Roots of Motive Power

Library and Archive


The Roots of Motive Power Research Library and Archive has an extensive collection of books, magazines, photographs, videos and artifacts dealing primarily with railroads, forestry, steam engineering, and heavy operating machinery. It is the repository for the documents that help Roots of Motive Power in its program of preservation and restoration of antique locomotives, tractors, steam engines and other old and rare equipment.

The Library and Archive has one of the most comprehensive collections of books and historical documents about the two main railroads that operated in Mendocino County, the California Western (the Skunk) and the Northwestern Pacific, and the many short-lived branch lines and logging railroads that laid down tracks in the county over the last hundred years, from the time when steam was king.

Some of the books and documents in the collection date back to the early 1900s. There are operations manuals on specific items of equipment, general references, educational and instruction books, and much more. The library also has a rotating display of unusual and fascinating artifacts, working models, and other relics from the local railroads and the days of steam.


The Library and Archive was officially opened on July 4, 2003 as part of the Redwood Empire Railroad History Project, a partnership between Roots of Motive Power and the Mendocino County Museum, that also built the new wing of the museum and the commanding Roots Of Motive Power Engine House.

The initial work of cataloging the library’s collection took nearly four years, under the guidance of the first librarian, Bruce Evans, and after Bruce’s move to Oregon, by Dean Durbin, and today under the direction of B.B. Kamoroff, a railroad historian and Roots member for 31 years.

The library’s collection of books, documents, photographs and letters come from myriad sources. Many donations are from people who worked for the railroads or in logging or lumber mills, or from their families. The primary contributor has been Chris Baldo, a partner in Willits Redwood Company and founder of Baldo Locomotive Works, who collected many rare books on industrial subjects and conceived of creating a library for these books. The library is constantly soliciting collections.

Visiting the Library and Accessing the Collection

The Library and Archive is open to the public. Due to the age and rarity of the books, the Library and Archive is a non-circulating facility, although certain materials are loaned to Roots members for special projects. There is a reading table, and research and copying services are available. A computer database of titles can be downloaded as a PDF file by clicking on BOOK LIBRARY below.

The Library and Archive is located inside the Mendocino County Museum,
400 East Commercial Street, Willits, California 95490
It is open Wednesdays noon to 4 pm and other days by appointment.
Call 707-272-3472 or email for more information.