In the 1800's Shingletown California was a hub of timber activities. Several dozen lumber and shingle/shake mills sprung up, thrived, and eventually died. Many mills used horses and mules hitched to big wheels to haul virgin timber from the heavily forested lands at the foot of the sounthernmost mountain in the Cascade Range, Lassen Peak. Later, a few mills switched to the newest technology to haul there raw materials and finished products, the steam-driven traction engines.
The Best Agricultural Works began manufacturing traction engines in 1889 in San Leandro, CA. The Best 185 was the top of the line 110 HP behemoth. Standing 28 feet long, 9 feet 7 inches wide, and 17 feet 4 inches tall at the smokestack, this monster weighed in at almost 18 1/2 tons. She held 940 gallons of water to feed her hunger for power and used 340 gallons an hour. The Best 185 could haul 72 tons on level ground, 50 tons up an 8% grade, and 36 tons up a 12% grade - quite a machine!
Our Best was used by the California Sugar Pine Company to haul timber to the Collins-Ritt Mill in Shingletown and later, until the mid-1920's, she hauled finished lumber down the ridge to be sent to markets via rail.
When our Best was retired she was sold to the owner of Big Wheels Trading Post and there she sat along what became State Highway 44 from 1939 until 1972. Big Wheels sold the Best to the Oakland Museum in 1972 and she was refurbished and proudly displayed starting in 1977 until she went to the Roots of Motive Power Collection on loan from the museum.
Now, the museum is seeking a suitable home for Our Girl and the Shingletown Historical Society is just the place for her. We are a 501(c)(3) charity active since 1963. We have plans to build a shelter for our girl, access for viewing and periodically conducting demonstrations of her prowess. Educational programs will be conducted for area school children, in conjunction with our two active museums, to show the history of timber industries in Shasta County.
We need funding to build our display center for the Best 185, to show our resolve, and to fund moving her and refurbishing her to factory condition. Volunteers are standing by to make this a showpiece for Shasta County.