City, as a vast volume of business will be attracted here through the medium of this plant. It means that a town of 1200 or 1500 people will be established at the falls within the next 12 months, and that a plant costing close to a quarter of a million dollars will be built and a monthly payroll aggregating $35,000 or $40,000 established.

      O. W. Lehmer, superintendent and general manager of the Yosemite Valley railroads, states this morning that President F. M. Fenwick of the Yosemite Lumber Company, who is now in San Francisco, has just let contracts for machinery for the saw mill. This machinery is to be delivered at Merced Falls as soon as the plant buildings are ready to receive it. Work on the buildings of the plant and installation of the machinery is to be rushed rapidly.

      The Yosemite Lumber Company will within the next 30 days commence grading and leveling for its mills and yards, its dry kilns and trackage room. The mill will be located on the river and will occupy the old townsite of Merced Falls. Whatever buildings are now on the ground will be removed as the space occupied by them is required. Some 50 acres will be needed for the mills and yards. Estimated place the cost of building the plant at a figure between $200,000 and $250,000.

      The company will at once survey a new townsite. This will be located on the Blake estate and Nelson lands above the line of the Yosemite Valley railroad, and will occupy about 100 acres. As soon as the surveys have been made, work will commence on the installation of a complete and up-to-date water system. Water for this system will be secured from deep wells, thereby assuring absolutely pure drinking water. Matters of drainage and sewerage will also be taken care of and a model and sanitary town built. The lumber company will build a large number of cottages for the use of its employees, it being stated that men with families will be given preference in employment. A hotel, store building, office and hospital will also be built. The hotel will be for the employees of the company and the store will carry a full line of groceries, produce, logging and mill clothes, shoes and supplies, but will not carry in quantity stocks of high-grade clothing, dry goods, shoes, furniture, hardware or lines of that character. It not being the desire of the lumber company to engage extensively in the general merchandise business. Whatever items are carried will be more for the immediate accommodation and supply of the men under its employ than for commercial purposes, in other words, the store will be more of a commissary than a general merchandise shop.

      The site upon which the new town will be located is high above the river and will have a commanding view of the Merced river canyon as it comes down out of the mountains. A splendid view of the Merced river valley as it winds its way toward the San Joaquin river can be had from this point. Drainage is well nigh perfect here, and the town should be one of the healthiest in the entire county, located, as it will be, at the base of the foothills of the Sierra mountains. It was the first intention of the company to locate its new town on the Ruddle land, but the idea changed quickly after the Blake and Nelson lands were secured, it being the desire to get the town away from the river as far a possible, and at the same time have it conveniently located on the river.

      The Yosemite Valley railroad will build all necessary spurs and sidings at the falls, as this road will handle not only the logs but the lumber products of the mill. The log spillway will be located at the upper end of the land above the falls. A siding will be built there so that the trains can dump the big logs directly from the cars into the pond. From this point the logs will float down to the mill. Contracts for all of this building will be let in a short time. Railroad Contracts Let.

      Contracts for the building of the inclined railroad from the Merced river at El Portal to the top of the mountain and into the timber belt on the high plateau above the canyon have been let to L. J. Scooffy of San Francisco. Mr. Scooffy's outfit of men and teams will pass through Merced to El Portal on or about July 8, and the work of grading and building the incline railway will be commenced in earnest as soon thereafter as camp is established. Engineer G. H. Nickerson has a corps of men now in the field working out all of the field and grade notes, setting the line and grade stakes and doing such other work preliminary to the grading and building of the road. The contracts held by Mr. Scooffy aggregate in the neighborhood of $150,000. The incline railroad from a point on the Merced river to the top of the mountain will be approximately 8000 feet in length, and will have a maximum grade of 30 percent.

      A bridge will be built across the Merced river at El Portal and cars loaded in the logging camps on the high plateau will be brought down the incline railroad by means of a cable and switched directly to the line of the Yosemite Valley railroad, and taken to the mill at Merced Falls. Contracts have been let for the hoisting engines and plant that will operate the incline railroad. Immensely heavy machinery will be necessary for this plant.

