Saturday, January 16, 1999:
Traveled the grade between Pearsonville and Bartlett, photographing and
videotaping salvage progress and some equipment working. Presently the
contractors are removing the last of the rails, about 28 miles of track,
between Pearsonville and Haiwee Reservoir. Tie removal continues along
the northernmost stretch of the grade near Bartlett.

Beginning at the south end: I stopped at the former point that rails were
still intact, located about ½ mile southeast of Pearsonville, and about a
third of a mile south of the Inyo-Kern County line. I found that rails
had been removed, although ties were still in place. All rails were
lined up along the east side of the grade.

Driving the short distance to Pearsonville, I noted that the tie yard had
grown considerably. There were bundled and strapped stacks of ties ready
for shipment, along with unbundled ties stacked in long rows. No
equipment was operating when I stopped by.

Driving about three miles further north to the former site of a
Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill, abandoned in the 1980’s, I noticed two
private vehicles parked along the grade, so knew somebody was working
nearby. About ¾ mile further north I found a piece of equipment removing
rails. He was working alone, I saw no ground crew working with him as I
had seen in the past.

At Little Lake I noticed a bulldozer parked on the grade. I noted that
at Little Lake and at a spot about ¾ mile north that the grade had been
uncovered by it. In 1997, two separate flashfloods two weeks apart had
inflicted damage to Little Lake village (consisting of an old, historical
hotel and gas station) and to the line. At Little Lake village, the
grade was buried under several feet of mud. At the spot ¾ mile north,
large boulders, brush and mud covered the line in one spot and the track
was undermined at another. Both sites received the attention of the
bulldozer and the track was uncovered and ready for rail plucking.

About 2 miles north of Little Lake, at the old cinder plant off of Cinder
Road, I noted that rail joiner plates were already disassembled for rail

At Gill Siding, just west of Coso Junction, I found equipment and a crew
of men removing the siding tracks. The crew and equipment was from a
company other than those doing the salvage, though I didn’t note the
company name. A truck with a hydraulic picker arm was placing rails on a
flatbed semi truck. About 15 men were working in this process, including
three men standing nearby watching the proceedings, dressed in such a way
it was obvious they were managing the job.

At a point about one-third of a mile north of South Haiwee Road I noted a
crew of men pushing a cart with flanged wheels along the grade. There
were two large tanks of oxygen and acetylene mounted on the cart. The
crew were cutting the bolts on the rail joiner plates. They were within
¾ mile of the end of the section that still have rails and ties intact.

A short distance north of there, I pulled off to the southern end of
Merritt Cut, where rails had been removed in October. Ties were still
embedded in the grade, with rails still stacked along the east side of
the grade.

At the tie yard at Sage Flat Road (about six miles south of Olancha), I
found men and equipment working. The tie yard had grown considerably,
along with stacks of rails. The grade north of there to the crossing
with US395 was picked clean and the top of the grade bladed smooth. A
unlocked chainlink gate on each side of US395 allowed vehicle access to
the grade, which was smooth enough to drive on (although soft, a 4x4
would be recommended).

At Olancha Siding, I found rails and ties still strewn on both sides of
the grade.

North of Cartago, the line crossed US395 diagonally southwest to
northeast. To the southwest, the grade had been picked clean, but to the
northeast rails and ties were still laying on the grade for a distance of
one-third mile, then the remainder of the grade was clean.

At a point about 1 mile further north, I spied a piece of equipment
sitting on the grade. Driving over the old road to the former Permenente
siding, I found the new Cat tractor with rubber tracks parked. A
hydraulic picker attachment with a small claw (probably used for picking
up rail) sat neglected in the dirt nearby. I found it odd that the south
side of the road crossing that the grade was clean of ties and rails,
however to the north they were still strewn as far as I could see. The
seemingly random manner of salvage along the grade confuses me, I would
think that running men and equipment to random areas of the 75 mile long
grade being salvaged would be cost prohibitive. Returning to the
highway, I saw the crew and equipment that were tearing up rail at Gill
Siding heading north toward Lone Pine.

