Wassama Roundhouse is a roundhouse building that was built in 1874 to house the three-quarter mile (1.2km) long steam locomotive No. 8 of the North Pacific Coast Railroad, which operated along the coast from San Francisco to Eureka, with a branch line serving Arcata and Klamath Falls. The roundhouse has been preserved as a state historic park known as Wasssa Roundhouse State Historic Park. It is located at Milepost 0.8 on U.S. Route 101 in northern California, about 10 miles (16km) south of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County. Built in 1874, it is one of only two roundhouses still standing west of the Rocky Mountains; the other being the Thompson’s Station Roundhouse in Nevada. It is notable for its large size; having an internal diameter of 80 feet (24m), and a height of 40 feet (12m). Its walls are composed of adobe bricks made by hand, masonry chisels, and mortar. On its roof reside numerous pigeons, seagulls, doves, and ducks.
In 1961, the Mendocino Land Trust purchased the roundhouse and surrounding land for $200,000, then donated it to the State of California, which established it as a state historic site. A nearby footbridge carries pedestrians over a rail line once used by the railroad. The bridge is part of the Transpacific Footpath, a 3,100-mile (5,100km) route beginning in Vancouver, British Columbia, that passes through eight Canadian provinces, seven American states, and crosses the border into Mexico twice. The roundhouse is open daily for visitors interested in learning more about its history, or simply viewing its unusual architecture. There is no admission charge, but there is a fee for using the roundhouse.
This can be paid either at the gate, or online via the “Cal State Parks” website. Fees are:
- Day use – $7 per vehicle
- Night Use – $14 per vehicle
- Group Camp -$28 per vehicle
- Reservation Fee – $6 per person Per Vehicle
- Parking Passes good for three days or a week – $20/passenger car $40/RV $60/Trailer
Passes good at any Cal State Park Leland Stanford Mansion accessible from the park grounds free of charge. Other sites around the Bay Area also accessible for day use for a fee Accessible for picnics, parties, etc., as well as sightseeing.Certain rules that were implemented are:
- No smoking inside
- Pets allowed on leashes of six months or longer
- No alcohol permitted on the premises
- Vehicles must have current registration from any state
- All vehicles must have proper insurance coverage
The park provides modern restroom facilities and water fountains Roundhouse tours operate on weekends year round, approximately 9am until 3pm Visitors needing special accommodations should contact the park prior to their visit.
The roundhouse serves as the visitor center for the adjacent state park. View looking northeast across highway 1010 towards the park entrance. View looking southwest across highway 1010 towards the park entrance. Picnic table on the roundhouse lawn. Visitor information center Inside view of the roundhouse showing the station agent’s office and waiting room. An exterior shot of the roundhouse taken from the parking lot. Sunset from the park. Sign at the park entrance. The park grounds include a picnic area and grassy yard, in addition to the roundhouse and adjoining footbridge.
The roundhouse interior, viewed from the main lobby. Exterior view of the roundhouse, showing the station agent’s office and waiting room. Interior view of the roundhouse showing the bottling plant and workers’ quarters. Outside view of the roundhouse, showing the fire escape and platform. Interiors of both the roundhouse and the factory. Factory floor. Bottles rolling down a conveyor belt. A bottle filler doing his job. Shot of the whole production line. Interiors of the press rooms. Workers outside the roundhouse. Firemen attending to the fire bell. Steam coming out of the boilers. Covered walkway leading to the roundhouse.
Wasssa means earth or country in the Native language Chinuk Wawa. The first white men to see this area were members of the Siskiyou Expedition led by Lieutenant John B. Montgomery who camped near here in July 1850. At the time the expedition had just crossed the Sierra Nevada mountain range and was making its way along the coastal mountains toward Fort Tejon. Because of its proximity to the sea, the region would become very popular with tourists, especially after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1876.
Rail service between San Francisco and Los Angeles began in 1863, passing through Redding, where passengers could change trains for the continuation of the trip to Santa Barbara. When the branchline reached as far as Kinship, a stop was made, and most people took a stagecoach the rest of the way. But when the rail line was extended north to reach Fort Tejon, another train was put on the road to take the place of the original, thus ending all passenger traffic on it. Only freight trains ran on this portion of the line until 1886, when the last regular run of cars departed.
Shortly thereafter, the entire line was converted to standard gauge, and reorganized as the Northwestern Electric Railway, which operated sporadically until 1903, when it was acquired by Southern Pacific Transportation Company. By this time, however, electric power was becoming available, and the switch to diesel engines was made, resulting in the demise of the railway. The roundhouse was one of several structures retained from the former railroad, including stations, yards, and buildings.
After the South Pacific completed track laying on what became its new main line from Pescadero to Los Angeles in 1906, the company abandoned the branch to Fort Tejon, removing the tracks in 1910, and abandoning the line entirely in 1923, leaving the roundhouse as the only structure remaining from the previous owners. It continued in operation as a freight depot until 1941, when it was closed down due to lack of business.
During World War II, the roundhouse served as a maintenance facility for the Union Pacific Railroad, who owned half of the property. However, following the end of hostilities, the UP sold their share of the property to the Central Pacific Railroad (CP), whose successor, the Burlington Northern Incorporated (BNI) continues to own the property today. Under contract with BNI, the City of Redding maintains the roundhouse as a public museum and tourist attraction.
Entrance sign As seen from Highway 299 Looking east towards the roundhouse Exterior view of the roundhouse showing the boiler and engine room Interior view of the roundhouse showing the inner workings of the machine shop Dedicated Jan. 7, 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Bob Packwood Following the 1971 oil crisis, gasoline shortages, and inflation, many consumers switched to fuel pumps that dispensed soft drinks instead of gas.
To fill this need, in 1972, Jack Mann, Sr., a retired Shell Oil executive, introduced Soft Drinks on Wheels (SDOW), a program under which specially designed trucks delivered soft drinks to rural areas throughout California. One such truck was based upon the design of the old No. 8 roundhouse. Renamed the “Sunshine Special,” it was soon delivering soft drinks to every corner of the Golden State. Unfortunately, sales declined sharply during the 1973 energy crisis, and the program was discontinued in 1974. However, the Sunshine Special model was later revived and modified for school district use in 1980’s.