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Author Topic: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad  (Read 543 times)

Max Rockatansky

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Finished up another route clinch today with CA 136 which straddles of eastern shore of the Owens Lake bed:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskYLzL5J

Since this is something I'm fairly familiar with I figure this would be a good starting point for the narrative route histories of the road going festivities this week.  CA 136 largely came to be due to the location at the short of what was once a 100 square mile and very much wet Owens Lake.  Owens Lake is fed by the Owens River and was thought to be as large as 200 square miles about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.  The water level of Owens Lake was typically anywhere from 25 to 50 feet in depth and was last full before the Los Angeles Aqueduct project started to divert water in 1913.

The lone inhabited location on CA 136 is a CDP known as Keller which essentially is a ghost town.  Keeler was founded originally as "Hawley" in 1872 when the pier for the Cerro Gordo Mines at Swansea a couple miles north was lifted out of Owens Lake by the Lone Pine Earthquake.  I'm not sure when the name of the town was changed to Keeler but the Carson and Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad did reach it by 1883.  Keeler remained the southern terminus of the Carson and Colorado until it was shuttered in 1960.  Apparently the tracks were removed later but the former rail depot has remained standing in Keeler as a derelict ever since.  There is a really nice Carson and Colorado museum at the Laws Depot north of Bishop just off of US 6 which I visited last year:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskUAhbje

As for CA 136 itself, the route is pretty sound and pretty much the quick shot out of Lone Pine for anyone heading to Death Valley National Park.  CA 136 is very smooth, very straight, and very fast with a 65 MPH speed limit the entirety of the 18 miles of the route.  CA 136 was applied over the previous unsigned LRN 127 when the state highways were renumbered in 1964.  The route of LRN 127 appears to have cut south along the Owens River and followed closer to the shoreline of Owens Lake to Keeler.  The modern bypass and most of CA 136 north of Keeler appears to be on the former right-of-way of the Carson and Colorado Line east of the Owens River which can be seen on the 1935 Inyo County Road Map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247289~5515355:Inyo-County-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:california%2Bdivision%2Bof%2Bhighways;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=36&trs=163

Given the tracks for the Carson and Colorado were removed in 1961 that would put the modern highway alignment past that year.  I have no idea when the modern highway was built up but it is definitely very modern.  The jump from unsigned LRN 127 to CA 136 can be seen on the 1963 and 1964 State Highway Maps:

1963 State Highway Map

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239528~5511852:State-Highway-Map,-California,-1963?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=29&trs=86

1964 State Highway Map

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239525~5511850:State-Highway-Map,-California,-1964?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=27&trs=86






Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2017, 09:59:19 PM »

Upon further research I found the point of time when LRN 127 adopted the modern routing of CA 136 which was 1955.  The difference between the dirt surface can be seen from the previous 1954 State Highway Map.

1954 State Highway Map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239555~5511870:Road-Map-of-the-State-of-California?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=47&trs=86

1955 State Highway Map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239552~5511868:Road-Map-of-the-State-of-California?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=45&trs=86

Interesting that the Carson and Colorado would have crossed the modern highway alignment for a couple years....


Also I figured this would be a good opportunity to start doing actually Road Blog format threads after a summary page....seemed like 136 is a good as place as any to start.  SO!...starting out from US 395 southbound there is a nice little BGS indicating that CA 136 is the way to Death Valley:

IMG_2026 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

With a nice BGS assembly complete with a CA 136 in addition to CA 190 below the BGS to start the route eastbound proper.

IMG_2027 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Incidentally there is a really cool CA 136 "End" marker looking back at the US 395 junction in full view of the high Sierras:

IMG_2029 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Eastbound the first and only 65 MPH sign shortly appears.  The Eastbound travel lane largely faces the White Mountains the entire route:

IMG_2031 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

136 takes a southward turn towards 190 and Keeler with Owens Lake coming into view:

IMG_2035 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_2042 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Hell of a view looking back westbound towards the Sierras:

IMG_2036 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Supposedly there used to be a lot more standing structures from Swansea, but I hardly saw a trace of anything from 136:

IMG_2047 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Approaching Keeler the sand from Owens Lake becomes much more prevalent:

IMG_2048 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

And Keeler is reached 12 miles into the route:

IMG_2050 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2017, 10:05:10 PM »

As I stated previously the Carson and Colorado Rail Depot is still standing in down Keeler:

IMG_2053 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_2055 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_2060 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Next to the depot is the previous alignment of LRN 127 which runs through downtown Keeler:

IMG_2056 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_2057 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Leaving Keeler there is one more 136 reassurance shield.

