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slim rails

Carson & Colorado
Narrow Gauge
Railroad
 


All material courtesy of Rich McCutchan unless otherwise noted.
See USE NOTICE on Home Page.
train and tower

Detailed Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Route
By Andrew Brandon



Owenyo - Where the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge (SPNG) and Jawbone Branch of the Southern Pacific Standard Gauge Met

owenyo
Owenyo, CA - 1954

owenyo
Owenyo SPNG yard

owenyo hotel
The Owenyo Hotel as seen in 1956
(photo courtesy Dennis Burke archives)

owenyo
Owenyo SPNG rail yard

owenyo
Owenyo SPNG-to-Standard Gauge transfer trestle

owenyo
Owenyo, CA - 1954

owenyo
Owenyo depot on the Owens Valley SPNG.

owenyo
SPNG's #9 and #18 in Owenyo, CA

owenyo
SPNG Derrick Car #1 that came from the standard gauge Central Pacific RR. If you look close it is much wider than the car it is coupled to. This is the wrecking/construction train you are looking at taken at Mina. The car the Derrick is coupled to is Wheel Car A-1. It was used to carry extra wheels and trucks when there was a wreck. The interesting fact is this derrick car never made it into Owens Valley. It was too wide to fit through the Mongomery Pass tunne between Mina and Laws.
(text courtesy of Dennis Burke)

owenyo
SPNG's #18 in Owenyo, CA - 1950
owenyo
SPNG's #18 in Owenyo, CA

owenyo hotel
Owenyo Hotel at Owenyo, CA

owenyo

Owenyo Hotel and Post Office at Owenyo, CA

owenyo
SPNG yard at Owenyo, CA

owenyo
SPNG yard at Owenyo, CA - 1960

owenyo
SPNG #18 leaving Owenyo, CA - 1955

owenyo
SPNG water tower at Owenyo, CA - 1955



Other SPNG offerings in Owens Valley


SP No. 9 heads north from Keeler in the early morning light.
1948 near Dolomite Siding.


SP No. 9 by Alico Siding in 1953

zurich
Zurich Station - 1942

keeler
SPNG boxcar at the Huntley Industrial Minerals plant north of Laws

carson and colorado
The RR water tank and pump house at Kearsarge looking SW with Sierras off to the right. Kearsarge had the only pump house covered in metal. The wooden tower coming out of the top of the pump house was used to pull the water pump out for maintenance. The concrete block supports for this water tank are still on location.
(text courtesy of Dennis Burke)


aberdeen
Aberdeen stop along the SPNG in Owens Valley

tracks
SPNG track switch

laws
SPNG water and oil tower at Laws depot

kearsarge
Kearsarge looking North, this would be considered west by the railroad. Depot on left with a string of gondola cars sitting in front on the siding track. On the right closest to the track is the speeder/tool shed and just to the right of it is one of the crew houses. Inyo/White mountains on the far right. The water tank and pump house from photo 1 would be behind the photographer to the left across the tracks.
(text courtesy of Dennis Burke)

Zurich
Zurich looking north. First thing you will notice is one of the loading ramps on the far left where trucks would drop their loads into the waiting gondola cars. Right of that is ex. South Pacific Coast RR combine car # 9 which came to this railroad in 1906 and was rebuilt to baggage car #12 in 1927 and still exists today. The large structure on the right side of the tracks is the section foreman's house. Behind it is the water tank and windmill that provided water to the once population of about 40 persons. Zurich had no water tank to fill the locomotives. Far right are the two poopers and behind them other RR maintenance structures.
(text courtesy of Dennis Burke)
zurich
Zurich looking north.

zurich
Blue Star Mine operation at Zurich.

swansea

Rock house remains in Swansea along the SPNG in Owens Valley.

swansea
Swansea along the SPNG in Owens Valley.

owens valley
SPNG #9 steaming along in Owens Valley.

cerro gordo
Cerro Gordo terminus, just north of Swansea on the SPNG in Owens Valley.

kearsarge

Kearsarge stop along the SPNG in Owens Valley

kearsarge
Stock corrals and loading ramp at Kearsarge - 1955

boxcar hotel
"Hotel Boxcar" (?) somewhere along the Owens Valley SPNG.

owens valley
SPNG #8 in Owens Valley - 1954
receipt
Carson & Colorado RR receipt - 1888

receipt
Carson & Colorado RR receipt - 1888
kearsarge
Water tower and flat car #206 on the SPNG in Owens Valley at Kearsarge.

