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Guide to the Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad Collection, 1886-1988
MS 605  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Indexing Terms
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Related Collections
  • Separated Material
  • Organizational History
  • Chronology

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1886-1988 (bulk 1900-1965)
    Collection number: MS 605
    Creator: Sierra Railway and Sierra Railroad
    Extent: 413 linear feet (238 document boxes, 26 oversize flat boxes, and 120 records cartons)
    Repository: California State Railroad Museum Library
    Sacramento, California 95814
    Shelf location: Housed off-site. Please contact the Library in advance of your visit.
    Abstract: The Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad Collection contains financial materials, administrative records, correspondence, engineering and shop records, and legal records pertaining to Sierra Railroad operations. Records of other organizations such as the Jamestown Improvement Company, Nevills Hotel, Sierra Telegraph and Telephone Company, Sugar Pine Railway, and the Yosemite Short Line Railway are also included in this collection. In addition, the collection contains research materials belonging to Richard Rosenquist which relate to his unpublished book, Railroad Transplant. The records in this collection cover the years 1886 to 1988 with the bulk of the records pertaining to the years 1900-1965.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Access to documents in Series 10. Fire Damaged Records may be restricted because of condition. Please contact the Library staff in advance of your visit for more information.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the California State Railroad Museum. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Chief Curator. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the CSRM as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the writer.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad Collection, MS 605, California State Railroad Museum Library, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Sierra Railroad, Richard Rosenquist, Wendell P. Hammon, and Terry Bruns.

    Processing History

    Processed by History Associates Incorporated, 2003. Funded by a California Department of Parks and Recreation Cultural Stewardship grant, 2002-2003.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects

    • Jamestown Improvement Company--Archival resources.
    • Nevills Hotel (Jamestown, Calif.)--Archival resources.
    • Pickering Lumber Company--Archival resources.
    • Sierra Railroad Company--Archival resources.
    • Sierra Railway Company--Archival resources.
    • Sierra Railway Company of California--Archival resources.
    • Sugar Pine Railway Company--Archival resources.
    • Yosemite Short Line Railway--Archival resources.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    • Correspondence.
    • CD-ROMs.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    The Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad Collection contains financial materials, administrative records, correspondence, engineering and shop records, and legal records pertaining to Sierra Railroad operations. Records of other organizations such as the Jamestown Improvement Company, Nevills Hotel, Sierra Telegraph and Telephone Company, Sugar Pine Railway, and the Yosemite Short Line Railway are also included in this collection. In addition, the collection contains research materials belonging to Richard Rosenquist which relate to his unpublished book, Railroad Transplant. The records in this collection cover the years 1886 to 1988 with the bulk of the records ranging from 1900-1965.
    The largest series in this collection is series 1. Financial Records. Much of this series consists of Sierra Railroad vouchers dating from 1900-1971. The series also includes a small sampling of vouchers from the early years of the Sierra Railway. The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, holds most of the early Sierra Railway vouchers as well as other records documenting the first six years of its construction and operation.
    Some of the records in this collection were damaged during the 1978 Jamestown station fire. As a result, the damaged records are housed separately in series 10. Fire Damaged Records, for preservation purposes and to facilitate possible future photocopying. For series 1 through 8 in the collection, there are mirror subseries of fire damaged records in series 10. Researchers interested in records from series 1 through 8 should also check series 10 for additional records. Access to fire damaged documents in series 10 may be restricted depending upon the condition of the requested records.
    For some of the companies affiliated with Sierra Railroad, records are dispersed into several different series depending on the type of record and its originating department. For example, Jamestown Improvement Company records may be found in series 6. Jamestown Improvement Co. Records; in series 10. Fire Damaged Records, subseries 6. Jamestown Improvement Co. Records; and also in Sierra Railroad legal records in series 5 and series 10.5.
    Other companies affiliated with Sierra Railroad are the West Side Lumber Company and the Standard Lumber Company, which were consolidated into the Pickering Lumber Company. West Side Lumber Company records may be found in series 1, 5, 10.1, 10.2 and 10.5. Records of Standard Lumber Company are located in series 1 and 5. Pickering Lumber Company Records are located in series 5, series 7, and 10.8.
    Records within each folder are arranged in reverse chronological order, which is the original order. Oversize materials are located in oversize boxes 237-262.
    This collection consists of ten series:
    • Series 1. Financial Records, 1897-1971. 336.4 linear ft.
    • Series 2. Administrative Records, 1908-1970. 5.2 linear ft.
    • Series 3. Correspondence, 1897-1964. 2.4 linear ft.
    • Series 4. Engineering and Shop Records, 1903-1966. 39.2 linear ft.
    • Series 5. Legal Records, 1895-1977. 3.2 linear ft.
    • Series 6. Jamestown Improvement Company Records, 1905-1923. 0.4 linear ft.
    • Series 7. Sugar Pine Railway and Pickering Lumber Company Records, 1903-1963. 0.4 linear ft.
    • Series 8. Yosemite Short Line Railway Records, 1905-1917. 0.1 linear ft.
    • Series 9. Richard Rosenquist Papers, 1886-1988. 0.8 linear ft.
    • Series 10. Fire Damaged Records, 1896-1961. 24.9 linear ft.

