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The Cement Plant at Monolith CA and its Railroad

North American Narrow Gauge; West of the Rockies (including Canada; Mexico).

The Cement Plant at Monolith CA and its Railroad

Postby Randy Hees » Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:59 pm

We are trying something different. Previewing a railroad entry here on the forum for review (and in search of additional information or photos) before posting it to the curated side of the site. Our test project is the Cement Plant at Monolith... Prompted when Andrew acquired 4 photos of the operation which are now posted in the gallery.

The post will be in three parts... part 1 will concern the early years as the Los Angeles Municipal Cement Mill, part 2 will cover the later years as Monolith Portland Cement. (these will each be posted as their own tab under Railroads/California/Industrial) and part 3 which will be a PDF with rolling stock information for the life of the line, under both owners.

Part 1 and 2 will share a "basic information box" and both will have all sources (except the sources specifically used for the rolling stock information sheet, things like Plymouth and Vulcan builder's lists, and catalogs.)

We hope this makes sense and are looking for comments...

Thanks Randy
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
Randy Hees
 
Posts: 456
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Part 1 - The Los Angeles Municipal Cement Mill

Postby Randy Hees » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:06 pm

Originally the Los Angeles Municipal Cement Mill – 1906-1921
To U.S. Potash - July 1921
To Monolith Portland Cement Company - February 1922
Railroad operations end 1973
To Calaveras Cement, 1986
To Lehigh Cement 1995, Now Lehigh Southwest Cement.

3’ gauge quarry and haul railroads associated with the Monolith Cement plant
1908-1973
35 lb rail initially, 60 lb at end of operations
Originally 5.25 miles long, with .25 mile long branch to clay pit
At end of operations, mainline – 3 miles, quarry – 1 mile

Part 1 - The Los Angeles Municipal Cement Mill

The cement plant at Monolith was built by the City of Los Angeles to supply cement for the Owens Valley Aqueduct. Construction on the plant and an adjacent “company town” was started in 1906, with production beginning in 1908. It was originally the Municipal Cement Plant of the City of Los Angeles, with the location originally being named Sullivan, for the SP owned siding nearby, becoming Aqueduct when a depot was constructed in 1908, and being renamed Monolith in 1909. (The name Monolith came from the limestone outcrops being mined, which were described as “being as large as monolithic boulders”).

At the time this cement plant was built, the cement industry was controlled by a trust, which tried to control the industry via patent holdings, dividing the country in to exclusive territories among the members, and maintaining prices at artificially high levels. The construction of a government owned cement plant, while not unique (a plant was built by the U. S. Reclamation Services to support the construction of the Roosevelt Dam in Arizona) was quite controversial, and many of the contemporary articles are filled with statements by industry experts claiming the cement produced here was more expensive than could be purchased on the open market, and was of lesser quality, while City reports include test data and discussions of costs per barrel produced, with and without depreciation on the physical plant. In retrospect, it appears that the plant saved the City a significant amount of money, less so in per barrel savings, but more so by creating a more competitive cement market.

The plant ceased operations in 1915, two years after the completion of the aqueduct in 1913. A few years later it was leased to Los Angeles County in a controversial transaction. In July 1921 the plant was first sold to U.S. Potash, then the following year, transferred to the newly organized Monolith Portland Cement Company. (1)

Originally the limestone was quarried at “South Quarry” located directly south of the town of Tehachapi, south-west of the cement plant. The City of Los Angeles started construction of a 5 1/4 mile quarry railroad in the summer of 1908, completing it in December. This line passed under the Southern Pacific Railroad, then headed south-west from the plant, serving a bunker, which in turn was connected to the quarry by a 4,700’ long aerial tramway. The line was constructed with 35 lb rail on 21,000 redwood ties. It included a 5% grade near the bunker. It was initially operated with a single steam locomotive, but two additional engines were soon added.

In the spring of 1912 the they found that they had exhausted the supply of limestone at the original quarry, and a new quarry was opened three miles north west of the plant, on Cuddeback Ridge (2) . The quarry railroad was torn up and re-laid to the new quarry. This new line initially paralleled the SP/ATSF line westward, then turned north-west climbing Cuddeback Ridge on a 6% grade. This would eventually become known as the “mainline” serving both the main quarry, but also clay fields and other minor limestone quarries via several branches. It appears that initially the main line directly served the quarries, ending on temporary track which would be shifted as needed, with the cars being directly loaded by steam shovels, later electric shovels. Eventually this evolved into two separate railroad systems, one in the quarry, hauling limestone to the crusher at the tipple, with the mainline hauling the now crushed lime to the plant.

