Truckee to Tahoe City

The Lake Tahoe Branch

The abandoned railroad route between Truckee and Tahoe City, known as The Lake Tahoe Branch, of which 14.221 miles have been abandoned, was once operated in California by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: 14310 Date: 8/11/1943 Section: 1
Application for abandonment of portion of the Lake Tahoe Branch owned and operated by it, extending from a point near Truckee to the end of said track near Tahoe, a distance of 14.221 miles partly within Nevada County and Fisher County, California.
Length: 14.221 miles Citation: 254 ICC 829  

Found this from a very old trainorders thread:

http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,666839

Historic Lake Tahoe Railroad hauled lumber and tourists

By Phillip I. Earl

Nevada Historical Society

On Nov. 10, 1943, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved an order authorizing the abandonment of the 15-mile Southern Pacific Railroad branch line between Truckee and Tahoe City on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in California. The line had been in use from 1900 until 1941. The engines and rolling stock were reassigned for use on other lines, and the tracks were torn up and sold for scrap in the spring of 1944. The state of California subsequently acquired the right-of-way, relocating a previous mountain road and constructing the current State Route 89 after World War II.

This railroad had its origins as the Lake Tahoe Railroad, an 8.75-mile, narrow-gauge line that ran from the lumber mills at Glenbrook to the head of the flume at Spooner Summit to the northeast. Built by Darius O. Mills and Henry M. Yerington of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad and banker Duane L. Bliss, the little line began operations Aug. 23, 1875, making an average of six lumber runs a day until the end of the cutting season in November 1898. The mines of the Comstock Lode -- the primary market for Lake Tahoe Basin timber -- were nearly all closed down by the time and the lands had been stripped of trees.

Two of the narrow-gauge engines, the Tahoe and Engine No. 4, were sold to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad in Grass Valley, Calif., that year and the engine Glenbrook and the remainder of the line's rolling stock were purchased by Bliss for a new narrow-gauge line, The Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Co., which was to run from Tahoe City to Truckee.

A line from the Southern Pacific railhead at Truckee had been projected in 1879 and two preliminary surveys were carried out. Tourism, however, was not the business it was to become by the turn of the century, so construction was put off for another 20 years. Bliss' construction crew began work in April 1899 and the railroad formally opened May 1, 1900.

Bliss already owned a fleet of lake steamers, several wharves and a machine shop. The new enterprise was a tourist venture from the outset, but lumbering operations in Ward Valley, Squaw Valley and on several tracts of land belonging to the Truckee Lumber Co. were important elements in the company's business for many years. Recreational activities at the lake were heavily advertised in Reno and San Francisco and as many as four excursions a day were conducted. The Glenbrook and other engines ran out on the Tahoe Tavern pier, where passengers could debark and board a waiting ship for a cruise around the lake.

The advent of the automobile and the improvement of access roads into and around the Lake Tahoe Basin began cutting into the tourist trade in the early 1920s, and the Bliss family sold the line to the Southern Pacific Oct. 16, 1925. Company officials immediately set about converting the line to standard gauge and disposing of the old narrow-gauge engines. The Bliss family kept the Glenbrook, placing it in storage at Tahoe City, and the other engines were shipped to shops in Sacramento, Calif., and scrapped.

D.M. Linnard of Linnard Hotels Inc. bought Tahoe Tavern and several adjoining properties in 1926 and began promoting the north shore of the lake as a year-round vacation spot. On June 19, 1926, Southern Pacific officials opened the new standard-gauge line with a gala celebration and the driving of two spikes -- one gold, one silver -- at the water's edge. Work had begun on beach facilities, cabins, restaurants, toboggan slides and an indoor ice rink, but the encroachment of the automobile continued to impact tourist traffic. The weather also was a factor as railroad officials discovered the standard-gauge locomotives encountered the same problems as those faced by the old narrow-gauge engines in negotiating the snowdrifts that piled up between Tahoe City and Truckee.

In September 1936, the Glenbrook was sold to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad to be scrapped for parts to keep the Tahoe running. The engine was not taken apart, however, and was almost completely intact when William Bliss bought the Glenbrook back in 1943 and presented it to the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, where it was placed on outdoor exhibition until moved to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in 1983. The engine is undergoing a complete restoration and will again be exhibited someday.

The Glenbrook's sister, the Tahoe, was sold to Universal Pictures where it did yeoman service in many motion picture productions. The Tahoe is on exhibition in Nevada City.

Phillip I. Earl is curator of history for the Nevada Historical Society.

Daryl Lee
San Jose, CA
1/20/2015

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