    Related Collections

    In addition to manuscript material, the California State Railroad Museum Library also has photograph, drawing, map, timetable, report, and ephemeral collections related to the Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad. Please consult the Library for details.

    Separated Material

    Drawings, maps, photographs, published works, tickets, timetables, annual reports, and postcards were removed from the Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad Collection during processing and have been added to our other collections of Sierra Railway / Sierra Railroad material.

    Organizational History

    The Sierra Railway Company of California was incorporated on February 1, 1897, by Thomas S. Bullock, William H. Crocker, and Prince AndrÈ Poniatowski. The articles of incorporation were signed by the company's five stockholders: John M. Bonner, Sidney D. Freshman, Charles Gross, James Henry, and Edmund E. Simpson. Original plans for the railroad called for approximately 125 miles of rail from Oakdale to Sonora station to branches in Coulterville in Mariposa County and Jackson in Amador County. However, the line as finally constructed was significantly shorter, extending approximately 56 miles from Oakdale in Stanislaus County to Tuolumne in Tuolumne County, with an additional 20-mile branch connecting Jamestown with Angels Camp in Calaveras County. The original line was constructed in part with materials salvaged from Thomas S. Bullock's Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad.
    The Sierra Railway began operations in June 1897 and during its first year secured freight customers and contracts to transport U.S. mail, began transporting passengers, and established relationships with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and stage lines. However, construction of the railroad was the principal concern during the company's early years. Initially, trains involved in construction activity had the right of way over revenue trains on the railroad's single-track line. Early operations began with three locomotives, two passenger coaches, and fifteen freight cars, some transferred from Thomas S. Bullock's Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad.
    During the first few months of business, the Sierra Railway's general office occupied facilities shared with the Southern Pacific Company at Oakdale. In 1897, the Jamestown Improvement Company was incorporated to develop the Jamestown site near the facilities and by March of 1898, the Sierra Railway general office moved to Jamestown. That same year the Hotel Nevills, developed as a property of the Jamestown Improvement Company by W. A. Nevills, Thomas S. Bullock, and Prince AndrÈ Poniatowski, opened in Jamestown and was used for the railroad's passenger, baggage, and Wells Fargo offices. The hotel also provided temporary lodging for travelers and served as a permanent residence for Sierra Railway employees until the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1915.
    Before reaching Jamestown in November 1897, the Sierra Cooperstown line was opened and the Chinese station was established, which was named for the nearby settlement of Chinese workers. In 1898, Sierra Railway arrived in Sonora. That same year, Sierra began building the line to Angels Camp which was situated near one of the most extensive gold-bearing quartz veins ever discovered in California's Mother Lode region. The line served gold mines at Stickle, Utica, Lightner, Angels, Melches, Carson Hill and Sultana.
    Sierra Railway attempted to build a line into Yosemite beginning in 1905, when it entered into a contract with the newly incorporated narrow gauge Yosemite Short Line Railway Company. In the contract, Sierra agreed to guarantee the bonds of the Yosemite Short Line Railway Company in exchange for leasing and operating the railway upon its completion. However, construction of the Yosemite Short Line was discontinued because of financial problems resulting from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and the last rails of the line were taken up in 1917. Part of the Yosemite Short Line right of way was later used during the Hetch Hetchy project.
    The Yosemite Short Line was Thomas S. Bullock's third attempt to reach the Yosemite Valley by rail. His first attempt was the Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite Valley Railroad which was controlled by the West Side Flume & Lumber Company (later reorganized as West Side Lumber Company). Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite Valley Railroad was absorbed by West Side Lumber Company in 1903. Bullock's second attempt ended in 1905, when the National Park Commission refused permission for the recently incorporated Jamestown and Yosemite Railroad to enter the national park.
    The industries that the Sierra Railway primarily served were mining, lumber, and agriculture. The railroad depended on generating income through the transportation of products, machinery, and supplies necessary to these industries. Like most railroads, Sierra's passenger and mail service revenue never equaled freight earnings.
    By the 1920s, as gold mining became increasingly more expensive and profit margins narrowed, Sierra's profits and traffic from this industry likewise began to decrease. The impact of World War I on the local lumber and mining industries also adversely affected Sierra's operations. In addition, the trucking industry began competing for Sierra's freight hauling business prompting the Sierra to establish its own truck line in 1928.
    During the 1930s both the Warnerville and Cooperstown stations closed. The Sierra's earnings could not keep up with required bond payments and operating expenses. Consequently, Sierra Railway Company of California was forced into receivership under Charles H. Segerstrom. Following a period of reorganization, the Sierra Railroad Company was incorporated in 1935. The Angels Branch was abandoned in 1935 and in 1938 passenger operations ceased.
    Known as "The Movie Railroad," the Sierra's income had been supplemented by the film industry since 1919 when the railroad was used in "The Red Glove." Other films shot on the Sierra from the 1920s to the 1980s were, "High Noon," "The Virginian," "Unforgiven," "Pale Rider," and "Back to the Future Part III."
    In 1971 the owners of Sierra Railroad opened the Jamestown complex to the public as "Rail Town 1897." Almost a decade later, the Sierra Railroad Company was sold to Silverfoot, Inc.; however, the Jamestown complex, steam locomotives, and other historical items were not included in the sale. After Silverfoot took possession of the railroad, the California Department of Parks and Recreation purchased the Jamestown facilities, opened in 1982 as Rail Town 1897 State Historic Park. As part of the agreement, all of the equipment, including the steam locomotives, and cars were donated to the state. Train operations were by a concessionaire. In 1992, Rail Town 1897 SHP was put under the administration of the California State Railroad Museum and in 1996, Rail Town 1897 celebrated its grand reopening under the direct operation of the California State Railroad Museum and the California State Railroad Museum Foundation.
    The Sierra Railroad Company changed hands again in 1995 when it was purchased by Sierra Pacific Coast Railway, Inc. In a corporate realignment it was transferred to Coast Enterprises later that same year.
    Information for the Organizational History was obtained from Railroad Transplant by Richard Rosenquist (1988) and Sierra Railway and Sierra Railroad Historical Chronology by Curt Bianchi (1996).

