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California \ Greenhorn Railroad

Greenhorn Railroad.

Charles W. Kitts Lumber Co.

By Andrew Brandon

Charles W. Kitts began logging Nevada County in the 1870s. He served as the county recorder and was able to purchase 2000 acres of Sugar Pine timberland along Greenhorn Creek. At the junction of Missouri Canyon and the Greenhorn, Kitts constructed his sawmill. John Kidder of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad lent Charles Kitts old rail for a railroad to connect the mill with the NCNG on the north end of the Greenhorn trestle. The 2.5 mile railroad was built along the Greenhorn Creek with only a single crossing.

In the earliest days the railroad did not own any rolling stock of its own, relying on cars from the NCNG. Motive power consisted of a horse team, which pulled the cars up to the mill. Loaded trains then used gravity to reach the junction with the NCNG. Horses were given their own car to ride and accompanied the trains down grade.

When the nearby railroad constructed by Louis Voss shut down, Kitts purchased the equipment and extended the railroad north of the mill over the former wagon roads that brought lumber to the mill. The second hand equipment, including a small vertical boiler steam locomotive operated from the woods down to the mill. Loaded cars continued to move down to the NCNG by way of gravity and horses.

The only recorded accident on the railroad occurred on June 6, 1903. A train consisting of the locomotive and two cars was southbound to Greenhorn Junction when the trestle over the creek collapsed and the train fell 40 feet into the river below. It is not known if the locomotive was rebuilt, or if the company returned to using horse teams in the woods.

The Greenhorn railroad served as one of the largest customers on the former NCNG mainline, which had become the “You Bet Branch” after the 1908 realignment was completed. Kitts continued operating the mill until 1912 and the line was scrapped shortly afterward. The rails and machinery were shipped to You Bet station where it was hauled off for scrap. The Nevada County Narrow Gauge removed the You Bet branch in 1914.

Revised:July 28, 2017
Best, Gerald M. Nevada County Narrow Gauge Heimburger House Publishing Co. 1998
Brown, Juanita. A Tale of Two Cities and A Train Nevada County Historical Society, 1987

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California \ Greenhorn Railroad
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