Desert Railway History Trip
Saturday, April 26
By: Bob Jacoby
We were fortunate in that Saturday April 26 turned out to be a beautiful spring day in the Mojave. A total of nine people in six cars arrived at Kramer Junction for a day of railroad history, good scenery and fun dirt roads and trails. The participants included myself, Nelson Miller, Frederick Raab, Larry Boerio and his friend Chris Parker, Richard Brazier, Ted Kalil and John Dark. Unfortunately, the fearless leader was still suffering from a severe eye infection and relied on Mr. Brazier to do the driving and Mr. Boerio to do the photography.
Following our theme of Desert Railway exploration, the morning was devoted to following the route of the Randsburg Railroad. This proved to be an adventure in industrial archaeology as we followed the abandoned roadbed for over 20 miles. This railroad extended from Kramer Junction to the Randsburg area and was completed in 1897. The first three miles of the railroad from the Kramer Junction area is now inaccessible due to private property concerns so we drove about three miles up Hwy. 395 to where the railroad berms appeared on the east side of the road. We had a great time following the roadway through the sparse desert. The only minor problems consisted of some loose sand evry now and then.
About 14 miles up the trail we passed some concrete foundation on the west side of the road and a little research revealed that this apparently was the site of Fremont siding which was the side of a 500 foot spur track. Just a little bit farther north we passed a very interesting dirt road heading east, which, according to the GPS, headed off toward the very prominent landmark, Fremont Peak. (The number of landmarks named after Fremont in California is amazing!)
We finally encountered Hwy. 395 again at what is left of the old Atolia mining area. After lunch, it was time to begin our second railroad adventure following the old Owenyo Line. The Owenyo Line was a branch line of the Southern Pacific (“SP”) that went from Mojave up into the Owens Valley to a point just north of Lone Pine. For the first several miles of this route the tracks still exist and are used. The group had a great time following the dirt roads on the side of the tracks all the way to a spectacular tunnel. We were able to actually drive over the tunnel on a rough road and emerged on the other side. That was an adventure in itself.
After crossing the paved Searles Station Road we followed an extensive siding that now is used for storing a massive amount of Gondola cars while they are apparently waiting to be picked up by the Trona Railway. That was the end of the tracks but we could still follow the roadway as it made a sweeping turn into the Indian Wells Valley. With steep berms on each side, we felt like we were traveling on top of the world!
Our trip finally came to an end as we hit the paved Brown Road near Inyokern. By that time it was late afternoon and just about the right time for some liquid refreshment and dinner at the excellent Bednardo’s Mexican restaurant in Inyokern. Everybody joined in and we shared our railroad experiences on this fun day. We all agreed we were on track for another desert railroad sometime soon.