    Chronology

    1897 Thomas S. Bullock, his West Coast Construction Company, and Anglo Pacific Syndicate sign a memorandum of agreement to construct the Sierra Railway.
    1897 Sierra Railway Company of California is incorporated by Thomas S. Bullock, William H. Crocker, and Prince AndrÈ Poniatowski.
    1897 Sierra Railway's Cooperstown line opens.
    1897 Sierra Railway tracks reach Don Pedro, but the depot closes later that same year.
    1897 Thomas S. Bullock signs an option agreement on 25 acres of land that is part of the Periera Ranch to be used for a railroad station at Jamestown with another 140 acres to be set aside for development of a town site.
    1897 Sierra Railway reaches Jamestown.
    ca. 1897 Jamestown Improvement Company is incorporated.
    1898 Sierra Railway's offices are transferred from Oakdale to Jamestown.
    1898 Hotel Nevills opens, where Sierra Railway's passenger, baggage, and Wells Fargo offices are located.
    1898 First annual meeting of the Sierra Railway Company is held in San Francisco.
    1899 West Side Flume & Lumber Company is acquired by William H. Crocker, his cousin Henry Crocker, Thomas S. Bullock and AndrÈ Poniatowski.
    1900 First train reaches Tuolumne City.
    1900 Sierra Railway prepares to convert its locomotives to oil fuel.
    1900 West Side Flume & Lumber Company's Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite Valley Railway Company of California is incorporated as a common carrier.
    1901 Standard Lumber Company is incorporated.
    1901 T. S. Bullock sells his interest in West Side Flume & Lumber Company and joins the Standard Lumber Company as president.
    1902 West Side Flume & Lumber Company is reorganized and the official name changes to the West Side Lumber Company.
    1902 Angels Branch reaches Carson Hill and later the same year reaches Angels Camp.
    1903 The Crockers and Poniatowski sell their interests in the West Side to Eastern lumbermen.
    1903 Standard Lumber Company incorporates the Sugar Pine Railway, which is originally intended to be a narrow gauge railroad, but changes to standard gauge.
    1903 Poniatowski returns to France. T. S. Bullock becomes president of Sierra Railway.
    1904 Sierra Railway Company's board of directors resolves to lease the Sugar Pine Railway.
    1904 Jamestown & Yosemite Railway, a failed precursor to the Yosemite Short Line Railway is incorporated.
    1905 Yosemite Short Line Railway Company is incorporated and construction began. It is built as a narrow gauge railroad.
    1905 Sierra Railway Company enters into a contract with the Yosemite Short Line Railway Company where Sierra agrees to guarantee the bonds of the Yosemite Short Line. In exchange, the Yosemite Short Line is to be leased and operated by the Sierra upon its completion.
    1906 San Francisco earthquake. Construction of the Yosemite Short Line is discontinued.
    1906 Empire City Railway is constructed by Standard Lumber Company using Yosemite Short Line equipment and materials.
    1910 Original Jamestown roundhouse burns to the ground and is rebuilt.
    1913 Original Jamestown general office building burns to the ground and is rebuilt.
    1913 Standard Lumber Company moves Cold Springs mill to Standard City.
    1914 Sierra Railway Company starts daily "automobile service" carrying passengers from Chinese to Yosemite.
    1915 Hotel Nevills burns to the ground.
    1916 Mr. H. L. T. Skinner is elected president of the Sierra Railway.
    1916-1917 Construction of the Hetch Hetchy dam.
    1917 Sierra takes up the last of the Yosemite Short Line rails.
    1918 Sugar Pine Railway is leased to Standard Lumber Company, the railroad's owners, who take over direct operation of the line.
