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beneme

 
Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Railroad

carson n colorado

Alico
Dolomite
Mock
Tramway
Swansea

turntable

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


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slim princess
SP No. 9 heads north from Keeler in the early morning light.
1948 near Dolomite Siding.
slim princess
SP No. 9 by Alico Siding in 1953

swansea

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

swansea

Swansea along the SPNG in Owens Valley.

dolomite siding

Engine No. 18 switches at the Limestone Quarry at Dolomite in 1949.

saline spur

Located four miles north of Keeler, the spur line to the salt mill can be seen to the right.

slim rails

The Saline Valley Salt Mill at Tramway in Owens Valley, 1915. The track in the foreground connected to the narrow gauge main line.
saline valley salt tram
View looking west from the Saline Valley towards the Inyo Mountains during construction of the aerial tramway.

salt tram

Failure of the grip lock (lower wheel and handle shown on the bucket hanger) to hold the filled buckets on the cables resulted, in part, in the eventual abandonment of the salt tram in 1930.
DOLOMITE
Plymouth Model DLC "locomotive" at work near Keeler, CA - 1930
dennis burke
The "Slim Princess" at Dolomite Crossing
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Burke)

DOLOMITE

Plymouth Model DLC "locomotive" at work near Keeler, CA - 1930

plymouth

Plymouth Model JL-2
At Keeler both Inyo Development and then Natural Soda Products operated narrow gauge tramways from evaporation beds in the lank to the processing plants. This derelect is still at Keeler.
(Photo courtesy Aaron Paz)

plymouth
Plymouth Model FL-2
(Photo courtesy of Drew Simon)

Per Randy Hess - April 2019

There are three different locomotives in photos above.
I suspect the black and white photo above is at Natural Soda Products, one of two railroad operations out of Keeler (Inyo Development and Natural Soda Products), harvesting various salts from the lake bed.
Natural Soda Products was 3’ gauge… and had 4 Plymouth locomotives:
c/n 1166, Plymouth Model AL-2, 12/5/1921
4-wheel, “friction drive” gas, Continental 3.5 engine, 23 hp, 3 tons
Built for Natural Soda Products
No known disposition

c/n 1611, Plymouth Model DL-2, 12/11/192
4-wheel, gas/mechanical drive, Buda BTU engine, 52 hp, 7 tons
Built for H C Collins, Los Angeles (dealer)
To Natural Soda Products 12/21/1923

c/n 1853, Plymouth Model DLC-6, 10/7/1924
4-wheel, gas/mechanical drive, Climax TU engine, 65 hp, 7 tons
Built for H C Collins, Los Angeles (dealer)
To Natural Soda Products 11/12/1924

c/n 2053, Plymouth Model FL-2, 6/24/1925
4-wheel, gas/mechanical drive, Buda KTU engine, 35 hp, 4 tons
Built for H C Collins, Los Angeles (dealer)
To Natural Soda Products 8/31/1925

The locomotive in the photo is a DLC. The cars are “Steam Shovel Cars” made by a number of manufacturers, including Western Wheeled Scraper.
The locomotive which was at Laws is a weird “Hunt System” loco… it has flanges that run on the outside edge of the rail… the gauge is about 22”…
The locomotive at Keeler is Plymouth model JL from Leslie Salt at at Saltus on Bristol Lake CA (Amboy). It is their No 2, model JDC type 2, 15 ton, c/n 4553, built 7/6/1943
Inyo Development the other company at Keeler had both 3’ and 2’ gauge trackage… they had a former Bodie & Benton locomotive on the 3’ gauge, and apparently a Milwaukee gas locomotive, gauge unknown, seen in a photo.
There was also a 3’ gauge salt harvesting railroad on the SPng at Rhodes. The tracks there went back to Nevada Salt and Borax Company, and were supposedly built with rail from the Candelaria Branch. A new company, Rhodes Alkali and Chemical Company was started in 1928, acquiring the previous company in 1930, building a new plant in 1932, including adding a Plymouth 5 ton FL, c/n 3463
.

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 "Carson & Colorado"[pdf]
by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg


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 When Steam Engines Roared in Owens Valley

In the lexicon of the Old West, few names conjure-up more dreams of glory than that of the Carson & Colorado Railroad. Henry Yerington and the moneybags of the Bank of California built it; Lucius Beebe enshrined it; Carl Fallberg satirized it; while time and the Washoe winds have all but erased its path.

