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El Dorado & Western Railroad Trip 11/12/2016

by Chris Guenzler

Chris Parker and I checked out of the Red Roof Inn in Rancho Cordova then went to McDonald's for breakfast after which we drove US Highway 50 east up to Shingle Springs and found the station with no problem. We parked and started looking around.

El Dorado & Western 45 ton switcher 5104, ex. Cemex, exx. Lone Star Products, nee Pacific Coast Aggregates 5104 built by General Electric in 1944.

Southern Pacific caboose 1188 built by the railway in the 1940s.

Southern Pacific Shingle Springs station now The Antique Depot, built in 1897.

Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe Railroad caboose 2.

The speeders we will be using on our trip later this morning at 11:00 AM.

A spreader waiting to work one day.

Shingle Springs views.

The Milepost 137 sign.

One last view of Shingle Springs for now. We next drove to El Dorado.

Southern Pacific caboose 1094 built by the railroad in 1941.

El Dorado & Western JDT 1, ex. Certainteed Products, nee California Rock & Gravel, built by Plymouth in 1952.

El Dorado and Western flat car 003.

Two idler cars.

El Dorado & Western trackmobile.

An El Dorado view.

The replica Southern Pacific station in El Dorado. We left here and returned to Shingle Springs, exiting onto Shingle Springs Road and stopped in the parking lot of the modern Buckeye School.

Trees in their fall colors. We went back to the Shingle Springs station and Chris worked on his business while I just relaxed. When I saw some people at the speeders, I picked up our tickets for our long ride today. Larry Boerio, a good friend of ours, arrived at the parking lot and it was certainly good to see him again. He paid for his ticket and we stood around talking with this railroad's volunteers.

The El Dorado & Western Railroad.

I could not wait to ride this piece of the old Southern Pacific Placerville branch.

Brief History

After gold was discovered in 1848, the Gold Rush brought thousands of people to Northern California and with them, the idea of building a railroad from Sacramento to the Gold Fields. By 1853 the Sacramento Valley Railroad was begun, reaching Folsom in 1856. Due to competition among various investors to build the western portion of a future transcontinental railroad, the railroad line to Nevada did not go through Placerville to Carson City, but instead went through Auburn and the Donner Pass. Because of heavy freight use along the Placerville-Lake Tahoe Wagon Road over Echo Summit, Placerville residents, pushed to continue the rail line from Folsom. With new investors, the track was laid to Latrobe in 1864 and to Shingle Springs by 1865. It took another 33 years to complete the rail line. The Placerville Depot opened for business in March, 1888 and the Placerville Branch carried lumber, fruit, butter and other produce, along with passengers bound for Sacramento, until 1986.

After the Gold Rush lumber companies wanted to take advantage of the vast stands of timber in El Dorado County and two major logging railroads were built to transport logs and lumber. What eventually became the Michigan-California Lumber Company built an extensive network of narrow gauge rail to bring logs and rough cut lumber to the mills, including a cable which carried rail cars of lumber across the American River Canyon from the mill in Pino Grande on the north side of the river to the mill in Camino. Their standard gauge railroad, the Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe Railroad brought the milled lumber to Placerville to be loaded onto the Placerville Branch line. The Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe railroad right of way is now part of the El Dorado Trail.

Another logging railroad was put in by the Diamond & Caldor Lumber Company. Their network of narrow gauge rail was east of Grizzly Flat with a lumber mill in Caldor and another in Diamond Springs. The Shay Locomotive 4 currently undergoing restoration at the County Museum worked for many years as a switch engine in the Diamond Springs Lumber Mill yard.

Southern Pacific's Placerville Branch had five combined freight and passenger depots, built to standard Southern Pacific Railroad designs: Latrobe, Shingle Springs, El Dorado, Diamond Springs and Placerville. The only existing structure is a portion of the Shingle Springs freight warehouse, built after a devastating 1896 fire burned the original 1865 station. The town of El Dorado now has a scaled version of the El Dorado station through the generosity of volunteers and donors. El Dorado County's newest railroad is the El Dorado Western Railroad, the living history program of the El Dorado County Historical Museum, and through the efforts of volunteers, offers rides to the public on the historic Placeville Branch of what was the Southern Pacific Railroad line. The boundaries of the El Dorado Western Rsailroad are Shingle Springs and Missouri Flat Road, with current operations out of the Shingle Springs Dept and the El Dorado Station. Plans to build the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park facilities in El Dorado for exhibits and display track, a restoration shop and historical turntable are underway. Track repair is occurring on the 7.9 miles of track, and rolling stock is being restored.

Fifth Sundays are special "Long Runs" operating from Shingle Springs Depot to El Dorado station and returning to Shingle Springs Depot taking about 1 1/2 hours for the round trip.

Our Ride

A pumpkin was placed on the front of the speeder we would ride on.

We rode on the front speeder on the east end of the set of speeders. I took the front right seat and placed the cushion under me. I will show you the railroad in pieces; this piece will be from Shingle Springs to Rustling Pines Road.

Rustling Pines Road. Now we will go from here to Shingle Springs Road.

We have reached Shingle Springs Road. From here we will go to where the old tunnel was.

We have reached the cut where the tunnel was once located and would now pass through it.

We just ran through the cut which once had the tunnel.

Tie bars hold the track in alignment.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!