The plant also used clay, initially mined near to the plant, and tufa, a volcanic rock that when crushed could be added to cement. In 1908 the railroad was extended a quarter mile to a near by tufa quarry (3), and in later years the mainline was extended to serve a clay pit on the ridge near the main quarry.

1) Building and Engineering News, Feb 25, 1922.
2) Cuddeback Ridge is also found spelled Cuddleback Ridge in some sources. The name comes from John Cuddeback a local rancher who sold the property to the City, and that is the spelling used by the City of Los Angeles in their reports.
3) Third Annual Report of the Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, 1908 p.48

Sources

In print
Gary G Allen, Narrow Gauge in the Tehachapis, Pacific News, November, 1974, No 157, Volume 14, No 11 (the entire issue is available on line on Train Life, the article starts on page 10)
February 1973 RAILROAD MODELER magazine (need to locate a copy)

For the roster,
R. H. Lehmuth, Fate-Root-Heath Co, Plymouth Locomotive, 1914-2002, (a list of locomotives built) by author, 2015
Taplines, Locomotive Data (CD)

On line
Western Machinery and Steel World, Vol 8, p 47, Feb 1917 The Municipal Cement Plant of the City of Los Angeles (via Google)
Architect and Engineer, Vol 57, 58, 1919p 119, 120, Has the Los Angeles Cement Plant Been An Economic Success? (via Google)
Building and Engineering News, Feb 25, 1922 Monolith Cement Plant Now Controled by New Interests, (via Google)
Complete Report on Construction of the Owens Valley Aqueduct, City of Los Angeles, 1916, at the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society web site (as a PDF, very large file)
First Annual Report of the Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct to the Board of Public Works 1907 (via Google Books)
Third Annual Report of the Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct to the Board of Public Works, 1908 (via Google Books)

Significant Photo Collections

Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power photographs, hosted by the Los Angeles public library - http://www.lapl.org/collections-resourc ... to-archive

A gallery of photos at http://www.drwilliams.org/iDoc/monolithgallery1/

Insert link to PacificNG gallery for Monolith

Thanks, Randy... on to part 2...
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
Randy Hees
 
Posts: 456
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Part 2, Monolith Portland Cement Railroad

Postby Randy Hees » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:11 pm

Part 2 -Monolith Portland Cement

Originally the Los Angeles Municipal Cement Mill – 1906-1921
To U.S. Potash - July 1921
To Monolith Portland Cement Company - February 1922
Railroad operations end 1973
To Calaveras Cement, 1986
To Lehigh Cement 1995, Now Lehigh Southwest Cement.

3’ gauge quarry and haul railroads associated with the Monolith Cement plant
1908-1973
35 lb rail initially, 60 lb at end of operations
Originally 5.25 miles long, with .25 mile long branch to clay pit
At end of operations, mainline – 3 miles, quarry – 1 mile

The Los Angeles Municipal Cement Mill (see part 1) was first sold to U.S. Potash (in 1921), then the following year, transferred to the newly organized Monolith Portland Cement Company. (4)

Within 6 months of purchasing the plant, the newly formed Monolith Portland Cement purchased the first internal combustion locomotive for the railroad, a 7 ton, friction drive Plymouth BL. It was followed within a year by a second Plymouth, this time a 7 ton mechanical drive DL. It is believed that both of these locomotives were used exclusively in the quarries, or to dump waste dirt from the crusher. The addition of locomotive No 7, a 30 ton Plymouth model WL for use on the mainline in 1929 lead to the retirement of the steam locomotives. Originally the quarry and main line were connected, but eventually that steep connecting line was removed, and a separate repair shop was established for the quarry equipment.

In 1936, a quarry operation was substantially changed, when an underground operation serving the “Jameson” quarry was added. This included a 200 yard long tunnel to the underground quarry, with two electric locomotives used. It is reported that the original plans called for the electric line to loop around and serve the crusher directly this was never built. Instead one of the “quarry” Plymouths would haul the quarry cars from the mouth of the tunnel to the crusher.

