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Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Railroad

carson n colorado

Beginnings
Benton
Hammil
Dehy
Shealy
Chalfant
Tom

train


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


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new 08/22
carson and colorado
(Image courtesy Yale University Digital Collections)

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 The Birth of a Railroad in Owens Valley

 slim rails

 BALZAR
Decked out in the "uniform of the day," Fred Balzar typified the early day conductor. Mr. Balzar went on to greater things, becoming the Governor of Nevada in 1932.

 
legends
Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg aboard the Virginia & Truckee car
"The Virginia City" being served by steward Clarence Watkins.

railway pass
Carson & Colorado Railway Pass.

new 09/21
private railcar
Beebe and Clegg's "Gold Coast" private railcar at the Mina engine house (1950)
(Photo courtesy of University of Nevada, Reno - Online Digital Collections)
new 12/21
slim princess
(Photo courtesy of ebay)
virginia and truckee

 
The Carson & Colorado Railroad was originated, planned and built by the Virginia & Truckee Railway. It was Lucius Beebe and his partner, Charles Clegg, who enshrined both roads in their writing and photography, much of it accomplished while living aboard their private car "Gold Coast" in the V&T's Carson yards.

new 09/21
carson and colorado
SPNG pulling a flatcar loaded with a truck.

"Wheelsets usually refers to just an axle with two wheels mounted. A truck is the complete assembly consisting of two wheelsets, a bolster and two sideframes. Wheelsets were usually transported by flatcar with two or more rails and the wheelsets were loaded in alternating positions on the rails. This allowed many more wheelsets to be carried as they could be pushed closer together. Complete trucks took more room but were included in work trains for the rapid recovery of derailed train cars." - Rick Bell

"The flat car is a patented LaMothe Pipe flat car. The car is Caboose/Coach #2 which later became H. Yeringtons private car and was also leased to the NG Tonopah RR where she ran on NG trucks and later SG trucks. Completely rebuilt as original by the Babcock Family. She was built at the V&T Carson Shops with her twin #1 which is currently at Laws detrucked. This image taken at Mound House Nevada.Caboose/officer car #2 sold to Inyo Developement Co. which then sold it to Tonopah RR.
" - Dennis Burke

(Text courtesy Dennis Burke and Rick Bell, Photo courtesy Rich McCutchan archives)

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new 09/21
first crossing
The first crossing of the California-Nevada state line by a train of the Carson and Colorado Railroad Company (23 January 1883). Passengers and crew by boundary marker and the front of the locomotive. The location of the crossing is between the Montgomery Pass, near Mount Montgomery, in Nevada, and Benton, California. - circa 1881
(Photo courtesy Loyola Marymount William H. Hannon Library)

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 "Route of the Carson & Colorado RR"

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carson and colorado line

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Detailed Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Route
By Andrew Brandon


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new 06/22
map
SPNG - Carson & Colorado RR Route
Painstakingly crafted by the Laws RR Museum dedicated volunteers Paul Thompson and Beverly Schroeder. This work shows the actual route from Keeler California to Mound House Nevada with all the stops along the way.
(Photo courtesy Pam Milligan Vaughn)

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new 08/22
sp us routes
Southern Pacific Routes West of the Mississippi River

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slim princess
Carson & Colorado No. 3 at Mound House - circa 1883.
laws railroad museum
Carson & Colorado Engine #9 at the Laws Railroad Museum
(Photo courtesy and copyright of Ed Simms)
narrow gauge route
Carson & Colorado Railway Route from Mound House, NV to Keeler, CA
slim rails
In Candelaria, Nevada - circa 1898
L/R: Bill Robinson (Engineer), C. Meadows (Mail Clerk), Fred Barnes (Conductor),
John McGillis (Fireman), and Frank Regan (Brakeman)