      Contractor Scooffy has undertaken to have the railroad built within 60 days from the 8th day of July, in order that this construction will be all finished before the heavy rains set in this fall. Work on the building of the logging roads in the timber belt will also start at once and be rushed to an early completion, it being the desire of the lumber company to have a good supply of logs in its pond at the time the mill at the falls is completed and ready to start operations. Vast Bodies of Timber.

      Some months ago the Yosemite Lumber Company was organized for the purpose of securing the vast tracts of timber standing in the mountains between the main Merced river and the south fork of that stream. The company, after several months of negotiation, secured some 15,000 acres of this timber in a body and at once proceeded to organize for the purpose of erecting mills and manufacturing that timber into lumber. The result is that the establishment of this great enterprise has proceeded to the point where the sawing of the lumber will be commenced within this coming 12 months. It take considerable time to put an enterprise of this character in operation; it also takes vast sums of money. Mr. Fenwick and the men associated with him have, however, been equal to the emergency, and a great industry is being established in Merced and Mariposa counties.

      In the meantime the Yosemite Lumber Company has been reaching out and acquiring other timber located on the north side of the Merced river canyon in the vicinity of Hazel Green. The body of timber north of the river is even larger than that on the south side. It is quite possible that immediately following the starting of operations in the logging camps of the south fork and of the mills at the falls, the company will build another incline railroad from the Merced river below El Portal to the Hazel Green timber. Such an event would mean employment of perhaps a thousand men in the in the timber adjoining Yosemite National park and another thousand at the mills at the falls.

      The plant already arranged for will employ between 800 and 1000 men. The logging camps will use between 400 and 500 men, eight months in the year and the mills at the falls will employ between 400 and 500 men 12 months in the year, the loggers cutting timber enough in the eight months to supply the mill for 12 months.

      The capacity of the mill as now arranged will be 200,000 feet of lumber every 24 hours. That means in the neighborhood of 5,000,000 feet every month, or 60,000,000 feet a year. When it is considered that there is standing timber tributary to the line of the Yosemite Valley railroad sufficient to keep that line hauling logs and lumber for the next 50 or 60 years, some estimate of the amount of timber available can be had. Should the company see fit to double its capacity and turn out 400,000 feet of lumber every 24 hours, its payroll would become an immense one, aggregating a sum that would approximately reach $150,000 per month. This would make the Yosemite Valley railroad one of the busiest lines on the Pacific coast. It would also mean that the town of Merced Falls would become a city of 2500 or 3000 people.

      A large percentage of the timber held by the Yosemite Lumber Company is sugar pine. Yellow pine, spruce and cedar are also included in the commercial varieties found to the belt. It is understood that the sugar pine lumber turned out by this mill will find its way to eastern markets. Sash and Door Factories.

      As yet the Yosemite Lumber Company has made no arrangements for the establishing of sash and door factories, or other works for the manufacture of any part of the lumber output into finished materials. Rumor has been current for some time that such plants would be located in this city, but no definite information regarding it is available at this writing. However, this matter should be looked after by the commercial bodies of this city and the Chamber of Commerce and Merchants Association should leave no stone unturned in an endeavor to bring those plants here. It is quite likely that such plants would either be operated as subsidiary concerns to the Yosemite Lumber Company or as separate concerns, purchasing from the Merced Falls mill.

      This city is greatly in need of plants of this character, and if ever there was an opportunity to secure them, it appears to be the present. There is business enough in the immediate territory surrounding Merced to keep a large plant of this kind in constant and profitable operation.

July 21, 1911
Merced County Sun
Re-arranging Old Buildings and Planning New
Ones for Use of Yosemite Lumber Company.

