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Amador Central Railroad History and Geology Trip 10/30/2021

by Chris Guenzler

We received a telephone call from Mark Denler of the Amador Central Railroad, informing us of a speeder trip on this railroad, which would cover the full line and incorporate history and geology of the area. Elizabeth found out that the Hillcrest and Wahtoke Railroad in Reedley was operating on weekends this month so we decided to include it on our way home.

10/29/2021 Elizabeth and I left our apartment at 9:25AM and she drove us first to the petrol station where we filled the car then drove us north up Interstate 5 to the rest area. We switched drivers and I continued our northbound journey to The Habit in Tulare, and then on to Roeding Park in Fresno. We had hoped to ride the train that is here but found out that the train was not running this day. We took CA 99 north, followed the BNSF and just missed a San Joaquin train at the Merced station so drove north to Hughson where we made a stop for myself.

The grave stone in Hughson of my cousin Dean Jagger. My middle name is Dean and I was given that name in his honor. Deanr was born in Lima, Ohio, on November 7, 1903. He dropped out of high school twice before finally graduating from Wabash College. Working first as a school teacher, he soon became interested in acting and enrolled at Chicago's Lyceum Art Conservatory. Mr. Jagger made his first movie and only silent film, The Woman from Hell in 1929, starring Mary Astor. During 1929 he also appeared in the film Handcuffed. He quickly found his niche as a character actor and the highlight of his career was winning an Oscar for "Best Supporting Actor" in the 1949 movie Twelve O'Clock High. Dean played Principal Albert Vane on television for the 1963-1964 season of Mr. Novak (1963). Dean Jagger died in Santa Monica, California, on February 5, 1991. From here I drove to Modesto's Amtrak station.

The Modesto Amtrak station built in 1999. We followed the BNSF mainline to Escalon before making our way to the Best Western Heritage Inn for the night.

10/30/2021 We awoke at the Best Western Heritage Inn and after checking out, we drove to the Black Bear Dinner in Lodi for breakfast. I drove us to Ione and we looked around before driving to the trip boarding location.

Trip Information

North American Railcar Operators Association (NARCOA) is running speeder/motor car trips this Saturday. This trip will be a History/Geology Run from Bryant Station in Ione to Martell and back for operators and the public. Tickets are $25 per seat for the public.

Amador Central Railroad History

The Amador Central Railroad was a standard gauge railroad that operated 11.8 miles between a connection with the Southern Pacific Company at Ione and Martell near the town of Jackson, California. The carrier served the Sierra Nevada Foothills gold mining communities and hauled lumber products from the El Dorado National Forest. Amador is the name of the county in which the railroad operated.

March 5, 1902 Ione & Eastern Railroad incorporated.

April 10, 1902 Grading commences.

June 20, 1902 Laying rails commences.

November 15, 1902 First trains operate to Sunnybrook Milepost 5.0.

May 12, 1903 Ione & Eastern Railroad filed bankruptcy.

June 15, 1904 Amador Central was incorporated, and continued track work towards Martell.

November 22, 1904 First train operates into Martell.

July 12, 1942 Last Passenger train departs Martell.

January 1, 1943 AMC leased by Winton Lumber Company.

June 22, 1964 AMC purchased by American Forest Products.

June 1988 AMC acquired by Georgia-Pacific.

March 28, 1997 AMC's owner, Georgia-Pacific, is acquired by Sierra Pacific Industries and last freight train runs.

August 10, 1997 Georgia Pacific sells AMC to Sierra Railroad in Oakdale for 1.5 million dollars.

September 13, 1998 Sierra Railroad Transfers ownership of AMC to Sierra Pacific Industries.

1998 Sierra Pacific Industries leases the AMC to Ampine, a division of Sierra Pine. Ampine reopens line and renames AMC the Amador Foothills Railroad.

June 7, 2004 Last train on the Amador Foothills Railroad operates.

November 2011 The Amador Central Railroad was purchased from Sierra Pacific Industries by the Recreational Railroad Coalition Historical Society and the Amador County Historical Society with the intent of saving it for future generations for historical, educational and recreational purposes.

Our Trip

We pulled into the parking lot and locked our car.

We arrived at the station and signed a release as well as a COVID-19 release.

All of the speeders we would be using on this trip.

We would be leaving from the Rich Byrant Station in Ione.

My loving wife Elizabeth riding in the left seat.

A sign thanking two of our grade crossing protectors and long-time trip organizers, Tom and Lorraine, for all their services to this great organization.

After a welcome and safety briefing by Mark, he introduced two geologists and the railroad historian, Pete Holland, Matt O'Neal and Jim Wood. After they spoke, everyone boarded the speeders and the trip started with me on new mileage. This was Elizabeth's first time on the old Amador Central Railroad. We would be riding the speeder belonging to Jay and Donna Finkelstein which was a former Canadian National Railway vehicle.

My new mileage ended at the switch.

Now we will be back on tracks that I rode in 2014 with Chris Parker.

We ran to the first CA Highway 124 grade crossing and stopped to wait for the flagmen to do their thing.

Tom is flagging the crossing as we crossed the road.