Lock used on the Carson and Colorado Railroad, elsewhere?
[Photos curtesy of Don Kosur]

lock

lock

Since the lock pictured here (from Don Kosur) is disputed as to whether or not it is really from the famed Owens Valley Carson & Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad I am offering up the following for further reading on the subject of railroad locks.
Antique Railroad Padlocks
Railroad Collectors Association Incorporated
Railroad Locks
 

claim ticket

Carson & Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad baggage claim ticket.
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

train in mountains



 "Chronology of the Carson & Colorado RR"
by George Turner




san francisco call
"Uncle Collis Purchases One More Railroad"
The San Francisco CALL - February 15, 1900


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railway ticket
Carson & Colorado Railway Ticket


narrow gauge

slim princess

Mina yards and three-rail tracks - 1935.
carson and colorado pass
Carson & Colorado Railroad pass.

 
owenyo agent

Agent W.T. Tommer stands at the semaphore handles. Tommer controlled the operations of the narrow gauge for so long that people referred to the line as "Mr. Tommer's Railroad."

 owenyo clerk
Freight clerk Josephine Cole was the only woman employee of the narrow gauge.
rj laws
R.J. Laws, memorable superintendent of the Carson & Colorado R.R.

engine number 3
Engine No. 3 awaits departure time.

slim princess

The "Slim Princess" in action in Owens Valley

new 06/22
martin hansen
While many occupations provide the worker certain workplace advantages, few could compare to the view afforded the crew of a steamm locomotive. The chance to spend the day looking down the barrel of the boiler and down the track ahead has few equals, even today.
In August 1959 when Glenn Beier took this photo time was running out for such a view on the Southern Pacific. Steam had disappeared on the SP mainline all together the year before. It was only Walter Ferguson who was able to get this "office view" regularly on SP's last steam holdout, the Keeler Branch.
Here we see what his his view was like on 4-6-0 #9 just weeks before the last run. Looking down the boiler of #9 and seeing the rails laid out ahead as they traverse the Owens Valley in California was something he never took for granted. That is a good thing too, as by the next month steam would be retired for all time here as well.
Ferguson enjoyed the view while it lasted.

(Photo and text courtesy of Martin Hansen)

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box cars

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 "Narrow Gauge in a Wilderness"
by George Turner




number 18
The "Slim Princess" #18 in Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)


spng number 11
SPNG #11
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

burke
The "Slim Princess" in Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

burke
The "Slim Princess" in Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

slim princess

SPNG #18 cruising over the Owens River with a train of high cars.
(Text and Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

narrow gauge
The "Slim Princess" traversing the sands of Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

slim princess
Slim Princess crossing the Owens River

(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

owens river
SPNG #18 cruising over the Owens River with a train of high cars.
(Text and Photo courtesy of eBay)

burke

Conductor Brennan heating up his coffee in SP Narrow Gauge caboose 401 on a wonderful looking vintage stove. Different meaning to coffee on the go!
(Text and Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

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slim princess
Looking back from the cab of SPNG #9 in the Owens Valley.
(Text and Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

slim princess
The Slim Princess somewhere in Owens Valley.
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

daton

Somewhere along the C&C RR in Owens Valley.
track switch
Sketch of a "Harp Switch" - used on the C&C up until WWII.

laws

SP railroad depot at Laws, CA - circa 1910

new 01/23
SP map
Part of a Southern Pacific Company map of California
(Map courtesy of Yale Digital Archives)

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Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge at a Glance - 1950
Southern Pacific's Narrow Gauge Owens Valley Line

TRACKAGE:
 
Laws to Keeler, California 70.4 miles. Three Foot gauge.
STATIONS:
 


Laws (MP 506.8 Frame Depot) Closed 2/1959. Elevation - 4,115'.
Kearsarge (MP 550.1) Frame Depot. Torn down 12/1955. Elevation - 3,925 '.
Owenyo (MP 559.8) Frame Building. Closed 4/1960. Elevation - 3,690'.
Keeler (MP 576.5) Frame Depot. Closed 8/1957. Elevation - 3,610'.
Former Station Names:
Laws, formerly Bishop Creek
Zurich, formerly Alvord
Aberdeen, formerly Tibbets
Keasarge, formerly Independence, then Citrus Keeler, formerly Hawley

TURNTABLES:
 
Laws: Gallows type, built in 1883
Owenyo: Gallows type, moved here from Keeler in 1910. Dismantled in 1948.
Keeler: Gallows type, built in 1883 and moved to Owenyo in 1910.