At the curve of the grade into the old Pittsburgh-Liberty glass plant
(abandoned since the late 1970’s but still intact and mothballed), I
found rails and ties still littering the grade on the south of the curve.
The track is still intact for the final ¼ mile into the plant (the
radius of the curve was torn out in 1994 for a highway 4-lane project).
The remainder of the grade into Lone Pine was torn up in the late 1980s.

At Lone Pine I stopped to take some photos of the old railroad station
complex, which is still intact. The station depot is now a private
residence, although still painted in the yellow Southern Pacific color.
The freight depot complex a couple of hundred yards south is a private
residence and a feed and supply store.

I continued on out to the site of Owenyo, which was the former standard
gauge tie-in point with Southern Pacific’s Owens Valley Branch, which was
part of the old narrow gauge Carson & Colorado Railroad; built from Mound
House, Nevada (east of Carson City) to Keeler, California in 1880-1882.
The grade between Lone Pine and Owenyo was abandoned and rails and ties
removed in May 1960, when Southern Pacific abandoned and salvaged the
narrow gauge. I took photos of the site for submission to this website
for the remainder of daylight, noting a beautiful sunset over the Sierra.

Sunday, January 17, 1999:
On this day I returned to Owenyo to complete photographing the site,
focusing on the standard gauge gradient south of there. On the return
trip back to Ridgecrest I noted but did not investigate salvage
operations on the Jawbone.

I found north of Permanente the rubber tired Caterpillar tractor with a
flatbed trailer attached parked on the grade. No crew was operating it.

A crew was working at the tie yard at Sage Flat Road.

About 750 feet from the end of the rails at Merritt Cut I found the cart
with the oxygen and acetylene tanks sitting on the grade, no crew to be
found. I suppose it will take them less than a day to complete cutting
bolts in the joiner plates on that short section of track.

The piece of equipment that was working north of the Louisiana-Pacific
lumber mill site was parked less than a mile south of Little Lake. Rails
were stacked along the east side of the grade along the large cut and
fills as the grade climbs the short but stiff ascent to that village. I
wondered how the operator crossed the busy divided four lane section of
that part of US395 in the steel tracked excavation type piece of
equipment with the claw attachment. If unaided by somebody to help with
traffic control, that would seem to be a scary experience.

Wednesday, January 27, 1999:
I again traveled the route south to north. This time, the scene was
tempered by a foot and more of fresh fallen snow.

At Pearsonville I noted activity in the tie yard. There were many neatly
stacked bundles of ties, along with rows of unbundled ties. A Bobcat was
going about its task of bundling ties.

At the old cinder plant at Cinder Road I stopped and photographed the now
removed rails. The ties were still embedded in the grade. Rails were
stacked along the east side of the grade, spikes, ties and other
paraphernalia was strewn everywhere.

At South Haiwee Road the rails were still in place. I didn’t see any
equipment anywhere along the route between Cinder Road and South Haiwee
Road (15.4 miles apart) that would have been removing rail.

At Merritt Cut I plowed through 1½ feet of untracked snow to photograph
the end of the rails. The backhoe with the jackhammer attachment and the
car with the oxygen and acetylene tanks were parked at the end of the
track, still covered in snow and telling of lack of use over the past
three days (it had snowed on Sunday and Monday).

The tie yard at Sage Flat Road had grown considerably. A change from
last visit was that crews were bundling and strapping ties for shipment.
The equipment, a Bobcat and a tie picker semi truck, sat idle.

Ties and rails still lay strewn at Permanente and the short distance at
the US395 crossing just south of there. Rails and ties are still intact
at Pittsburgh-Liberty. I presume the salvage company and Union Pacific
(now owners of Southern Pacific and who are sponsoring the salvage of the
branch) are uninterested in the quarter mile of mainline and several
spurs within the plant.

David A. Wright
Great Basin Research