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The start of our Second Anniversary Trip and the Laws Railroad Museum 6/30/2022

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I wanted to participate in at least one day of the four-day Great Western Steam Up at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City. Since neither of us had been to Laws Railroad Museum, we would visit there at the end of our first day. The next day we would go to Bodie and ride the Virginia and Truckee Railroad for the first time, staying in Reno. July 2nd would be our day at the Steam Up and the following day, I would take Elizabeth to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola and a ride behind Western Pacific 168, then onto Susanville. On Independence Day, we planned to visit Lassen National Park then head to Burney to the McCloud Railroad station and on to Redding for the night. On our anniversary, it would be over to the Coast for more depots then down to Fort Bragg for a trip on the California Western to Pudding Creek. The following day would be a trip on the California Western's east end then Northwestern Pacific stations on the way to Cordelia. July 7th would find us on the Redwood Valley Railway and then more Southern Pacific stations on the way to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. July 8 we would ride the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad followed by the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad in Los Gatos. July 9th finds us at the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation in San Jose History Park. On July 10th we would ride east from Sunol and Elizabeth would be on new rail mileage before driving to Bakersfield. Finally, a trip over the Tehachapi Mountains would be made on the way home.

We left at 8:00 AM with Elizabeth driving us on CA Highway 55 to CA Highway 91 then Interstate 215 to Interstate 15, then US 395 north. About twenty miles north of Kramer we switched drivers and I drove the rest of the way taking US 190 East to CA Highway 136 into Keeler, the first stop of the trip.

Carson and Colorado Railway history

The Carson and Colorado Railway was incorporated on May 10th, 1880, eleven years to the day after the transcontinental railway was completed at Promontory, Utah. It began as a grand conception; a 600 mile line to connect the Carson and Colorado rivers traversing (its owners hoped) some of the best mining country in the world. It did not work out that way. By the time the line reached Keeler in 1883, the owners realized they had built "300 miles too far or 300 years too soon". They hung on for 20 years, lost interest and sold out to the Southern Pacific. The sale was badly timed too. Only months later there was a tremendous strike at Tonopah allowing SP to recoup its investment, then broad gauge the line from Mound House to Mina. In 1908 Los Angeles built an aqueduct and the SP followed with a standard gauge line from the south. Things went reasonably well until the depression hit, forcing SP to shut down the northern part of the line between 1938 and 1943. This reduced the line down to 69.7 miles between Laws and Keeler until 1960.

Carson and Colorado Keeler station built in 1883.

A monument to this railroad.

Views of the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevadas on the way to Lone Pine.

Southern Pacific Lone Pine station built in 1910.

Mount Whitney. After this we went to Subway for lunch and afterwards, I drove us to Independence and had to make a quick stop.

Southern Pacific box car 6 built in the 1880s by the Carter Brothers Car builders. Number 6 began its service on the Oregonian Railway. It came to the Nevada & California Railroad (Southern Pacific's name for its narrow gauge) around the time of the Tonopah Gold Rush in 1904 and was numbered 407. It was renumbered to its current No. 6 in 1945 and remained in service until 1960 when it was detrucked and sold to the Owens Valley Recreation Club. Our No. 6 was placed at Diaz Lake south of Lone Pine as a shed until 2002 when it was donated to the Carson and Colorado Railway. From here, I drove us to the Laws Railroad Museum and parked across the street in their parking lot.

Laws Railroad Museum background information

Join other visitors from around the world who have come here to experience this unique museum setting. You'll find eleven acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits including the original depot and steam locomotive engine 9. Experience what life was like over 100 years ago. The Carson and Colorado was a narrow-gauge railroad line that passed through the Laws Depot, extending from Reno in the north to the town of Keeler, on the east side of Owens Lake. In 1960, the train steamed into Laws for the last time. The station, rail yard, land, depot and other buildings were then donated to Inyo County and the City of Bishop by Southern Pacific. In 1964 the Bishop Museum and Historical Society was formed and the Laws Railroad Museum opened its doors in 1966.

People immediately began donating items, even entire historic structures, ranging from antique pioneer furnishings, old photographs, wagons, farm equipment and mining equipment, and a working stamp mill. You'll see the original "Slim Princess" steam engine coupled to its boxcars and caboose, surrounded by the original supporting facilities including the oil & water tanks, turntable, and Agent's house. Laws Museum and Historical Site is California Historical Landmark No. 953, and is listed on the US Department of Interior's National Registry of Historic Places. Come and enjoy a physical connection to the past as you immerse yourself in pioneer life. Laws is 5 miles north of Bishop on Route 6, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.

Our visit

We went inside the building and I donated $20 that gave us unlimited access to the grounds; there is no charge but donations are requested. The lady gave us a map of the grounds and turned us loose to look around.

Carson and Colorado station built in 1883.

The map of the Carson and Colorado Railroad.

Southern Pacific posters.

Railroad lanterns.

Museum scene.

Model trains on the wall.

A model railroad.

Museum scene.

Maps of Mono and Inyo Countries.

Model trains.

Baggage cart full of luggage at the station.

Narrow gauge 4-6-0 steam engine 9 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909 for the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway in Reno. It was one of seven Ten Wheelers sold to the Southern Pacific by the NCO. In 1929, the engine was sold to the Southern Pacific where it was rebuilt and placed in service on the Owens Valley line, originally built as the Carson & Colorado Railroad, the following year. The locomotive, along with sisters 8 and 18, were nicknamed "The Slim Princess". The last narrow gauge common carrier made its final run on 29th April 1960. That year, the steam engine was donated to the City of Bishop, and it is now on display at the Laws Railroad Museum.

Southern Pacific gondola 339.

Southern Pacific stock car 166.

Southern Pacific box car 7 originally Carson and Colorado.

Southern Pacific box car 132.

Southern Pacific box car 17.

Museum views.

Section Foreman House built in 1883.

Southern Pacific crossbuck.

Ballast Tamper.

Wig[wag crossing signal.

Southern Pacific boxcar 67 built in 1875 for the Santa Cruz and Felton Railroad as a 24 foot 8 ton box car. It went to the South Pacific Coast Railroad as their 94 in 1881 and was converted in 1906 to SPC "boarding car" 24. The car was transferred to the Nevada and California Railroad as boxcar 431 in 1907 and rebuilt to a 28 foot 20 ton capacity in 1923, and renumbered to Southern Pacific 67 in 1946.

Southern Pacific box car 47, formerly Carson and Colorado.

Southern Pacific box car 3, formerly Carson and Colorado.

Southern Pacific box cars formerly Carson and Colorado.

Southern Pacific box car 45, formerly Carson and Colorado.

Southern Pacific box car 13, formerly Carson and Colorado.

Southern Pacific box car 5, formerly Carson and Colorado.

Laws Railroad Museum Birthday Express.

The engine house where Death Valley Railroad Brill car 5 is kept; the only narrow gauge model 55 motorcar in existance.

Oil tank and water tower.

Carson and Colorado Gallows type Armstrong turntable used in narrow gauge operations until 1960 and built circa 1911.

Museum view.

An original Laws water well.

The Laws water tower.

The oil tank.

Oil pump house.

A maintenance crane.

An unusual caboose body.

Narrow gauge flat car 26.

An old time wheel press.

Poleta Mining and Milling building.

A Big Sled. With that, Elizabeth and I visited the gift shop where she brought museum pins. We then drove the short distance to Bishop and checked into the Days Inn and I wrote this story before we went to Carl's Junior for dinner. Elizabeth walked back and I started my usual checking of e-mail and the Internet.