Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

North American Narrow Gauge; West of the Rockies (including Canada; Mexico).
Randy Hees
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Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Randy Hees » Mon May 21, 2012 6:25 pm

There is evidence that there was a narrow gauge railway, likely an industrial line, associated with a salt works on the Carrizo Plain. The reduction plant was located on the lake, so this was likely built to haul finished goods to a railhead... There are railroad spikes found in the park... There is a mention in some of the Environmental Impact reports for projected solar plants.

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Randy Hees

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Andrew Brandon
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Andrew Brandon » Wed May 23, 2012 3:41 pm

Randy,

Is there a company name associated with this Salt operation? I am finding very little about mining efforts there in period publications so far.
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Brian Norden
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Brian Norden » Wed May 23, 2012 7:17 pm

Excuse me, but where is the Carrizo Plain?
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Randy Hees
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Randy Hees » Wed May 23, 2012 9:14 pm

The Carrizo Plane is located in the hills between the southern San Joaquin and Santa Maria. It is an extremely dry valley, which was dry farmed in the 19th century. Included is a dry lake.

I believe the salt company was the Carisa Chemical Company. It appears that their first works was located near the (dry) lake, but was later relocated away from the lake. It is possible the railroad was built to support this second plant.

The only thing I have found on the railroad so far is this
During World War I (19167-1918) a narrow gauge railway was built across one the of southern necks of the lake in order to remove the slat or soda to sell on the market. The railway moved the salt to a loading area where it was transferred to trucks to be taken to market. It is said that one of the uses for which it was used, was a dyeing agent for paper. This was by the Kraft paper company. However, because of the softness of the deposit beds, it became increasingly difficult to load the mineral. For this reason the marketing was discontinued.
from A History of the Carrisa Plains, Compil ... , 1959 pdf

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Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
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Andrew Brandon
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Andrew Brandon » Thu May 24, 2012 10:07 am

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Brian Norden
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Brian Norden » Fri May 25, 2012 12:32 am

Thank you for the location. How that I think about it, Huell Howser did a program about this area.

The World War I era was one when a number of resources were briefly developed because of either limited access due to the European conflict or our later increased need. Once the emergency was over the resource development ended.
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Ed Weldon
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Ed Weldon » Sun May 27, 2012 12:12 am