dayton
Here is an photo of Richard C. Datin taking photographs at Kearsarge in 1960. The question came up about why is the car on the ground. (The car in the background is this photo is #206.) For some unknown reason several of the flat bottom gondolas were broken up at this location Nobody seems to know why. There are at least 7 different gondolas, and probably more, broken up at this location. Why? One theory is that many of the flat cars and flat bottom gondolas were used to carry off the dismantled rails. This load was very heavy and broke down the already worn cars quickly. So were these cars used to haul rail at the start and broke apart and discarded here? I don't think this was the reason. The flat bottom gondolas used to haul the rail had their end boards removed so the long rails could over hang the cars.

(Photo and text courtesy of Dennis Burke)

kearsarge

Water tower and flat car on the SPNG in Owens Valley at Kearsarge.

richard dayton
Richard C. Dayton (left) along one of the many models he made for the movie industry. This is the day he took the Enterprise model to Desilu Studios.
In case you are interested his book about his modeling career is:
The Enterprise, NCC 1701 and The Model Maker
by N. Datin McDonald and Richard C. Datin Jr.
(Photo and text courtesy of Dennis Burke)
on the turntable
SPNG Engine #9 on the turntable at Laws
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

slim princess
The SPNG "Slim Princess" heading out of the south gate at Laws
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

on the turn table
SPNG Engine #9 on the turntable at Laws
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

on the turntable
SPNG Engine #8 on the turntable at Laws
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

on the turntable

SPNG Engine #18 on the turntable at Laws
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

on the turntable
SPNG Engine #22 on the turntable at Laws
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

laws
Here is a photo taken of Laws in 1939. You can spot the depot that is still on site on the left in the distance. The now vintage truck has pulled up to unload some sacks of potatoes to be loaded into the railroad box cars. On the near left are the two out houses with the coal shed between them. On the right is speeder tool shed. This photo is looking north from near the water tank. This is the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Railroad that began life as the Carson & Colorado Railroad in 1880 and reaached Bishop Creek, now Laws in 1883. Who was "Laws" named after and what was this persons intrest in the Owens Valley?
(Photo and text courtesy of Dennis Burke)



Tim Shea writes: Laws was named after R.J. Lawsrj laws

Harry Ketza writes: On October 21, 1904 in Los Angeles, Herald R. J. Laws, Southern Pacific Railroad superintendent died of a heart attack caused by the strain and excitement of surviving a train accident where the train he was riding rear ended a stalled freight train.

Chris Owens writes: Taken from the Owens Valley History Page: “Regular train service from Los Angeles to Owenyo via Mojave began October 22, 1910. The cost roundtrip was $15.45; the connection to Laws was $19 .50. Unfortunately, this schedule was not con­ducive to the arrival of the narrow gauge trains at Owenyo, which necessitated an all-night layover, one that even SP men admitted to was not pleasing to val­ley travel. To add insult to the situation, the "hotel" accommodations consisted of a few boxcars. It need scarcely be mentioned that this circumstance created a profitable business for the auto-stages operating between Owenyo and Bishop, and all other valley points as road improvements continued. In fact, some travelers from Los Angeles would take an auto the entire journey and arrive at Bishop in less time than by train when the twelve-hour layover at Owenyo was taken into consideration.

On April 7, 1911 railroad officials arrived in Bishop and met with local businessmen to discuss pos­sible train schedules that would best serve the valley. It was decided that the southbound train from Owenyo be run at night not only to avoid the layover for passengers, but to afford a better connection for shipments of milk, cream and perishable products so they would not have to endure a day journey through the hot desert. The change was made on the narrow gauge effective February 26, 1912 wherein trains were run to allow layovers at Laws and Mina instead of Owenyo and dairy products and perishables would be delivered the same day.”

carson & colorado
Snowy mountains confirm the winter 1952 date of SPNG steam locomotive #18 pulling its mixed train of freight and passenger cars. Stanley Snook captures the Ten-Wheeler operating "at speed" over 35 lb. rails it has known for over two decades. But the end is near. The 40-year old steamer is in its final 31 months of operation on the historic "Slim Princess."

SPNG #18 was a December 1911 product of the famous Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. The technical specifications were Baldwin construction number 37395, three sets of 44-inch diameter drivers, and a rigid wheel base of 9 feet. The two cylinders had a 16-inch diameter and 20-inch stroke. Three pairs of drivers carried 68,000 lbs. and the engine loaded weihed 87,150 lbs. With a working boiler pressure of 180 lbs. per square inch, the oil-burning locomotive had a rated tractive effort of 17,800 lbs.

