Page 1 of 1

Commuter service to Owenyo?

Posted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:16 pm
by Daniel Maxwell
Not exactly narrow gauge, but related -

I was wondering if any of our resident SPNG experts could tell me if commuter service was ever run to Owenyo on the standard gauge. I know the regular passenger trains were ended in the 30s, but I thought they would run something for the employees that worked in Owenyo (such as at the hotel) in the later years (40-50s). If so, does anyone know what this consisted of?

Re: Commuter service to Owenyo?

Posted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:55 pm
by Brian Norden
Well, over on the standard gauge side there was company housing for various employees. Some of the over-all views and published maps show this complex. Also read in the local paper in the 1928-29 period that a car man had been transferred in to work at Owenyo and he and his family was going to use company housing at the Mt. Whitney station (old stop for Lone Pine).

No computer run. The Long Pine depot was far enough out of town that if you drove there you might as well continue. During the late teens and early twenties there were some interesting schedules on Sunday that allowed people to travel the whole valley (Keeler to Laws) for socials, etc.

A year or two ago when the SP narrow gauge society visited the Owenyo site we had a member with us whose father had worked for the company and he spent some of his youth at Owenyo (and also Keeler). He recalled that on day the paychecks arrived just about every adult went into town at the end of the day. This left the kids to entertain themselves -- one of the activities was taking a push car up onto the transfer trestle and see how far they could get it to roll.

When I was 10 years-old in September 1959 the family made a trip from Pasadena to Lake Tahoe that include visiting the narrow gauge. As often typical (due to my dad's manner of traveling), we were late getting up to the valley and as we drove down the road to Owenyo we met a caravan of about three vehicles (I think pick-ups) going toward Lone Pine. We figured that this must be the employees going home to Lone Pine.

As a side light, you've got to realize that by the late twenties the highways were improved enough that the first class mail was changed to moving from Lone Pine to Bishop by motor coach instead of by train. But parcel post was still moving by rail -- at least for a while.

At that same time there was scheduled overnight bus runs leaving LA on Friday night to arrive in the Valley the next morning for tourists wanting a weekend visit. The return trip left the valley on late Sunday and people got back in time to go to work on Monday.

One last thing. Back in the mid-1880s the railroad consolidated the agencies at Independence depot (later Kearsarge) and Lone Pine (Mt. Whitney). The agent would work one depot in the morning, close it when the train went through and rode to the other location, worked there until the train going the other way and the process was reversed. That probably lasted only as long as the C&C kept a daily train running -- soon service into the Valley was tri-weekly.

Re: Commuter service to Owenyo?

Posted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:34 pm
by John Coker
I think Joe Dale Morris said that passenger service to Owenyo ended when through service to Mina ended-1938. He also said that n.g engines that brought the mixed train from Mina were turned at the table here.

Re: Commuter service to Owenyo?

Posted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:09 am
by Daniel Maxwell
Thanks guys. I have the Morris book here, so I knew about the end of the actual passenger service, but I thought they might send a baggage car and a sleeper every once in awhile for employees. Ok second part related to the same question. What about supplies? I note in the Morris book, they kept a reefer for ice at Owenyo most of the time. Were there any other special cars (express boxcars, etc) being used to ship supplies to the facilities there, or were they just intermixed with the regular boxcar loads?

Re: Commuter service to Owenyo?

Posted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:45 pm
by Brian Norden
The Southern Pacific had a partial interest in Pacific Greyhound -- the Greyhound operating company on the West Coast -- into the 1950s. Greyhound once operated a regular schedule between Los Angeles and Reno. It is said that extra board men from Sparks were send down to the Owens Valley on the bus (even after the line over Montgomery Pass was pulled the train crews remained Salt Lake Division).

I am sure that the SP Stores Department would have dispatched a box car with supplies (lubrication oil, paint, brushes, nails, wood, overhauled air brake components, etc.) for Owenyo from time to time. I think the company had specially assigned cars for this on-line, non-commercial service. It was once very common for the railroad to move supplies of all kinds by their own transport -- often special cars (think of a carload of wheel sets going to an outlying location from the Sacramento wheel shop).

Smaller items, envelopes and boxes might have been handled as RRM (railroad mail) in the caboose. Or used the railroad owned truck line, Pacific Motor Transport.
This vintage tractor-trailer rig is seen at the Laws depot.
Photo from the Laws Museum. Date and photographer are not indicated.