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California \ Bodie & Benton Ry.
Reference Data.
Corporate Ownership.
Bodie Railway & Lumber Co.
Bodie & Benton Railway & Commercial Co.
Bodie Railway & Lumber Co.
Mono Lake Railway & Lumber Co.
Mono Lake Railway

Last Updated: April 10, 2016

Bodie and Benton Railway.

T he Bodie and Benton Railroad brought timber to the gold mining town of Bodie from 1881 through 1918 from the Mono Mills area South East of Mono Lake. Bodie is now a ghost town of course, but lots of vivid stories live on. Bodie had such a bad reputation for its climate, working conditions and rowdy inhabitants that one girl wrote in her diary upon learning of her family's decision to move there: "Good-bye God, I'm going to Bodie." Bodie's population peaked at 10,000 in the year of 1880 and declined to 30 by 1921. The railroad carried timber supplies 31.74 miles from Mono Mills to Bodie Station. Rising in grade 2074 feet to an elevation of 8,500 feet.

By the summer of 1917, the forest was stripped of trees everywhere there were rails in close proximity. It was apparent that the railroad would have to have yet another extension if there were to be any more harvesting. By that time, there were few customers. On September 6, 1917, the California Railroad Commission approved abandonment. Emil Billeb, the railroad company’s last man in charge from 1908 to the end, was awarded the contract to take up the rail and sell it. At its death, the railroad had measured about 38 miles, counting all sidings, and spurs into the woods. Gus Hess, who had served as master mechanic on the railroad for many years, was in charge of the dismantling crews.

Work of dismantling started at the Bodie end of the line in late July 1918. Rails were sent down to Mono Mills to be stacked, loaded on trucks, and shipped out to Benton Station on the Southern Pacific (ex-Carson & Colorado) narrow gauge. By September, all the rail was stripped off the ground, leaving a string of rotting ties to mark the route of a once proud and hopeful little railroad. There were 2300 tons of rail and scrap iron left from cut up rolling stock and locomotives ready to be shipped out of Mono Mills. In Bodie State Park, the depot remains overlooking the town. Down in the valley below the desert sands of the Mono Basin have begun to reclaim the remaining ROW, while Mono Mills reveals scattered remains for the curious observer.

Revised: April 10, 2016.

Reference Material Available Online:


Collected Bodie & Benton Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.


The Route of the Bodie & Benton for Google Earth.
by Craig Hoefer


Bodie Railroad Station, Bodie State Historic Park, Bodie, Mono County, CA.
Historic American Building Survey (HABS CA-1928) from the Library of Congress.

Standard Gold Mill, East of Bodie Creek, Northeast of Bodie, Bodie, Mono County, CA.
Historic American Building Survey (HABS CA-229) from the Library of Congress.

Historic References.

Report of the Conservation Comission, Timber Holdings for 1912.
Report lists the Mono Lake Railroad as having 14,400 acres of timber lands in Mono county. Google Books Icon

Report of the State Forester, 1912.. Review of logging practices in use by the Mono Lake Lumber Co. at this time.
Includes description of logging methods, slash disposal and an image of typical cut-over land. Google Books Icon


Virginia & Truckee Railroad Tonnage Blotter Journal, 1881; pages 26-32 PDF icon 2.6MB
Courtesy: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.
These final pages of this ledger contain blacksmith shop time records for the Bodie and Benton Railway & Lumber Co., including: Two Turntables, Three Smoke Stacks and "Ten New Flat Car Beads & Brakes"

California \ Bodie & Benton Ry.
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