The 4-6-0 was ordered by the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway as N-C-O #12 along with identical N-C-O #11 bearing Baldwin construction number 37394. The two engines joined eight other similar sized Baldwin N-C-O Ten-Wheelers built between 1899 and 1914. With roots dating to groundbreaking at Reno, Nevada in December 1880, the Nevada-California-Oregon was one of the longest narrow gauge railroads in the United States.

Constructed over four decades, the N-C-O ultimately had 275 miles of track with a three-foot gauge main line extending north from Reno through northeast California and on into central Oregon. Passenger service, cattle, sheep, lumber, petroleum products, woool, grain and hay were the line's primary business. Perennially financially challenged, the N-C-O sold 103 miles of trackage to the Western Pacific in 1917 and Southern Pacific acquired control of the remaining N-C-O property in October 1926. When SP began standard-gauging the line within a year, the handwriting was on the wall for the N-C-O's remaining diminutive 4-6-0s. Effective May 11, 1928, N-C-O #12 was sold for operation between Mina and Keeler, where the SP still utilized narrow gauge equipment.

After abandonment of the line to Mina in 1938 and the portion to Benton in 1943, the SPNG became an isolated 70.4 mile line connecting Laws and Keeler. Located entirely in Inyo County, California, the line was the last common carrier narrow gauge in the far west. Renumbered SP #18, the ex-N-C-O engine was one of a trio of ex-N-C-O Ten-Wheelers providing three times a week service on the SP's Keeler Branch. Between 1944 and 1952, #18 was out-of-service only six months for repairs. The hard working Ten-Wheeler was the SPNG's only steamer with distinctive "monkey-motion" valve gear.

#18 was retired in October 1954 upon the arrival of the SP's "Little Giant" narrow gauge diesel. The 4-6-0 was donated May 13, 1955 to Inyo County. Delivered July 19th to the Eastern California Museum at Independence, the venerable steam engine has remained in Inyo County ever since.

(Photo and text courtesy of Rob Sarberenyi archives - 1952 postcard)

engine number 18
In a scene that could easily be mistaken for 1954, SPNG #18 is seen at Laws, CA on September 22, 2017 after her full restoration to an operating steam locomotive.

(Photo and text courtesy of Rob Sarberenyi - [John West photo])

owens valley
SPNG #9 steaming along in Owens Valley

(Photo courtesy of Rob Sarberenyi )

carson & colorado
Tall stack a-smoking, a "hook-up" jointed steam pipe to the steam dome beside the ready-track, crude fuel-oil supplying the tender tank (and being heated by the "fireboy" you can bet) - what a picture of narrow-gauge steam on its last legs in the desert of California.

You wouldn't think it was February 21, 1954, at Owenyo - and with that old time string of cars behind, would you! Look at the glorious open-ender behind the little engine. Hard to believe that in just a mite over half a year more the little old ten-wheeler will run no more. In October a slim-gauge diesel, dubbed "Little Giant", took over, with big ceremonies - big bags of memory too.

Originally rails of the Carson & Colorado, which began farther north in Virginia & Truckee country in the 1880s, this three-foot venture stretched hundreds of miles south into Owens Valley. Mining of precious metals had been the promise up north; down here there was some ore too - but also soda and potash deposits. There was a future for the C&C - the builders thought. But, like most mining ventures, it worked out differently. Different too was the reason Southern Pacific bought the southern portion of the Carson & Colorado in 1900. They were going to standard-gauge it and run through from Southern California to their mid-continent Overland Route - and so to Salt Lake and the East. But, at this time, the Harriman Interests took over S.P. And the Harriman-run Union Pacific was taking over the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake - to provide the much more direct route from the Southland north and east.

So the little three-footer out in the desert remained just that, relying mostly on soda and potash for survival. Survive it did, for many a year, connecting with Southern Pacific's standard gauge rails at Owenyo - running, in the beginning, from Benton in the north, to Keeler in the south. But the SPNG was eventually cut-back from Benton to Laws as its northern terminus.

The original eight Carson & Colorado wood-burning Baldwins, all 4-4-0s, were long-gone before #18 came to Southern Pacific from the narrow gauge Nevada-California-Oregon R.R. - in 1927. She had been #12 on the N-C-O.