IMG_2061 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Oddly there is no "End" shield and placard at the eastern junction at 190:

IMG_2065 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Decent place for a pano of Owens Lake:

IMG_2069 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Inyomono395

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2017, 03:49:12 PM »

Great pictures and history lesson, thank you very much! I love seeing your recent posts on State Route 270, 203, 158,136. I was born and raised and currently reside in the eastern Sierras. I just need to make one minor correction to this post. CA 136 eastbound faces the Inyo mountains. The White Mountains technically end at westgard pass CA168 east. From south of westgard pass to the Owens dry lake are the Inyo mountains. The White Mountains are from north of westgard pass to boundary Peak.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 05:36:29 PM by Inyomono395 »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2017, 04:22:31 PM »

Great pictures and history lesson, thank you very much! I love seeing your recent posts on State Route 270, 203, 158,136. I was born and raised and currently reside in the eastern Sierras. I just need to make one minor correction to this post. CA 136 eastbound faces the Inyo mountains. The White Mountains technically end at westgard pass CA168 east. From south of westgard pass to the Owens dry lake are the Into mountains. The White Mountains are from north of westgard pass to boundary Peak.

Yeah that's right, I completely forgot about the division technically being at Westgard Pass.  I'm planning on stopping back through later this year at the end of the summer with a more capable vehicle to get 168 clinched finally, Onion Valley Road, and Whitney Portal.  I would have liked to tried Whitney Portal this go around but I'm down to 5-6mm of front brake pad on my Sonic and I'll probably be replacing the pads this month given some of the recent issues I've had.  The Challenger has vented four wheel disc with Brembo pads which I think will be far more up to the task...low gear goes pretty close to 60 MPH though which could be an issue.

I also managed to get a picture of CA 266, CA 167, and CA 182 shields to finish my desert my collections from the desert regions of the state:

269CAa by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

167CAend by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

182CAa by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I did get some US 395 related albums but nothing too formal this time.  I'd like to try for the pre-expressway alignments one of these days north of Ridgecrest but that will be a pretty time consuming project:

Owens Valley Overlook:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsm3W62rU

Crowley Lake:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsm45YbmX

Mono Lake from Conway Summit:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/151828809@N08/27793n

Inyomono395

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2017, 05:44:15 PM »

All great pictures!! I can just about see my house in the Owens Valley Overlook picture. I'm happy you came through and photographed everything that you did, now others can see what I consider to be a little Slice of Heaven.

CA 168 East and West, onion Valley Road, and Whitney portal Road are all extremely beautiful drives. And with Whitney portal Road being recently repaved it makes for a lot nicer Drive. Do yourself a favor and check out horseshoe Meadows Road, you won't be disappointed!
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2017, 07:26:38 PM »

All great pictures!! I can just about see my house in the Owens Valley Overlook picture. I'm happy you came through and photographed everything that you did, now others can see what I consider to be a little Slice of Heaven.

CA 168 East and West, onion Valley Road, and Whitney portal Road are all extremely beautiful drives. And with Whitney portal Road being recently repaved it makes for a lot nicer Drive. Do yourself a favor and check out horseshoe Meadows Road, you won't be disappointed!

Really Mammoth would probably be on the short list of places I probably would consider retiring given it is a real town, on the eastern Sierras, and a good distance from the big tourism in Tahoe.  Bishop wouldn't be too bad either aside from the full effect of the summer heat.

Is Horseshoe Meadows Road paved all the way to the top?  If it is I'd bite on taking that up to see what CA 190 might have been if completed over Olancha Pass.  Really the plan would be to stay the first night in Bishop and the next in Lone Pine, I've done Nine Mile Canyon/Sherman Pass a couple times.

Inyomono395

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2017, 10:07:49 PM »

The heat in Bishop can definitely get intense. It got to 105 this weekend.

