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benton





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hammil





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dehy





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shealy






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chalfant





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tom





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laws





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polita





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bigelow





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black canyon





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zurich





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alvord





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tibbets





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monola





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beneme





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elna





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aberdeen





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kearsarge





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manzanar





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owenyo





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mt whitney




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alico





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dolomite





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mock





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swansea





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saline





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cerro gordo





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keeler





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benton





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hammil





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dehy





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shealy





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chalfant





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tom





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laws





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polita





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bigelow





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black canyon





Lantern





zurich





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alvord





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tibbets





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monola





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beneme





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elna





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aberdeen





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manzanar





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carson n colorado

 
Carson & Colorado
Narrow Gauge
Railroad
 

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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desert run
"Desert Run" by Mike Pearsall

heading for laws
"Heading for Laws" by Jan Rons

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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")

 
aberdeen water tower

No. 18 makes a stop at the Aberdeen water tank. The tank was filled by a windmill. When there was insufficient wind, a water car would be coupled behind the tender so the engine could make it between water tanks.

crossing the owens river
Engine No. 8 crosses over the Owens River near Monola.

 
on the gallows
Engine No. 18 being turned on the gallows.


on the gallows 
Backing No. 18 off of the gallows turntable at Laws.

 
jawbone branch

Narrow gauge Engine No. 9 adjacent to a standard gauge "Jawbone Branch" diesel engine.

jawbone branch
Narrow gauge Engine No. 9 adjacent to a standard gauge steam engine in 1951.

ready for haul
When locomotives needed repair they were sent by standard gauge flat car to the repair facility in Bakersfield. This is a photo of Engine No. 9 in February of 1951

loading trestle
When it was necessary to send a car or locomotive to the shops in Bakersfield, the narrow gauge equipment was loaded aboard a standard gauge flat. A special loading trestle facilitated such movements.

 on the gallows
Engine No. 8 being turned on the gallows.


sagebrush and sand
The "sagebrush and sand" country of the C&C.

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


 "Route of the Carson & Colorado RR"



 
owenyo turntable
A string of rolling stock shoved over the Owenyo turntable spur in 1946.

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

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no. 18
Engine #18 steaming through Owens Valley.

#18
Engine #18 boiling out of the terminal yard at Laws in 1946 for a dramatic portrait of action on the last narrow gage common carrier in operation anywhere west of Colorado.

#18
Engine #18 heading north out of Owenyo on the run to Laws.



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



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
 

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carson and colorado line

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

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kesarge water tank
Kearsarge Water Tank



laws water and oil tanks
Laws Water and Oil Tanks

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
turntable gallows
Turntable at Laws, CA
Turntable Dimensions: Bed width - 14ft, Bed length - 56ft
Center support height from top of rail - 22ft
Turntable support pit - 18ft square
owenyo turntable
Owenyo Turntable

water break
Time for a water break at Aberdeen - 1947

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engine number 8
Engine No. 8 enroute between Laws and Owenyo just after WWII.

open air repair at Keeler Station
Open air engine repair of engines No. 8 & No. 9 at Keeler Station - 1950

engines at keeler
Open air engine repair of engines No. 18, No. 9 & No 8 at Keeler Station - 1950

open air repair at keeler
Open air engine repair of engines No. 8 & No. 9 at Keeler Station
downtown keeler

Downtown Keeler: Once the terminus of a three hundred mile long narrow gauge, could only boast of about 75 residents by the end of WWII - 1940
[Donald Duke Collection]

carson and colorado
Engines No. 18 and No. 9 under steam at Keeler - 1953

under steam
Engines No. 18 and No. 9 under steam at Keeler - 1953

keeler depot
Keeler Depot was constructed in the early 1880s by the C&C RR. Located at mile post 576.5 and at an elevation of 3,610 feet.

keeler depot
Keeler Depot - February 1951

keeler depot
Keeler Depot - 1939

keeler depot
Keeler Depot - 1954

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c&c
c&c

c&c
Southern Pacific preparing to leave Keeler Depot - 1949

c&c
Conductor Jim Brennan (in doorway) loading ice aboard combine-caboose.
c&c
Narrow Gauge Express 18 departs Keeler Depot

c&c
Narrow Gauge Express 18 departs Keeler Depot

c&c
Keeler Station - 1946 view looking south

c&c
Keeler still had three-way stub switches and a few harp switchstands after WWII. When the "Esmeralda" car body was sold, baggage car 12 was placed on a short length of track and was used by crews. - 1940

leaving Keeler Station
Engine No. 9 steaming out of Keeler.

keeler depot
Keeler Depot

keeler water tank
Conductor Jim Brennan stands on the platform of 401 with his dog while the fireman fills the tank of Engine No. 18.

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keeler water tank
Keeler Depot
keeler
Engine No. 9 takes on water at the Keeler water tank.

keeler
Ten wheeler No. 9 eases past Keeler.

near tinemaha
No. 18 going through a deep rock cut near Tinemaha Reservoir - 1952

slim princess
The Slim Princess in action in Owens Valley

slim princess
Engine No. 18 on a run from Keeler to Owenyo - July 1946

slim princess
Keeler Depot

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 25 June 2017