The Keeler Branch

Laws to Keeler, CA

This abandoned railway was originally built in the 1880s as the Carson and Colorado Railroad. This particular segment was the last surviving stretch of a line that extended from Mound House, Nevada (near Virginia City) to Keeler, California, on the east side of Owens Lake. The line became part of the Southern Pacific in 1900. Much of the northern segment in Nevada was later standard gauged; it continued in service as UP's (SP's) Mina branch. The remaining narrow gauge segments were abandoned in the 1920s-1940s as the mines in the area closed. The last segment featured here survived from about 1942 until April 30, 1960.

The narrow gauge line had a transloading facility with the "standard gauge" SP at Owenyo, north of Lone Pine. The narrow gauge line extended as far south as Keeler. According to a historic plaque, the line was originally supposed to go as far south as Mojave, but finances ran short. It was finances that finally caused the line to close. The mines were able to switch to trucks as the local highways improved. Also, the train crews did not live locally; they were several hours away in California's Central Valley. Mixed trains ran until the end; the line closed for good on April 30, 1960.

The train that ran on this segment was known as the Slim Princess.

The line ran on the east side of the Owens Valley to serve the mines and not interfere with the ranches on the western side of the valley. It served Laws, Bigelow, Zurich, Monola, Aberdeen, Kearsarge, Owenyo, Dolomite and Keeler. One section of the line, near Bigelow, was relocated in the teens by the construction of the Tinemaha Reservoir, south of Big Pine.

Today, the raised relocated right-of-way can still be seen adjacent to US 395. Much of the rest of the right-of-way is now dirt/4-wheel drive roads. Recent efforts are underway to restore engine #18 and some track.

This view faces north at Laws. The view is from a platform next ...
This view faces north at Laws. The view is from a platform next to SP #9, which is heading a "freight train" on a remnant of track at the Laws station/museum, about 5 miles east of Bishop. SP #18 also survives, on display in the town of Independence further south on US 395. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2003.
This bridge is at Fish Springs, between Independence and Big Pin...
This bridge is at Fish Springs, between Independence and Big Pine. View faces west. This is part of the relocated right of way near Tinemaha Reservoir. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2003.
This view is at Keeler, the "end of the line", facing north. The...
This view is at Keeler, the "end of the line", facing north. The track ran directly away from the camera, alongside the building in the distance. It is unknown if the loading dock dates back to when the rail line was still here. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2003.
A marker shows the location of the former Zurich Station along t...
A marker shows the location of the former Zurich Station along the abandoned Carson & Colorado. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2007.
A close-up of the marker at Zurich Station.
A close-up of the marker at Zurich Station. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2007.

—  ICC Abandonment Filings  —

Southern Pacific Railroad
Docket: 13938 9/8/1942 Section: 1
Application of Central Pacific Railway and of Southern Pacific Company for abandonment of a portion of the Keeler Branch between Benton and Laws within Inyo and Mono Counties, Calif, a distance of approx 30.648 miles.
Length: 30.648 miles 202 Citation: 254 ICC 811
Southern Pacific Railroad
Docket: 20510 1/20/1959 Section: 1(18)
App. for auth to abandon the entire Keeler Branch of its railroad between M. P. 506.300 at or near Laws and M. P. 576.935 at or near Keeler, a dist. of approx. 71.33 miles and (2) that portion of the Owenyo Branch between M. P. 519.115 at or near Lone Pine to the end of the branch at or near Owenyo at M. P. 523.256, a dist. of approx. 1.141 miles on the San Joaquin Division all in Owens Valley, Inyo County, Calif.
  227 Citation: 307 ICC 808

Also under this filing: The Lone Pine Branch

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