      F. M. Fenwick, president, and Chief Engineer Egan of the Yosemite Lumber Company; O. W. Lehmer, superintendent, and G. H. Nickerson, chief engineer of the Yosemite Valley railroad, were at Merced Falls yesterday arranging for surveying of the mill site for the Yosemite Lumber Company and for the rearranging of some of the buildings of the old town, all of which are now the property of the lumber company. Some of the buildings are to be transformed into temporary cook, bunk and office houses.

      A large force of men will be put to work about the 1st of the coming month grading the mill site and erecting the new buildings. Things will be rushing in Merced Falls within 30 days. Contracts for the milling machinery have been let and the big plant will be in operation this coming spring.

      Work on the construction of the incline railway from the line of the Yosemite Valley railroad at El Portal to the timber belt on the high plateau above the south fork of the Merced is progressing rapidly, a large force of men and teams being employed.

August 11, 1911
Merced County Sun
Incline From El Portal to Timber Belt Will
Negotiate Marvelous Grades for 7000 Feet.

      EL PORTAL, August. 10. - Work is progressing rapidly on the Yosemite Valley Railroad Company approach to the Merced river at El Portal, where connection is to be made with the incline railroad for the Yosemite Lumber Company, grading for which is well under way. The railroad approach is in the shape of a Y, the right spur being the one upon which the loaded cars from the incline will be switched to the main line to be taken to the saw mill at Merced Falls. The left spur will be used for empty cars.

      At the end of the Y a bridge will span the Merced river. The incline road starts at the immediate south end of this bridge and will run to the top of the mountain a distance of 7000 feet. This incline road will leave the bridge on a 48 per cent grade and run for some distance up the mountain, when it will change to a 52 per cent grade, which will be maintained for several hundred feet, when another change is made, the grade dropping to 45 per cent to be maintained until the middle of the incline is reached. At this point a switching station is to be established, where loaded cars coming down will pass empty cars going up. After leaving this switch a 62 per cent grade is necessary for some distance, when a ravine is encountered. A trestle will be built across the ravine on ?? per cent grade. At the upper end of this trestle an 80 per cent grad is encountered and this will be maintained for about 300 feet. The road will enter the top station on a 48 per cent grade, the same as the starting grade at the foot of the mountain. The last 800 feet of the incline will average a 75 per cent grade.

      The hosting plant will be established at the top of the mountain. This plant will be of 200 horse power. While under ordinary operations it is estimated that not nearly so much power will be necessary, yet that power capacity will be needed for pulling loaded cars, machinery and supplies up the mountain at such times as loaded cars are not coming down the incline. All of the heavy logging machinery, such as 50 ton engines, cables several thousand feet in length, weighing tons and logging road steel will have to be taken up this incline before actual logging operations can start in the woods. One "donkey" engine has been ordered that will have a 30 ton pull on the start and a 15 ton pull after the cable spool is full. This engine will carry and handle 6800 of cable rope and will weigh 46,000 pounds. It will be one of the largest "donkeys" on the Pacific coast.

      The hoisting plant at the top of the mountain will be at an elevation of a trifle over 5000 feet, or 3100 feet higher than the point at the base where the incline connects with the Yosemite Valley railroad line. Aside from the hoisting plant, there will be a blacksmith and machine shop, coo and bunk houses for employees, oil and water tanks and other buildings at the station at the top of the mountain. The hoisting engines at plant will operate a single steel cable having a length of 8300 feet. This cable will be one and a half inches in diameter. The hoisting system to be used is what might be termed an engine tram on a ballast train system.

      The first logging station in the woods will be located about two miles from the hoisting station. About four miles of logging road will be built into the timber this year, together with the necessary spurs and landings required in large logging operations. This road will be extended in length as required and will eventually reach a point in the vicinity of Wawona. The incline railroads, hoisting plant, logging roads and permanent camps in the timber are to be ready for logging operations to commence about May 1, 1912.

