A railroad that had many names over the years, this three-foot narrow gauge railroad first operated under the name of the Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite Valley Railroad, starting in 1898. As a wholly owned subsidiary of the West Side Flume & Lumber Company, its primary purpose was to haul fresh-cut logs from the vast sugar pine forests of eastern Tuolumne County to the expansive West Side Lumber Mill in Tuolumne City. Here, the logs would be cut into dimensional lumber and transferred to the Sierra Railway of California for shipping.
As the years went past, the HH&YV was eventually reorganized and absorbed into its parent company, becoming the West Side Lumber Company Railroad, but all the while its Shays and Heislers continued to run into the rugged backcountry, winding through the multiple canyons and creeks that fed the north fork of the Tuolumne River. For 64 years they ran, until finally in 1962, technology and economic forces caught up with them. By that point, the West Side reigned supreme as the last narrow gauge logging railroad still operating in the American west.
In later years, efforts were made to resurrect the mighty West Side as a tourist railroad, spearheaded primarily by Glenn Bell and his "West Side & Cherry Valley Railroad" operation. But the numbers simply didn’t add up, and the WS&CVRR was forced to close its doors in the early 1980s.
Today, a portion of the former West Side right-of-way serves as a hiking and equestrian trail. Members of the public can hike from the former station of Friedenberg (approximately milepost one point five by the original railroad timetables), to the station of River (milepost seven), where the tracks crossed the north fork of the Tuolumne on a large wooden trestle. Much of the trackage through this area still remains undisturbed, more than 20 years after the last train rolled by.
Thanks to Steven Cope for contributing information about this route.