ENGINEHOUSE:
 
Keeler, single stall. Burned in 1946. With advent of diesel (1954) servicing was done at Owenyo.
WATER TANKS:
 
Laws: originally windmill powered.
Aberdeen: windmill powered until 1953
Kearsarge
Owenyo: used standard gauge water supply via pipe.
Keeler
FUEL OIL:
 
Laws
Owenyo
TRANSFERS:
 


Owenyo:
Trestle: with narrow gauge above standard gauge.
Gantry: (Queen Truss) hand powered gears.
Dock: manual labor used to transfer materials.


PRODUCTS HAULED:
 
Cattle, sheep, soda, pumice, talc, clay, soapstone, dolomite, slate, pyrophylite (crop dusting), lead,
melatenterite, aluminum silicate, silver ore, potatoes, hay and farm products, sugar beets

LOCOMOTIVES:
 
Three Baldwin 4-6-0's. Number 8, 9, 18.
ROLLING STOCK:
 
Box - 91, Combination Box/Stock - 14, Stock - 35, Flat - 8
Gondola - 36, Ballast - 38, Tank - 4
Caboose - 1, Baggage & Express - 1, Work - 4

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daton
Somewhere along the C&C RR in Owens Valley.
(Close-up view)


in owens valley
Engine #18 steaming along somewhere in Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy of Tales Along El Camino Sierra)


spng
SPNG engines No. 9 steaming along in Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy of eBay)

receipt

Carson & Colorado RR receipt - 1888

receipt
Carson & Colorado RR receipt - 1888



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new 03/22

stage stops

Stage routes along the Owens Valley railroad lines
(Photo courtesy of Hal Eaton)


stage times
Stage time tables along the Owens Valley railroad lines
(Photo courtesy of Hal Eaton)

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new 08/22

slim princess
Coming? or Going? - Caboose #400
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)


martin hansen
Crews who ran steam locomotives always had to combat the heat that was inherent from riding all day on an engine just behind the engine's boiler that constantly radiated heat. This was made worse during the summer months and even more so for those lines that crossed hot and arid desert country.

All these factors of heat discomfort came together on the Southern Pacific's narrow gauge Carson & Colorado line that ran between Nevada and Eastern California in the hot and dry Owens Valley. Any chance that the crews of steam motive power on this line got to beat the heat was cherished and not to be hurried.

A double headed train on the "Slim Princess" has come to a stop under the trees at the water tank at Hammil, California several miles north of Laws. Hammil is on the old line that crossed Mt. Montgomery on the way to Moundhouse, Nevada.

The crews of SP #9 and #22 are enjoying a break from the heat of their engines and the desert itself as they casually go about the watering and servicing of the 2 engines in the welcome shade of the trees next to the track of this stop. If no one seems to be in a hurry, it is because they aren't. All too soon they will have to climb back into the small cabs with the roaring fire in the firebox just a few feet away and back out into the bright blazing sun of the desert.
(Photo and text courtesy of Martin Hansen)





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Further Reading on the Carson & Colorado Railroad
  Slim Rails Through the Sand by George Turner (1964)
Narrow Gauge Nostalgia by George Turner (1965)
Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge by Mallory Hope Ferrell (1982)
Steamcars to the Comstock by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg (1957)
Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California (Vol. 1) by David F. Myrick (1962)
Jawbone: Sunset on the Lone Pine by Phil Serpico (2006)
The Slim Princess by John B. Hungerford (1961)
Making "out of print" and "hard to find" books easier to find.
 


laws museum



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new 11/22
slim princess
The SPNG "Slim Princess" steaming along in Owens Valley
(Photo and text courtesy of Martin Hansen)

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left
Early Big Pine  

left
Early Bishop Residents  

left
Mary Austin  
 

 More, Owens Valley - Carson & Colorado Railroad

right
 
Saline Valley Saltworks Tramway
right
 

 High Sierra Pack Stations

right
 

 Willie A. Chalfant

right

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potThis page was last updated on 22 January 2023pot