But those early American types of the C&C were something in their day, all "gussied-up" with pretty names derived from the towns they served: "Candelaria", "Bodie", "Churchill", "Bellville", "Hawthorne", "Benton", and "Darwin". These were the only locomotives the Carson & Colorado ever owned, which also boasted six wooden coaches and one-hundred-eighty freight cars, half of them open-platform for haulage of ore and mine timber.

At one time the Panamint district, high in the Panamint Range, was a big shipping potential for ore, - and famed Cerro Gordo Mine, on the steeps above Keeler, was still around in the late 1870s. However, it was soda and potash deposits in Owens Valley that made up the backbone of traffice in the declining years of the C&C and later on for the same slim-gauge rails under Southern Pacific

(Photo and text courtesy of Rob Sarberenyi archives - 1954 postcard)

carson and colorado
SPNG #9 (Baldwin #34035) with is auxiliary water car, sits quietly in the sun in Owenyo, CA on December 27, 1958. Built in 1909 for the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad, #9 came to the Owens Valley line in 1928. When diesel #1 arrived in 1954, #9 was relegated to stand-by service and seldo left its track in Owenyo. In 1960, when the narrow-gauge line was abandoned, #9 and a string of cars were left in Laws, CA to form the nucleus of a museum.

(Photo and text courtesy of Rob Sarberenyi archives - 1954 postcard)

little giant
SP 1 (Narrow Gauge GE 50-ton, b/n 32266, built 9/54) has arrived back from Bakersfield where it was sent for service work and received a new paint job - the unit was originally delivered in black with orange frame stripes and silver ends. Photaken on the SPNG at Owenyo, CA on 08/25/59 by John West.

(Photo and text courtesy of Rob Sarberenyi archives - 1954 postcard)


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Keeler - The End of the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge in Owens Valley

keeler
SPNG yard at Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG yard at Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG Keeler Depot - circa 1950

keeler
SPNG Keeler Depot - circa 1954

keeler
National Soda Products operation south of Keeler, CA

keeler
National Soda Products operation south of Keeler, CA

keeler
Slim Princess No. 18 in Keeler.

keeler
SPNG yard at Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG #9 in Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG Keeler depot and yard.
keeler
SPNG #9 in Keeler, CA

sierra talc company
SPNG Keeler yard - Sierra Talc company and the Saline Valley Salt Tram
terminus off in the distance.
keeler
SPNG at the Sierra Talc company and the Saline Valley Salt Tram terminus.

keeler depot
SPNG Keeler depot, Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG Keeler depot, Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG Keeler depot,

keeler
Keeler, CA

keeler
SPNG water tower - Keeler, CA

keeler
Keeler, CA

keeler 1950
Along the SPNG in Keeler, CA - 1950
keeler
This Keeler looking north. The depot would be behind the photographer a couple of blocks. There are 3 locomotives sitting on the service track. One is directly in front of the engine house over the service pit. On the other side of the locomotives are small structures and old rolling stock detrucked and used as work shops and tool houses. The edge of the water tank is on the right. This photo was taken in 1943. In 1946 the engine house burned down. There were only two engine houses located in Owens Valley. This one and one located at Laws in the very early days. Carson & Colorado records state the the Laws engine house was moved to Belleville, NV in the mind 1880's.
(text courtesy of Dennis Burke)

keeler
SPNG #18 at the Keeler depot in Keeler, CA - 1950

keeler
SPNG #9 steaming north out of Keeler

inyo developmet company

The Inyo Development Company had it's own set of tracks just west of the Carson & Colorado tracks between Keeler and the Owens Lake. They actually had two different gauges of track. Three foot gauge and 24 inch gauge.The crane on the flat car was used to drag large buckets of talc that were then loaded onto the ex. Carson & Colorado ore cars that you see behind the locomotive. The locomotive is an ex. Built by Baldwin engine. (Dennis Burke)

Once she had completed her duty on the B&B and purchased by the
Inyo Development Company she was transported to the Virginia & Truckee Carson shops for some rebuilding. She was then transported to Mound House via the standard gauge Virginia & Truckee and set on the Mound House narrow gauge tracks where she was to make her way to Keeler. We do have a photo of her at Dayton Nev. while on her way south. (Dennis Burke)

he locomotive started out on the Eureka & Palisades as number 3. Built by Baldwin in 1874. It was first named for one of the early investors in the railroad, W. S. Prichard. Soon renamed "Tybo" for a nearby mining camp. (Brian Norden)
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