This abandoned railway was originally built in the 1880s as the Carson and Colorado Railroad. This particular segment was the last surviving stretch of a line that extended from Mound House, Nevada (near Virginia City) to Keeler, California, on the east side of Owens Lake. The line became part of the Southern Pacific in 1900. Much of the northern segment in Nevada was later standard gauged; it continued in service as UP's (SP's) Mina branch. The remaining narrow gauge segments were abandoned in the 1920s-1940s as the mines in the area closed. The last segment featured here survived from about 1942 until April 30, 1960.
The narrow gauge line had a transloading facility with the "standard gauge" SP at Owenyo, north of Lone Pine. The narrow gauge line extended as far south as Keeler. According to a historic plaque, the line was originally supposed to go as far south as Mojave, but finances ran short. It was finances that finally caused the line to close. The mines were able to switch to trucks as the local highways improved. Also, the train crews did not live locally; they were several hours away in California's Central Valley. Mixed trains ran until the end; the line closed for good on April 30, 1960.
The train that ran on this segment was known as the Slim Princess.
The line ran on the east side of the Owens Valley to serve the mines and not interfere with the ranches on the western side of the valley. It served Laws, Bigelow, Zurich, Monola, Aberdeen, Kearsarge, Owenyo, Dolomite and Keeler. One section of the line, near Bigelow, was relocated in the teens by the construction of the Tinemaha Reservoir, south of Big Pine.
Today, the raised relocated right-of-way can still be seen adjacent to US 395. Much of the rest of the right-of-way is now dirt/4-wheel drive roads. Recent efforts are underway to restore engine #18 and some track.