      The work of building this incline railroad and the establishment of logging operations is a stupendous task, and will involve the employment of a small army of men and the expenditure of a quarter of a million dollars. When completed and in operation this incline railroad will be one of the scenic attractions of the Merced river canyon. It is being built immediately in front of the Hotel Del Portal, on the opposite side of the Merced river, and will be in full view from the verandahs of this delightful resort. The sight of large railroad cars ,loaded with monster logs being let down from the top of a mount into the canyon, over a 7000 foot incline, should be sufficiently thrilling to satisfy the most exacting.

      G. H. Nickerson of Merced is the engineer in charge of this work and he is being assisted by a competent corps of engineers. O. W. Lehmer, superintendent of the Yosemite Valley railroad, is giving much time and attention to the supervision and direction of the building of the railroad's connections with the incline road.

August 25, 1911
Merced County Sun
Machinery and Lumber for Big Saw Mill at
Merced Falls is Being Assembled.

      Lumber and machinery for the building of the new saw mill plant of the Yosemite Lumber Company at Merced Falls is being placed on the ground. The lumber company has placed orders for machinery, the aggregate weight of which is 850 tons, and lumber of an aggregate weight of 699 tons, all for the Merced Falls mill. The machinery for El Portal plant has an aggregate weight of 945 tons. A train of 120 cars, carrying 20 tons each, will be required to haul this machinery and material. The machinery for the Merced Falls plant includes an electric plant of 600 horse power. This electric plant will furnish lights and power for the mills and the new town of Merced Falls. An Immense Concern.

      Those who have been considering that this will be a small institution should take their pencils and figure a little. When it is considered that all of the machinery and material has not been ordered, the immensity of the concern can be partially realized. When completed and in operation the plants of the Yosemite Lumber Company will rank among the largest and best in the state. Break Ground Next Week.

      Contracts require that the incline railroad, hoisting plant and logging road now under construction from the Merced river at El Portal into the timber belt must be completed and ready for operation by May 1, 1912. Crews of men are now engaged in moving the houses from the old townsite of Merced Falls to the new townsite and the breaking of ground for the mill will probably occur next week. President F. M. Fenwick will visit the falls tomorrow. The Yosemite Valley railroad is laying down machinery at Merced Falls every day, and active construction work will be well under way within a short time.

October 27, 1911
Merced County Sun
Yosemite Lumber Co. Rushing Work on Incline Road at
El Portal. --- Large Gang of Men Employed.

      Few persons in Merced, perhaps, are aware of the interest afforded these days by a trip up the Merced river canyon on the Yosemite Valley railroad.

      Through the courtesy of O. W. Lehmer, superintendent and traffic manager of this railroad, a Sun representative made the trip this week. The night was spent at the Hotel Del Portal, which is under the management of Henry E. W. Wilson. The hotel has enjoyed a big business this summer, and judging from the splendid service and general air of comfort and cleanliness about the place, the tourists and patrons must have been fully satisfied.

      The next day was passed in viewing the sights of the canyon while en route back to Merced in a motor car.

      The chief attraction, of course, is presented in the operations of the Yosemite Lumber Company at El Portal and Merced Falls. As heretofore mentioned in these columns, this company is building an incline railroad 7800 feet long up the south wall of the canyon, opposite El Portal, which, when completed, will be one of the sights of the coast from both picturesque and engineering standpoints. The grade of this incline varies from 45 to 80 per cent. A hoisting plant will be installed at the top of the ridge and by means of a cable the cars of lumber will be lowered to the Y. V. tracks, while the "empties" will be hoisted to the top for loading. G. H. Nickerson is the engineer in charge of construction, while at the present time F. M. Fenwick, president of the Yosemite Lumber Company is giving the work his personal direction.

      Grading for the incline has been completed and the tracks laid a distance of 2500 feet. About 75 men are employed on the El Portal end of the work. At Merced Falls.

      At Merced Falls, where the mill will be located, construction work is being pushed rapidly forward under the direction of Matt Egan of San Francisco, a man of large experience in building and operating lumber mills on this coast. The machine shop is completed and in operation, while work on building of the mill is progressing rapidly. Lumber is on the ground for the hospital, and plans are ready for a $7000 store and office building.

