Tuolumne to Stanislaus National Forest

The West Side Lumber Company Railroad

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Note: For more information on the WSLC and its railroad, check out Last of the Three Foot Loggers by Allan Krieg.

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The station of Friedenberg, where the public trail now starts. Originally, this station was known as "Flume" for a wooden box flume that carried water over the tracks. Today that flume is gone, having been replaced by the steel pipe clearly visible at the top of the frame. Photo by Steven Cope, March 2010.

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.

Thanks Steven for a great collection of photos, especially the "then and now" scenes.

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
5/13/2010

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Thanks for the info. These are the GPS coordinates of the trail head:

37.973026,-120.226650

Kevin
Pleasanton, CA
8/3/2010

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nice info on westside

Sean Berry-Kelly
21875 Sawmill Flat Rd Sonora, CA
1/16/2011

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I stumbled upon your website and the great article/photos of the Westside Lumber railroad grade hiking area.

I did this hike last year and it was great.

Can you refer me to any group or individual(s) that hike either this area and/or the area between Twain Harte and Pinecrest?

Many thanks!

Bill Jenkins
San Jose, CA
3/28/2011

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When I was a kid, about 12 or 13 and Fred Bell's West Side & Cherry Valley was in it's hey day, I rode a goose like contraption to that tiny turntable in photo 15 (above). Back then the turn table still worked. All the passengers got out and helped spin the speeder around for the return trip. Sadly that was the last year WS&CV ran. The ruins of the trestle were clearly visible then. What I would give to ride those rails again.

Charles Taylor
Taft, CA
4/8/2012

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The turn table shown in picture #14 is most likely the one used by the Pickering RR at Soap Creek. The holes in the turn table frame show that it was used originally as a standard gage turn table for speeders, ambulance or super intendent's car. I was at the picture #14 site three years back and at that time a 16" Bull Pine kissed the inside of one of the West Side rails.

Peter Jelito
Tuolumne, CA
5/7/2012

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Great website! I stumbled upon the rails tour 7/15/12 with my son and grandson when I realized that I had ridden my ditbike with freinds along the route twice and didn't even notice the relics on the trail, just the tracks! That was 30 to 35 years ago, going back soon to rediscover more of the past, thank you forwebsite, it is great

john cook
antioch, CA
7/18/2012

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Now living in Alabama. Sat through the intro movie and rode the train several miles towards Cherry Lake. Kinda scary overlooking the cliff down to the Stanislaus. Sorry to hear the ride does not exist any longer. Lived in Standard at the time and went to Curtis Creek Elem. and SUHS.

Ed Breitenbach
Sonora, AL
11/1/2012

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Thank you Steven for this wonderful display of history! Several years ago, when plans were being discussed to make the Westside Lumber Yard a golf course, we would camp on the shores of the pond and fish for several days at a time. We would also ride our bikes and explore the railroad tracks, buildings from Glenn Bell's time there and also the old lumber equipment. I had such a blast up there and always wish I could explore more. I used to go to Silver Spur Camp and remember seeing a map in the office. I thought at the time that the lake on the map was possibly the pond from the lumber yard. This was about 20 years ago. Today while searching maps I found out it was the same pond and I came across your page. I've been told that the property where the lumber yard used to be now belongs to the MiWuk Tribe? I also heard the dam has since broken and the pond is no longer there. That is a shame if true. We used to catch and release so many bass up there. Are you able to tell me much about the property? Thank you once again for posting this. Have a Merry Christmas and God bless!

Mark Ulrich
Hughson, CA
12/17/2012

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I spent many, many summers, and sometiems just weekends at my grandparents house in Sonora, and remember when West Side Cherry Valley Railroad opened! (Yes, I feel old...) I loved going there as a kid, some of my fondest memories with my grandfather was there. Tried to take my son there when he was about 3 or 4 and was so disappointed to find out it closed. But seeing this site brought soooo much back! Thanks for sharing this!

Deanna Richards
Bay Area, CA
1/28/2013

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I don't know if it is on the West Side Lumber rail trail or not, but there is still a train permanently parked up there somewhere deep in the forest. As A kid, I used to camp near Hull or Trout creek or somewhere within the general location. I don't believe it was an actual designated camp site however. It was a small clearing in the trees with a Giant boulder next to cliff. It was hard to get to. Anyway, we camped there and used to ride our ATVs on trails. A couple of times, we had to get off the ATV and hike. We hiked down into the canyon and there was a a couple of train cars still their. If I remember correctly, the engine was still there partially buried in an old mine, or rock slide or something like that. I miss visiting it. If anyone knows what I am talking about, please comment as I would be interested in learning if anyone knows about it. I don't know what the status of the train is know however because of the rim fire. The last time I hiked there was in the late 80s early 90s. Probably around 93 or something like that.

Angel Sharp
Modesto, CA
9/6/2013

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