The Bizz Johnson Trail


Rails to Trails: Trains, Depot, and Bizz

Terms and Vocabulary:
One of the most interesting and beautiful trails in the United States is in Lassen County. The Bizz Johnson Trail begins at Lassen Street, travels through Goumaz (go-mez) and past Westwood for over 30 miles. It is a popular place to hike, bike, horseback ride, cross country ski, picnic, swim, fish, and camp.

The trail began as the Fernley and Lassen Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad built between Westwood and Fernley, Nevada. The railroad had to cross mountains. The route was chosen because it was low in elevation. Two tunnels and 12 trestles were built.

The main purpose of the Red River Lumber Company in Westwood was to carry lumber, not passengers. Lumber was shipped all over the world. The railroad wasn't built to Susanville, but rather through Susanville to Westwood.

The railroad reached Susanville in April, 1913, and Westwood in February, 1914. An old railroad box car was used as the original depot until the Susanville depot was finished in September, 1913. It was expanded in 1927. The original depot burned down in 1989. The 1927 depot was to be burned down as a training exercise for the fire department. Citizens complained to the Susanville City Council and it was spared. It is now owned by a group called Lassen Land Trails and Trust and it still stands today.

The train carried lumber from Westwood until 1952 and continued carrying passengers there until 1956. That year a flood destroyed a major bridge. The Southern Pacific didn't use the train between Westwood and Susanville for 22 years. The railroad carried passengers to Susanville until 1933. The railroad to Susanville and the depot were used for freight shipping until 1979. Shipping by trucks is now more popular than train.

In 1978, Southern Pacific abandoned the railroad line. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and community organizations like Lassen Land Trails and Trust changed the rail line to a recreational trail. This project was known as "Rails to Trails."

How did "Rails to Trails," become named the "Bizz Johnson Trail?" It was named for Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, our Congressman for 22 years who helped change the rail line to a trail. In 1983, the trail was named for Congressman Johnson.

The most popular part of the trail is a seven-mile stretch from the Depot on Richmond Road to the Devil's Corral Trailhead. On this part of the trail are views of the Susan River, wild life, 12 railroad trestles, and two tunnels. The elevation begins in Susanville at 4,200 feet above sea level and rises to 5,500 feet in Westwood.

Across the street from the depot sits a caboose. It is unusual that a Western Pacific caboose would sit on an old Southern Pacific railroad line because they were competitors. On the trail is Hobo Camp. It was named for hobos who camped there because it was close to the tracks where they hopped trains to travel from place to place. This is now a picnic, fishing, and recreational area.

Comprehension Check

1. List three things you would like to do on the Bizz Johnson Trail?

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2. The Fernley and Lassen Railroad line carried _____________ and ______________.

3. The railroad carried lumber from Westwood for _____ years and passengers for _______ years.

4. Why did the railroad stop using the track to Westwood?

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5. Who was the trail named after and what did he do?

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6. What is a hobo and why do you think Hobo Camp is named that?

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7. How can you help keep the trail nice for years to come?

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Information presented on this page was researched and contributed by:

Holly Azevado
Marilyn Chapman
Heather Cluck