The Clovis Branch

Fresno to Clovis and Friant, CA

This branch served the farms and local businesses east and north of Fresno. Much of the right-of-way runs parallel to major streets east of Fresno, though the remnants are likely to be paved over as development spreads and streets are widened. There have been local transportation studies exploring re-using some of the right-of-way for light rail.

Looking north in Clovis. The ROW has been reclaimed for use as a...
Looking north in Clovis. The ROW has been reclaimed for use as a biking trail. Photo by Mike Palmer, March 2005.
A marker in Clovis showing the location of the Shaver Lake/Piner...
A marker in Clovis showing the location of the Shaver Lake/Pineridge Clovis Flume. The text reads "Terminus of the great flume which was the 3rd largest in the world. 1892". Photo by Mike Palmer, March 2005.
The Tarpey Depot in Clovis. This station had been about a mile f...
The Tarpey Depot in Clovis. This station had been about a mile further south on the line; it was restored and moved to Clovis and serves as a visitor center. Photo by Mike Palmer, March 2005.

—  ICC Abandonment Filings  —

Southern Pacific Railroad
Docket: 21425 1/3/1961 Section: 1(18)
App. for auth. to aband. that portion of the Clovis Branch and operation thereof of San Joaquin Div'n., owned and operated by Sn. Pac. Co., at or near Rockfield and the end of such branch line at or near Friant, a distance of approx. 4.356 mi., together with all sidings, spur tracks and appurtenances, all in Fresno County, Calif.
Length: 4.356 miles
Southern Pacific Railroad
Docket: 26512 1/28/1971 Section: 1(18)
Application for authority to abandon its Clovis Branch Line between MP 206.99 and MP 212.50, a distance of approx, 5.51 miles, together with all spur track, sidings and appurtenances, all within the County of Fresno, Calif.
Length: 5.51 miles

—  User Comments  —

The original reason for this line to be built was one of intrique and deception in which the Southern Pacific likey played a large role.

It was originally named the San Joaquin Valley Railroad, and was financed by folks in Fresno who has fallen under the guile of one Marcus Pollasky, and they were eager to break the SP monopoly. Once their money was spent on this 'line to nowhere', Mr. Pollasky left town, and the line went bankrupt.

This line later played a very large role in the development of hydroelectric power in the Big Creek canyon. Interested folk should find a copy of the book "The Railroad that Lighted Southern California" by Hank Johnston for a fascinating look at both this now abandoned line, and the Crookedest Railroad Ever Built that - for a brief and outstanding time - connected with it.

Bill Steck
Bakersfield, CA

Also of note was that no less than three other rail lines used the Friant branch as their starting point. The San Joaquin & Eastern operated from 1912-1933 and was the Rail line that was used to construct the Hydro facilities in the mountains to the east. Then north of the town of Friant (originally named Pollasky) The Minarets & Western (abandoned in 1934) left the friant branch on its way to logging camps near Bass Lake. Oh, and the Fresno Copper mine also had a small spur line off the main. But I can't find any info on it just its general location near present Copper AVE.

Fresno, CA

The Fresno Copper Co. mine was located on a large mountain northeast of Fresno and easily seen from Fresno on a clear day. With the price of copper rapidly rising with the demands of the first world war, a group of investors got together and constructed the small railroad to haul copper ore from the mine to a connection on the Friant branch. The copper mine railroad headed directly east across some gently rolling hills before climbing up to the mine dump. The old grade is still visible today if one knows where to look in the backroads north of Copper Avenue. Unfortunately the ore values of the mine were not as advertised by the promoters of the mine. A second opinion of the ore discovered it was so poor in valve as to not be worth shipping to the smelter at Selby in the Bay Area. This scam job of low grade ore was the death knell of the entire operation and the railroad was soon abandoned.

Robert Williams