We made our way east to the next highway crossing.

Here you see Tom and Lorraine flagging the CA Highway 104 grade crossing.

We made our way to Stop 1, the firebrick pit. Once people had walked up the slope to the pit, Paul, the California Geologic Society representative, distributed a handout, "Geology of the Amador Central Railroad between Ione and Martell, Amador County, California", which gave details, history and photographs of the various stops we would be making.

Two views of the firebrick pit. The sands and clays from this mining pit were used to manufacture brick products in an adjacent brick plant using domed bee-hive kilns. In more recent years, the plant was modernized to manufacture brick and tile products with a gas-fired roller hearth kiln. Now we will proceed to Lane's station.

Rolling east toward Lane's station.

Tom and Lorraine flagging CA Highway 104 crossing. We arrived at Lane's station.

A spur track once branched off the mainline track to a loading dock where clay products from a nearby mining pit were loaded into railroad cars for transport. Traces of railroad ties of this track can be seen in the ground surface alongside the loading dock. A remnant pile of raw clay material was left on top of the loading dock.

Lane's station is where the shorter, public trips commence from and they have a container in which they keep souvenirs to sell to the passengers. We bought two T-shirts and then I took Elizabeth over to see the loading dock and bricks.

My view of the Lane's station loading dock.

On the way to Stop 3.

Paul showed the angular unconformity exposed in this small railroad cut between the Ione Formation and the Salt Spring Slate.

At unmarked road crossings, they have to Stop, Wait And Go and there is a red signpost with the initials SWAG upon it.

The trip to our next geology stop.

Stop four is a great quartz vein that cuts through the slaty foliation. Cutting the quartz vein is a steeply dipping fault. We next headed to our next geology stop, Newton Mine and Copper Hill Formatiom.

The speeders all waiting to leave for our next stop.

The train crossed over the bridge across CA Highway 88.

The speeders crossed over CA Highway 88.

Looking back at the bridge.

The speeders took all of these big curves to the Bovine Meadows.

The speeders all crossed the Bovine Meadows.

The speeders continued east and went by some cattle that stared at us.

The speeders stopped at our next historic stop.

This stop offers a good overview of Newton Copper Mine where smelting began in 1889 and a blast furnace was built in 1899. It was operated until 1946. The hill acoss the highway is capped by the resistant Mehrten Formation. Now we would run to the Serpentinite. The speeders continued east up the railroad.

Next we came to the first CA 88 grade crossing.

The speeder ahead of ours crossed CA Highway 88.

Lorraine is a very good flagman.

The speeder proceeded to the Serpentinite formation along our route.

Here Paul showed us the Serpentinite which is the official State Rock of California. I picked up a piece for Maureen Angle, whom we would be having dinner with after the trip. She played a major role in me getting sober. The next stop would be the Stone Corral.

On the way to the Stone Corral.

The speeders all stopped at this SWAG crossing.

The eastbound crossing gate was not working but our flagging crew did an excellent job getting all the speeders safely across the busy CA 88 Highway.

The remainder of the way to the stone corral.

The stone corral was constructed of local stone using classic dry-stone walling techniques built by an Italian immigrant stonemason in the late 1800's.

A view looking west down into the Sacramento Valley. Next we would run to Pete's Hole.

The speeders made their way to Pete's Hole.

The next stop was Pete's Hole where we found depositional features of the Mehrten Formation River Channel. Next we would run to the end of track.

Milepost 9 on this railroad.

We arrived at the end of track in Martell and everyone detrained. Tables and chairs were set up in readiness and one of the members owns a hot dog stand so hot dogs and Polish dogs were on the menu. The speeders were turned during the lunch break and everyone enjoyed their meals. After we ate, we talked with the geologist, Paul, and I thanked him for his excellent presentations. After a couple of announcements, our group reboarded for the return trip to Ione.

Before we left, The Warrior Fitness Man, a modified muffler man according to Steve Barry.

We made one stop on the way back at the Mehrten Tuff where a lower layer of volcanic ash flow, now a tuff, was covered by gravel sediment of a later river channel.

A very distant view of the Rancho Saco Nuclear Plant Tower.

The view of the CA 88 Highway bridge on the return trip. We returned to where we started and thanked Jay for having us aboard his speeder, who invited us back any time we wanted to come. A special thank you to Mark Denler for arranging our trip and to all the wonderful volunteers of the Amador Central Railroad for running such a fantastic expedition of geology and history of the area.

Afterwards, we drove into Ione, parked the car and walked across the street to Burke's Family Restaurant inside the historic Ione Hotel. Here I had arranged a dinner with Maureen Angle, my former fantastic science teacher whom I worked with at McFadden Intermediate School. She arrived and we had a most enjoyable conversation and dinner. Elizabeth learnt how we taught the children and she had some interesting stories to tell. We shared some of ours with her while I partook of a sirloin steak, Elizabeth the chicken marsala and Maureen a bleu wedge salad. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to my good friend so we did a group hug before we went our separate ways. I drove us down to Stockton then Elizabeth drove the rest of the way to the Best Western Village Inn in Fresno where we checked in for the night.