    1919 First known filming on the Sierra, when producers of the Universal silent serial "The Red Glove" arrange to use the regular passenger train for a train robbery scene.
    1919 Standard Lumber Company and its Sugar Pine Railroad are saved from foreclosure by a bank loan.
    1919 T.S. Bullock dies in May.
    1919 William R. Pickering acquires control of the Standard Lumber Company.
    1920s Sierra's main line stations - Arnold, Paulsell, Keystone, and Black Oak are retired as passenger stops.
    1921 California Railroad Commission allows Standard Lumber Company to drop the common carrier status of the Sugar Pine Railway.
    1921 Standard Lumber Company and its Sugar Pine Railway are sold to the Pickering Lumber Company.
    1921 Sierra's eight-mile spur to Don Pedro Dam site is completed.
    1921 Jamestown shops are upgraded. Two stalls are added to the roundhouse, the gasoline vehicle shop and oil storage room are constructed, and a new 56-foot turntable is installed.
    1923 Construction of Don Pedro Dam and Hetch Hetchy Dam is completed.
    1925 Melones Dam project begins.
    1925 West Side Lumber Company is sold to the Pickering Lumber Company.
    1926 West Side and Standard Lumber Companies consolidate to form the Pickering Lumber Company.
    1929 Melones Dam project is completed.
    1929 "The Virginian," filmed on the Sierra, is the first sound movie filmed outside a sound stage.
    1930s Warnerville station closes.
    1930s Railway Express Agency stops operation to Tuolumne City.
    1930s End of full-time express messenger service.
    1930 During the Great Depression, Pickering is forced to close the West Side mill and lumber operations and is bankrupted.
    1930 "The Texan" films on the Sierra.
    1931 Cooperstown station closes.
    1932 Bondholders force the Sierra into receivership under Charles H. Segerstrom.
    1934 Interstate Commerce Commission approves the Sierra's request to operate the Hetch Hetchy Railroad under lease and trackage rights.
    1934 Pickering loses the West Side Lumber Company to its previous owners who foreclose on a note.
    1935 Sierra operates its last revenue train on the Angels Branch.
    1935 Sierra starts operating trains on the Hetch Hetchy Railroad after being awarded a contract with the City of San Francisco to haul equipment and materials for the raising of the Hetch Hetchy Dam.
    1935 West Side sawmill resumes operations after a four and a half-year shutdown.
    1935 Sierra Railroad Company is formally incorporated as the bondholdersí first step in reorganizing the bankrupt Sierra Railway Company of California.
    1935 Last rails are taken up on the abandoned Angels Branch.
    1936 A judgement and foreclosure of mortgage debt is secured by the Sierra Railway's bondholders in Tuolumne County superior court. The mortgage was first granted in 1897 for about $1 million and had been partially paid down, but the outstanding sum of approximately $700,000 still stands.
    1936 Fire destroys the Sierra's Black Oak depot, part of the Draper Trestle, and some West Side and Pickering property.
    1937 All properties, rights of way and franchises of the Sierra Railway Company of California are sold at public auction to the Sierra Railroad Company for $360,000.
    1937 Pickering Lumber Corporation is incorporated in Delaware for the purpose of acquiring the property of the Pickering Lumber Company. Operations resume at Standard.
    1938 California Railroad Commission Decision No. 31116 authorizes the end of Sierra Railroad rail passenger service.
    1938 Effective September 1, Sierra announces new mail service utilizing buses.
