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California \ Empire City Railway

Empire City Railway.

By Lennart Elg.

W hen the Yosemite Short Line project was abandoned in 1906, a team of Japanese workmen were still under contract. The owners decided to move both the workforce and the 30" gauge equipment further north, to construct a 30" gauge railroad which would transport rough cut lumber from the Standard Lumber Co's Empire City and Cold Springs mills to a connection with the standard gauge Sugar Pine Railway at Lyons. From here the lumber would continue on the Sugar Pine Ry. and the Sierra Ry. to finishing plants at Sonora. These included not only a planing mill but also a box factory and a sash & door works.

The Empire City Railway was constructed along the mountain ridge between the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers. An incline at Lyons let loaded cars down to a simple reload facility where bundles of rough-cut lumber were transferred to the Sugar Pine Ry. A second incline was dropped from Stoddard Springs to Brownes Meadow, where the Empire City Mill was located. From here the line continued to the Cold Springs Mill. In addition to carrying rough-cut lumber to Lyons, logs were transported from several loading spurs to the Empire City Mill. The Cold Springs Mill recieved its logs over skid roads.

In 1913 the Empire City mill and a large amount of timber were lost in a fire. Eventually all the mountain mills were closed, along with the Sonora finishing plants, when all milling and finishing was concentrated to a new mill at Standard, California. The Empire City Ry was closed.

Revised: December 21, 2015.

Reference Material Available Online:

Historic References.

Report Of The State Board Of Equalization, 1907 - 1908. Google Books Icon
Assessment of Standard Lumber Company in 1907 and 1908.

Report of the Conservation Comission, Timber Holdings for 1912. Google Books Icon
Report lists the Standard Lumber Company as having 26,080 acres of timber lands in Tuolumne county.

Report of the State Forester, 1912. Google Books Icon
Review of logging practices in use by the Standard Lumber Co. at this time. Includes description of logging methods, slash disposal and recent fires.

Treasure Land - Tuolumne by David H. Walker Jr. Sunset Magazine Vol. 29 Number 2, August 1912. Google Books Icon
Promotional article about Tuolumne county, includes image of Empire City / Sugar Pine Railway transfer yard and incline.

Notice of Dr. Naylor's transfer to Empire Mills. Pacific Medical Journal, October 1912. Google Books Icon


Collected Empire City Railway Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

California \ Empire City Railway
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