|Truckee Donner Railroad Society|
|Bringing Truckee Railroad History to Life!|
|History of Truckee Railroads
Since very early on, railroads have played a major part in the development of Truckee. America's first transcontinental railroad, which was finished May 10th, 1869, established an important train yard in downtown Truckee. Logging railroads connected this vital artery with the nearby mills and forests to provide much needed lumber to a growing country. As tourism grew, a tourist railroad linked Truckee to the shore of Lake Tahoe, connecting the country to one of its most beautiful resources.
First Transcontinental Raiload
On May 10, 1869 the first transcontinental eastward and westward building met at Promontory Point, Utah, completing the link across America. Completing the route across the Sierra Nevada was a feat of sheer will; it took 2 years of backbreaking work to complete the 1659 foot tunnel at Donner Summit. It was bored though on August 30 1867. The first train rolled through 2 months later. Meanwhile, crews hauled material over the summit on wagons, and continued laying rail through the Truckee River Canyon while the summit tunnel was being drilled. By December 13th, 1867 a train rolled through to Nevada. By May 4th, 1868, the tracks were connected and run through to Reno.
Truckee was established early on as a division point and "helper" district. As a helper district, the Truckee yards provided the extra motive power required to lift 100+ car trains over the summit. To house all the locomotives, a 22 stall roundhouse was constructed out of Rocklin granite. In addition, the TruckeeDistrict was responsible for clearing the snow from the tracks. Technology to remove snow from tracks has evolved over the years. Snowplow number 1, a "bucker" snow plow, was built in the Sacramento shops. As many as 6 or 7 locomotives would be required to push snow out of the way with this plow. Rotary snow plows were developed in the late 19th century, and the Central Pacific adopted them quickly. [See the sidebar for a video of a modern Rotary Snowplow in action.]
Although the first locomotive was brought by wagon in pieces in the mid 1860's, logging railroads in the Truckee Basin did not begin in earnest until the 1870's. Before that, a series of wagons, flumes, waterways, and skids were used to transport logs and lumber. Demand for lumber for mines, the railroad, and for building the rest of the West created a boom in logging in the last quarter of the 19th century. The forests near the mines and the Central Pacific (later Southern Pacific, then Union Pacific) were depleted. This caused the loggers to go deeper into the mountains to get to the valuable timber resources.
With transportation costs reaching two-thirds of the cost of getting logs to the mills, a more efficient mode was needed. Logging companies turned to both narrow gauge and standard gauge railroads. Some of the major lines were Boca and Loyalton Railroad, the Hobart Mills [Sierra Nevada Wood & Lumber Co.], and theVerdi Lumber Company. Hobart Mills ran north out of Truckee (where it interchanged whith the Central Pacific) up to Onion Valley and past Stampede Valley. The Boca and Loyalton ran from Boca (where it interchanged with the Central Pacific) up the Little Truckee River through Stampede Valley, then toSardine Valley, and over the Crest of the Sierra into Loyalton. Verdi Lumber ran from Verdi, Nevada, up Dog Valley and over Dog Valley Summit into Sardine Valley [ where it crossed the Boca and Loyalton], and then on to Lemon Canyon and Bear Valley. Verdi Lumber also ran north out of Verdi up to Long Valley, Purdy Creek, and Ball's Canyon in eastern California.
Driven by increasing tourism in the area, the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company incorporated in December 1898, and first opened May 1,1900. Much of the rail and motive power was acquired from the abandoned Lake Tahoe Railroad, G. W. Chubbuck railroad, and Lake Valley Railroad. Initially it was a narrow gauge line, running from the Central Pacific Railroad station in downtown Truckee up the Truckee River to the shores of Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City. The trip ended on a wharf where it met up with steamships that traveled to tourist destinations around Lake Tahoe. It was operated in the tourist season from May 15th to November 15th.
In 1925 the line was leased to Southern Pacific, and converted to standard gauge on May 1, 1926. This allowed round trips to be offered from Oakland and Reno.
By World War II, the advancement of roads and automobile traffic doomed the short line. It was abandoned November 10, 1943.
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