    1938 Sierra establishes connecting passenger service to Stockton by bus to replace passenger train service.
    1939 "Dodge City" starring Errol Flynn films on the Sierra.
    1940 "My Little Chickadee" starring W. C. Fields and Mae West films on the Sierra.
    1942 Sierra sells bus service to Greyhound.
    1943 West Side's Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite Valleys Railroad dissolves.
    1943 Pickering's Standard mill is destroyed by fire and construction on a new mill begins.
    1946 "Duel in the Sun" starring Gregory Peck films on the Sierra.
    1946 Sonora passenger depot burns down.
    1947 Pickering's new Standard mill begins operation.
    1952 Sierra purchases its last (and largest) steam locomotive No. 38 from Weyerhaeuser Corp.
    1952 "High Noon" starring Gary Cooper films on the Sierra.
    1958 Pickering Lumber Corporation reacquires West Side Lumber.
    1960 West Side operates its last log train.
    1963 Locomotive derails and nearly tips over while backing out of the Jamestown yard with an excursion train. As a result the Sierra Railroad Board of Directors abolishes passenger train operations.
    1964 Fibreboard Paper Products purchases Pickering Lumber Company.
    1966 Sierra's general offices move to the remodeled Sonora freight station.
    1969 Fibreboard Paper Products sponsors first passenger train on the Sierra Railroad since 1963 for a trip by the Boy Scouts of America from Jamestown to Sonora.
    1971 Sierra's owners, Crocker Associates, opens Jamestown complex to the public as "Rail Town 1897." Steam-powered excursions operate once again, lasting throughout the decade.
    1978 Jamestown museum (and former depot) burns to the ground and is not rebuilt.
    1979 Sierra President Charles Crocker announces that the railroad is discontinuing its excursion business.
    1980 Sierra is sold to Silverfoot, Inc., of Chicago. The Jamestown complex, steam locomotives, historic rolling stock, and passenger equipment are not included in the sale.
    1980 Silverfoot, Inc. takes over operation of the Sierra Railroad.
    1980 "The Long Riders" films on the Sierra.
    1982 California Department of Parks and Recreation purchases the Jamestown property for $750,000 from Crocker Associates. The state budgets another $750,000 for improvements and equipment restoration. All of the locomotives and rolling stock, are donated to the state as part of the transaction. Rail Town 1897 State Historic Park is placed under the administration of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
    1983 A dedication ceremony is held celebrating the opening of Rail Town 1897 State Historic Park.
    1983 Excursion train operations by concessionaire begin.
    1985 "Pale Rider" starring Clint Eastwood films on the Sierra.
    1989 "Back to the Future, Part III" films on the Sierra.
    1992 The California State Railroad Museum assumes administration of Rail Town SHP.
    1995 Sierra Pacific Coast Railway, Inc., completes purchase of the Sierra Railroad from Silverfoot, Inc.
    1995 Coast Enterprises, led by SPCR investors Mike Hart and Walt Hoefler, acquires the Sierra Railroad from Sierra Pacific Coast Railway in a corporate realignment.
    1996 Rail Town 1897 celebrates its grand reopening under the operation of the California State Railroad Museum and the California State Railroad Museum Foundation.
    1997 100th anniversary celebration of Sierra at Jamestown with a special train. Participants include descendants of the founders: Charles Crocker, Prince Felipe Poniatowski, and Thomas Bullock.
    2003 Corporate merger of Sierra Railroad and Yolo Short Line.
    Excerpted from Sierra Railway and Sierra Railroad Historical Chronology by Curt Bianchi (1996).