Over the years, the operation converted from bottom dump cars to rotary dump cars. The last significant upgrade to the railroad was the purchase of 28 new 7-ton rock cars built by Easton Car Company for the quarry division. These cars had roller bearings and conventional knuckle couplers. The main line continued to use the older 10 ton cars with link and pin drawheads through the end of railroad operations.

The electrified quarry operation was shut down in July 1972, and was replaced by trucks. Plymouth No 14 continued in service in the quarry to move waste dirt from the crusher. The mainline would operate into 1973, as a new conveyer system was built paralleling the railroad. Regular railroad operations ended on January 13th 1973. There was one final run, a special train for the local high school’s journalism class in early February.
The end of railroad operations occurred as the “company” town of Monolith was shut down and abandoned along with the general store, the post office and the SP depot. Most of the population moved to the nearby town of Tehachapi.

In 1975, after the close of railroad operations, some of the railroad equipment was sold to Magic Mountain to be re-purposed as the “Grand Centennial Railroad Excursion” ride. That ride was removed in 1985.

The plant continues to operate today, abet much modernized. It has been immortalized in song by John Fahey, in his 1964 song, The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, California.

4) Building and Engineering News, Feb 25, 1922.

See part 1 for list of sources and photographs

Randy
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
Randy Hees
 
Posts: 456
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Part 3, the equipment of the Cement Plant at Monolith CA

Postby Randy Hees » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:17 pm

Monolith Portland Cement

Locomotives

No 1, 2, 3, small steam locomotives purchased by City of Los Angeles,
likely built by Vulcan (PA), all 0-4-0 tank engines.
Steam operations ended by 1930.
(note, we have a Vulcan Locomotive list, but it is currently unavailable. We plan to include additional information on the steam locomotives before it is posted to the site)

No 4, Plymouth, model BL-2 c/n 1301, 8/1922, 14,000 lbs, believed used in quarry
Buta BTU, friction drive, Rebuilt and renumbered 14

No 5, Plymouth, model DL 1376, 1/1923, 14,000 lbs, believed used in quarry
Buta BTU, mechanical/chain drive, Rebuilt and renumbered 15

No 6, Plymouth, model JLC-2, c/n 2529, 2/1927, 24,000 lbs, used at quarry?
equipped with 6, Cylinder, Climax R6U gas engine

No 7, Plymouth, model WL-2, c/n 3148, 3/1929, 60,000 lbs, used as spare/mainline
Nicknamed Grandma for its slow speed. May have been numbered 1 originally
Only mainline locomotive from 1929 to 1948, later rebuilt and converted to propane
Retired in 1948, but initially retained as the backup locomotive
Sold to a “private party” in the early 1970’s

No 8, General Electric, Electric mining, c/n 7710, 3/1919, 12,000 lbs, used in quarry
purchased used in 1936 from Southern California Edison

No 9, Baldwin, Electric mining, c/n 55254, 1/1922, 20,000 lbs, used in quarry
purchased used in 1936 from Southern California Edison

No 10, Plymouth model JLA, c/n unknown, 20,000 lb, used in quarry
apparently purchased used, after 1936

No 11, GE 25 ton end cab Diesel/electric, c/n 29369, 4/1948, 50,000 lbs, used on mainline
150 hp, had less tractive effort than No 12, so was generally used for maintenance or as the back-up locomotive.

No 12, Plymouth c/n 5353, model WLC, built 5/7/1947, 70,000 lbs, primary mainline engine
three axle, Caterpillar D17000 engine, 35 ton, to Magic Mountain c.1972

No 14, Formerly No 4, heavily rebuilt, used in quarry

No 15, Formerly No 5, heavily rebuilt, used in quarry

Cars

Early photos (before 1930) show a mix of gable bottom and flat bottom cars with side doors

On hand at end of operations, January 13, 1973 as reported by Gary Allen)

28 - Easton Car & Construction, 7-ton rock cars
4 wheel, “V” bottom, tip cars
equipped with knuckle couplers and roller bearings – used in quarry
3 - Reject cars – 5-ton capacity, used in quarry
1 - hand pushed flat car for clean-up
66 - 10-ton rock cars, 4 wheel, square body, rotary dump
Equipped with link and pin draw heads, used on the main line
1 - Snow plow, numbered 36
Built on an old dump car frame, filled with weights

Thanks, Randy
p/s... comments, addtional information and photographs requested.. but note this is a draft, and the forum does not support all the formatting and linking we use in the individual railroad histories....
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
Randy Hees
 
Posts: 456
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm


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