Ferrum to Eagle Mountain Mine

The Eagle Mountain Railroad

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Note: While not technically abandoned, this line has not been used since 1986.

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Yard at Ferrum, looking north. UP's Yuma Subdvision is still active here. Photo by John Acosta, April 2009.

The Eagle Mountain Railroad, owned by Kaiser Steel Corporation, is a 51-mile branch line that serves the iron mines in and around Eagle Mountain, near California's Salton Sea. It branches from the Union Pacific's transcontinental route (ex-Southern Pacific) near Niland, CA, at a location named "Ferrum", at which a small 5-track staging yard and turning wye are also located.

Construction on the line started in August of 1947 and was completed the following year. At first, the iron mines produce great quantities of iron ore, all of which were hauled away in Southern Pacific gondolas twice daily. As demand for the iron ore declined, so did the freight traffic, until the 1980s, when the line saw only one train a week. The last revenue train ran over the rails in 1986.

A majority of the track remains today, but time has taken its toll on some portions of the line.

There is a handcar track and a loading ramp of sorts in front of the engine house; we were unable to see inside but putting a camera under the door and a picture revealed it was empty.

John Acosta
Redlands, CA
10/13/2010

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The railroad ties look like they are in pretty good shape in some of the photos. Has any maintenance been performed on the line between 1986 and today?

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
7/26/2011

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The fortified enginehouse/maintenance shed doors have since been opened up and you're now able to go inside. The tracks were washed out just below I-10 in 2003; Kaiser last did maintenance work on the track in the mid '90s.

A speeder club recently ran from the mine in Eagle Mountain to the washout, and will run again this fall.

John Acosta
Palm Springs, CA
7/26/2011

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Can we use the fact that this line hasn't technically been abandoned and the maintenance work performed in the mid 1990s as evidence that perhaps these tracks will be used again at some point in the future (aside from speeder traffic), whether by Kaiser or someone else? Has anyone heard anything recently?

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
7/27/2011

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This spur was recently disconnected from the mainline as part of track maintenance in the area.

Chris
Costa Mesa, CA
2/5/2012

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I drove the route from I-10 all the way down to the bridge at MP2 over the salt flats. I actually saw numerous washouts of the track on the way up to the summit. If there is any chance of this line being reused, the cost of rehabilitation is rising.

I have some photos of my trip that I'll submit for posting.

Greg Rose
Tempe, AZ
2/15/2012

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In 1947, when I was three years old, my dad Ray Fullerton was sent by Kaiser Engineers to help manage construction of the Eagle Mountain Railroad. We moved to Indio and my dad drove out to the construction site every day. I recall going with him on occasion, driving in WWII surplus vehicles, and also recall the heat and desert, scorpions, occasional rattlers, coyotes, lots of date trees......not much civilization around at that time. All the cars carried those canvas water bags looped around the hood ornament, so water was available to cool off overheated cars.

I have some old pictures of the final days of construction, including the day the railroad was dedicated. I don't recall that day but do remember a lot about living on the desert....my first memories are from there. We moved back to the Bay Area in late 1948 after the RR was completed and my dad was assigned to other Kaiser projects. He stayed with them until 1970.

My dad was also involed in the construction of the Fontana steel mill earlier on.

Mike Fullerton
Denver, CO
4/12/2012

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I remember driving a truck from Perris to Blythe daily back in the early 1990's. Once I saw a train on this line, years after it had been abandoned. It was diesel switcher a few ore cars, possibly an inspection train or sent out collect a few ore samples? Seeing it surprised me so much that I pulled off the the freeway and drove to the rail crossing just to watch it go by.

Bill Parsons
Tremonton, UT
8/22/2012

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I recall reading that this line was used extensively in the 1966 motion picture, "The Professionals", starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster and Jack Palance. The steam locomtive used in the filming is now in residence in Heber, UT.

Vince
Los Angeles, CA
4/18/2013

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My family lived in Eagle Mountain from 1952 through 1982. If you are looking for more photos and stories about this railroad and the town, please go to the Eagle Mountain Refugees group on Facebook. Contact Stephanie White, the administrator of this group. There are many people who lived in this town and belong to this group. Many photos and stories about growing up in Eagle Mountain as well as those who worked there and some folks who ran the trains on this railroad are on this site as well.

Cynthia Eller Scott
Eagle Mountain, CA
7/18/2013

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The washout came from a storm in 2003. About 4 miles are buried. There is a possibility the line could be reopened if it's agreed the mine can be converted into a landfill.

As for the tracks. I don't know if there's been any track work or not, but I had a friend who took his speeder out there one day in 2007 going towards the mine when he suddenly saw a hi-railer vehicle approaching him with some type rail police on it. They told him to get off the track and leave. So apparently the line (or parts of it) is still patroled.

John Flynn
Glendale, , CA
10/4/2013

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I have an interest in this RR, it's operations, and facilities. I would greatly appreciate the posting of any pictures, maps, or schedules available. I do not have access to Facebook, or Twitter, so posting them here, or to the West Coast Rail Forum http://www.westcoastrailforums.com/thread-529.html would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

SFC Bruce R. Gadbois

U.S. Army

HorseSoldier176
South Central PA, PA
10/13/2013

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The Eagle Mountain RR. was never officially abandoned, but is just dormant. I was out there last year, helping to rebuild a section of track that a scrapper tried to steal illegally!

Kaiser Ventures, the owner of the RR as well as the town and mine property, still sales aggregate from the leftovers of the mining operation!

Mike Reading
San Diego, CA
4/21/2014

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Hi everyone. You all seem like a great bunch of guys that are laid back and ready to help anyone.

I was wondering if the Eagle Mountain Mine is for sale, or if the track portion is. I have some interest in bringing my Solar business to the Western United States and I need a rail line in place to transport materials for the large set-ups. I don't need engines or cars, just the rail. Any information about this mine, or any others in the surrounding states would be greatly appreciated. I have been looking for help from people who know what they are doing, and this group seemed like the best place.

Thanks for the assistance in advance. I hope there are some things you can help me with!

Blake Dahlquist
Byron Center, MI
8/12/2014

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The tracks are gone with the exception of the wye. U.P.

installed a second main line and removed the tracks that were used to stage the ore cars.

david
Los Angeles, CA
8/16/2014

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All the track in the interchange yard were removed by UP during the addition of the 2nd main track through Ferrum.

Kaiser Ventures was never notified of this until after the fact!

I know of some interest in reopening the mine and RR, but to this date, nothing has come to fruition!

Mike Reading
San Diego, CA
8/17/2014

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