It has been called, and fittingly so, the "Slim Princess" owing in part to the fact that her rails were spaced a mere three feet apart. It was also said to have been built "300 miles too long or 300 years too soon." But nevertheless, it survived in part even the greatest of the Nevada short lines ... the famous and fabulously rich Virginia & Truckee. It was in fact, the V&T and her wealth that financed the Carson & Colorado, not only providing its northern connection at Mound House, Nevada, now only a memory; but its visionary plan of connecting the Carson River with the distant Colorado River and all the silver and gold towns that would spring-up between. Originated, planned, pushed, financed and built by the Virginia & Truckee Railway in the early 1880's, the Carson & Colorado was all too soon a waif, unwanted and then finally unloaded on the unsuspecting but all powerful Southern Pacific ... just two months before news of the Tonopah gold boom resounded across the great basin and over-shadowed the queen of the Comstock herself, Virginia City.

Ore from Cerro Gordo, Candelaria and Tonopah rolled over the Carson & Colorado, but never to the extent that had been hoped. Wells, Fargo & Company's express rode the rocking cars too, but the big silver and gold camps never materialized. Struggling through sagebrush, Sierra snows, across Mount Montgomery Pass and over the alkali desert, the C&C was subjected to name changes, name calling and partial standard gauging, finally ending its days as an isolated narrow gauge line in California's Owens Valley, just on the east side of the lofty Sierra Nevada. The final years saw Southern Pacific lettered on its cars, but under flaking paint could be read the names of the Nevada & California, Central Pacific and Carson & Colorado, while journal box covers and other metal parts proclaimed them to have been cast in the huge shops of the V&T at Carson. Still other cars and engines ended their days on the valley run between Laws and Keeler, after having served on the likes of the Florence & Cripple Creek, South Pacific Coast and Nevada-California-Oregon.

Following the turn of the century, the Owens Valley was robbed of its water by a distant, yet thirsty Los Angeles. With the loss of water, the ground dried up and cracked. The once rich mines had already played out and many farmers and ranchers just quit trying and left the valley. The final years saw the once grand narrow gauge making thrice-weekly runs down the desert floor, serving the needs of Zurich, Aberdeen, Kearsarge, Manzanar, Owenyo and Dolomite in its seventy mile coming and going between Keeler and Laws. Oddly enough, not one single town boasted a population in excess of 300 souls, while most could not muster more than a few dozen citizens on a July election day!

Still the Southern Pacific narrow gauge struggled through the sand in the desolate yet beautiful valley ... hauling a mixed consist of borax, talc, soda ash and whatever else its agents could drum-up to fill the wooden cars. The ranchers around Laws provided a few carloads of cattle now and then, usually in the autumn, but no longer did the three and four engine "Stock Extras" blast up Mount Montgomery Pass and out across the valley in the shadow of 14,501 foot Mount Whitney. just over the Panamints was Death Valley, which at 282 feet below sea level placed the highest and lowest points in the continental United States within the confines of Inyo County.

When the end finally came in 1960 the amazing thing was not that a part of the Old West had vanished, but that it had lasted so long. This then is the story of the Southern Pacific's Owens Valley narrow gauge. Operating in a land of barren contrasts, the slim gauge defied economics, geography and progress to become the last of her breed in the far west. Drifting across the desert sands, smoking for all who came to watch, trailing a diminutive and ancient consist, this was the Southern Pacific narrow gauge.

by Mallory Hope Ferrell (from his book "Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge")

 keeler
Mock dolomite quarry near Keeler
(Courtesy of eBay)


sagebrush and sand
The "sagebrush and sand" country of the C&C.
no. 18
Engine #18 steaming through Owens Valley.
 

desert steamer
Engine No. 9 steaming through the desert of Owens Valley in 1953.



 "The Slim Princess"[pdf]
by Mallory Hope Ferrell

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Carson and Colorado RR
Carson & Colorado
[Photos curtesy of Bob Pilatos]

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No 18 in Owens valley
Engine No. 18 steaming along in Owens Valley
daylight special
Owens Valley "Daylight Special"


carson n colorado
Dick Datin sketch


no 18 in owens valley
Engine No. 18 steaming along in Owens Valley
slim princess
Slim Princess #9 steaming through Owens Valley
(Photo courtesy Rick Olson)


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slim princess
The Slim Princess in action in Owens Valley

slim princess
The Slim Princess in action in Owens Valley

no 18 pauses in the desert
Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Engine No. 18 pauses in the desert due to a "hot box" on the third gondola.

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Early Bishop Residents  

Mary Austin  
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 More, Owens Valley - Carson & Colorado Railroad

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More Saline Valley Saltworks Tramway
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 High Sierra Pack Stations

 

 Willie A. Chalfant


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This page was last updated on 03 February 2021