      The company is building without expense to the county, a new wagon road, which runs on the north side of the railroad track to a point 400 feet west of the depot, where it intersects the old road. A tunnel is being dug under the Y. V. tracks, through which lumber will be run from the sorting table at the mill to the distributing yards at top of the hill. Some idea of the extent of the distributing yard may be gained from the fact that when the track is all laid it will include ten miles of narrow gauge track.

      Mr. Fenwick informs the Sun that they expect to be getting logs out at El Portal by April 1, and that the mill at the Falls will be ready for business about a month later. They are employing at present in construction 135 men - 75 at El Portal and 60 at Merced Falls.

Merced Sun,
December. 11, 1911
Donkey Engine Wrecked and the Engineer Killed.

      A fearful accident, in which one man, W. W. McNicoll, lost his life, and $15,000 worth of property was destroyed occurred on the mountain opposite El Portal, Saturday afternoon about 4 o’clock.

      The Yosemite Lumber Company, in the construction of its incline railroad from El Portal to the lumber belt on the opposite side of the canyon and mountain, was taking a 65-ton donkey engine to the top of the hill. The work of taking this engine up the steep mountain side has been in progress for three months, and the engine was within 20 feet of the top of the last ascent, which for 1000 feet is an 82 percent grade.

      This monster engine, apparently clinging to the mountain side like a fly to a pane of glass, was anchored from the top by three steel cables fastened to solid foundations, against which it pulled its slow accent of this remarkable grade. A man was located at the anchorage on top and another near the engine and signals to the engineer were given by these signal men.

      Saturday afternoon everything was in readiness for the last steep pull of the giant engine. The anchorage, cables and the engine itself had been tested, when the man at the top of the hill gave the signal to start. This signal was communicated to W. W. McNicoll, the engineer, who commenced to give his engine steam. In an instant the signal man at the top saw one of the cables slip just a fraction of an inch, and at once signalled the man below to shut off the engine. The signal was given in turn to the engineer, but McNicoll apparently did not see it, as he continued to turn on steam.

      The signal man then shouted and waved his hands, but the engine was forcing out cloud of steam as it labored under the great strain of its last attempt to negotiate an 82 percent grade, and McNicoll could neither hear nor see the signals.

      Suddenly the cables began to slip and the 65-ton machine commenced to slide slowly back down the mountain.

      For the faction of a second, during the time between its efforts to ascend and the moment when it took its fatal plunge downward, the engine moved slowly, gradually gaining momentum, and the fireman anticipating a terrible catastrophe, jumped to the ground. Engineer McNicoll, however, with his hands on the lever, could not make the jump as quickly as did the fireman, and went down with his engine.

      The magnificent iron horse remained on its track, shooting down the 82 per cent grade like a bolt of lightning, until it struck a change in the grade. Here it left the track and jumped completely over two flat cars loaded with railroad steel, landing on the track below with a terrific crash. Remaining on the track for 100 feet, the engine again jumped, this time clear of its course, landing on the mountain side, where it was demolished among the rocks and trees.

      President F. M. Fenwick of the Yosemite Lumber Company and 20 or 25 workmen were alongside the incline when the accident occurred, but none received injuries, neither was the fireman, who jumped from the engine injured in any way. When the men rushed to where the wrecked engine lay they found Engineer McNicoll’s body on one side of the wreck and his head and left arm on the other side. The man had been decapitated completely, and the assumption is that he was struck by the recoil of the steel cable.

      Coroner Johnson, of Mariposa county was called at once and an inquest was held yesterday the jury bringing in a verdict that W. W. McNicoll came to his death in an accidental manner. The jury exonerated the lumber company from all blame whatsoever in connection with the accident.

      The remains of the dead engineer were shipped to Fresno, where they were received by a brother, R. E. McNicoll, of that city. Engineer McNicoll was 30 years of age and unmarried.