The Hunt For Narrow Gauge on the Carrizo Plain
Last two evenings I've been searching and finding the occasional mining journal entry about the mining operations at Soda lake between 1905 and 1919. Also been studying Google Earth images of Soda Lake looking for imaged artifacts of any kind of sodium sulphate extraction activity that might connect with the journal entries.
Carrizo Plain Soda Lake Google Earth view-e.jpg
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/33623442 ... google.com
shows some pits dug just off Simmler Rd (displayed on GE as "Sirnler Ln"). Donald E. Garrett's book "Sodium Sulphate" in the "Soda Lake" section mentions "The digging of numerous small pits did not encounter deposits of mirabolite" (a hydrate mineral of sodium sulphate).
Soda Lake Sirnler rd excavation pit area-e.jpg
What's interesting here is that Simmler Rd follows a rise in the terrain about 1/4 mile wide that essentially dams the southeast end of the main Soda Lake from a lower roughly 300 acre playa roughly shaped like a lima bean, This dirt road has two fairly straight tangents along that rise. GE image shows a close track that is generally even straighter than the Simmler road separated by 40-50 feet and at one point toward the north end passing right next to the above mentioned pits. I'm not ready to call that "track" a railroad bed but if I were doing an on-site investigation I'd sure study it with that in mind.
Now this work was done likely in the 1910 to 1919 period and heavy trucks were in common use. Why would anyone drag railroad equipment to that remote location to simply load the product into trucks for the trip over the mountain to 26 miles to the McKittrick railhead or 40 miles down the valley to the railhead at Hazelton (several miles south of Maricopa)?
The clue to the answer may lie in comments from the modern birdwatcher community who visit the Carrizo plain area and detail locations their favorite bird sighting locations. Turns out that the winter rains leave many of the unmaintained dirt roads in the vicinity of Soda Lake impassable for long periods of time.
The San Andreas Fault runs through that area and geologists suggest that Soda Lake actually formed in fairly recent times as a result of local earthquake caused uplifts in the valley surface cutting off the earlier southward drainage. The fold in the land that carries Simmler Rd is about 40 feet above the adjacent Soda Lake bed to the west and 60 feet above the 300 acre playa to the east. But given the possibility that is was once a clay lakebed folded by a quake above it's surroundings it's reasonable to expect very soft ground for truck travel on Simmler rd most of the year. So a small gauge light railroad leading some 2 miles to the higher ground west of the lake would allow extraction operations for a much longer period of the year.
Also I note that mention of Ranger personnel finding spikes without reference to where (for obvious reasons) is a pretty strong piece of evidence. The general info on the Carrizo Plain National Monument mentions a narrow gauge railroad. (Can't remember exactly but I think it may say so on their web page)
If my guess that the railroad was in the Simmler Rd location there would have been some truck transfer loading activity at the Soda Lake Road end. But where? I studied the GE image for a long time and didn't see any indication of an artifact on the ground. But given the relatively small scale of Consolidated Chemical's operation it's entirely possible that no permanent structures with concrete foundations were needed at the site. Little more than a few small frame shelters on wood post foundations quite adequate for that dry climate to protect equipment and maintain a steam shovel. In other words little more than a construction site and just as ephemeral.
Soda Lake circular feature locations-e.jpg
One other interesting finding is two circular features at the other end of the lake on nearby dry ground about 1800 feet south of the high tension power lines Each looks like about 50 feet in diameter; but they are very hazy in the GE image. A 1916 mining journal mentions the following: "Consolidated Chemical has a plant at Dry Lake (another name for Soda Lake) for evaporating the saline water and recovering the solid salt. There are several large open tanks and a windmill as well as other equipment; the original expenditure having been about $25,000."
This location is about 2000 feet off Soda Lake road; but nearby high ground for trucks is maybe half that. Still no other artifacts are visible on GE. It would be interesting to know how stable the dry land soil is in that area. But again the loading of dry "salt" from ponds to trucks could have been with wagons and mule teams if motor vehicles couldn't operate. Or perhaps the evaporation tanks were nearer the road and the windmill pump was large enough to lift the brine through some distance to drying tanks close to the road. Again a $25K investment did not likely involve any permanent structures and the kind of concrete construction that can leave its mark on this dry land for generations.
So who is going to make an expedition to the Carrizo Plain when it cools off in the Fall before the first rains of November? I think some on site investigation would produce interesting results. …………………. Ed Weldon

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Andrew Brandon
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Andrew Brandon » Tue May 29, 2012 7:59 am

Ed,

I am interested in exploring the area around that time, I am free most weekends. I've got a few events between now and then which might disrupt my ability to make it down, but I'll keep you informed as the time approaches.

In the coming weeks I am going to be visiting the State Archives again and I'll see if I can dig up some information on this operation while there.
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Ed Weldon
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by Ed Weldon » Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:19 pm

Andrew -- Looks like an informal exploration at Soda Lake in the late October-early November time frame might be neat outing. Early November often brings in a rain storm to the desert; so we have to watch the weather.
I'm an experienced desert camper and a fairly capable camp cook if you or others are up to that. Otherwise McKittrick is about a 60 minute drive away from the lake given that it may be slow going off the paved roads. And being Oil Patch territory there's bound to be some kind of "rent a room" there.
I want to research the Carrizo Plain National Monument schedules to know for sure about access. Indications are that the staffing disappears part of the year and they hang up a bunch of "closed" signs. I have a possible conflict on the weekend of Nov 10-11. Will know for sure on Oct.10 or maybe sooner if Bonneville World Finals on Oct 3-6 get's rained out.
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elminero67
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Re: Carrizo Plain Narrow Gauge

Post by elminero67 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:32 pm

Im not familiar with the resources available in CA, but if there is a LIDAR layer covering the area it would be hugely helpful-as an archeologist it has pretty much revolutionized how we do field research as it shows things that are not visible in aerial photography.

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