Horseshoe Meadows Road is paved the entire way. If my memory serves me correctly the road ends at a campground or possibly a pack station. Beautiful views the entire way up. Amazing views of Owens Valley and Owens dry lake. You also have a good possibility of seeing hang gliders leap off the cliff.

Is Nine Mile Road/Sherman pass a completely paved route? I'm hoping to drive that route before the end of the summer.
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Inyomono395

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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2017, 10:25:13 PM »

The heat in Bishop can definitely get intense. It got to 105 this weekend.

Horseshoe Meadows Road is paved the entire way. If my memory serves me correctly the road ends at a campground or possibly a pack station. Beautiful views the entire way up. Amazing views of Owens Valley and Owens dry lake. You also have a good possibility of seeing hang gliders leap off the cliff.

Is Nine Mile Road/Sherman pass a completely paved route? I'm hoping to drive that route before the end of the summer.

Sherman/Nine Mile is completely paved.  Aside from a short part of Nine Mile Canyon it is almost state highway quality.  I'll link over my last album when I get home.

Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2017, 07:30:46 AM »

As promised here is Sherman Pass Road, Nine Mile Canyon Road/J41, among many other roads used to crossed Sequoia National Forest in the Sierras:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskPnXLrG

sparker

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2017, 04:33:26 PM »

Interesting fact regarding Keeler and the old RR station there:  The C & C, being a narrow-gauge line, normally would require cargo offloading onto whatever standard-gauge line it encountered.  But Keeler was a bit different:  SP's Owens Valley line, which departed the main line at Mojave (with a branch to Ridgecrest and the Trona mines) did interchange with the C&C at Keeler -- but they employed a jacking mechanism that would allow replacement of the trucks beneath purpose-designed RR freight cars (normally boxcars, gondolas, or flat cars -- depending upon the cargo) so that the railcars themselves could continue along either line.  These "specialty" cars never left either of the connecting lines; SP offloaded any cargo at their Mojave yard (which was much more extensive in those days), and C & C did the same at Hawthorne, NV -- where they interchanged with SP's standard-gauge branch line coming down from Hazen, NV (between Fernley and Fallon).  The specialty cars were "turned" at Hawthorne for the return southbound trip over Montgomery Pass.  The main rationales for the truck-transfer at Keeler were (a) the desire to avoid full car loading & unloading "in the middle of nowhere", keeping that task confined to a larger yard facility with better security, (b) much of the gondola cargo was raw ore -- and there was a "car dump" facility at Mojave that allowed efficient transfer of this type of load, and (c) the U.S. Army ammo depot at Hawthorne regularly sent ammunition transfer shipments south to the naval facilities at the Ports of L.A. & Long Beach using the C&C and the SP Owens branch -- and required that any offloading be done in a secure location like the Mojave yard, which had tracks fenced off for just that activity.

Traffic peaked just before and during WWI -- and the ammo transfers spiked, of course, during WWII -- but after the war it was decided to concentrate the West Coast ammunition movement at the dock facilities in Vallejo -- which, of course, cut the narrow-gauge railroad out of that picture.  Eventually the supporting mining activity played out, and the C&C, always expensive to operate, became superfluous, with operations ceasing in the early 50's, and the remaining track removed by 1961.     
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2017, 11:02:33 PM »

Interesting fact regarding Keeler and the old RR station there:  The C & C, being a narrow-gauge line, normally would require cargo offloading onto whatever standard-gauge line it encountered.  But Keeler was a bit different:  SP's Owens Valley line, which departed the main line at Mojave (with a branch to Ridgecrest and the Trona mines) did interchange with the C&C at Keeler -- but they employed a jacking mechanism that would allow replacement of the trucks beneath purpose-designed RR freight cars (normally boxcars, gondolas, or flat cars -- depending upon the cargo) so that the railcars themselves could continue along either line.  These "specialty" cars never left either of the connecting lines; SP offloaded any cargo at their Mojave yard (which was much more extensive in those days), and C & C did the same at Hawthorne, NV -- where they interchanged with SP's standard-gauge branch line coming down from Hazen, NV (between Fernley and Fallon).  The specialty cars were "turned" at Hawthorne for the return southbound trip over Montgomery Pass.  The main rationales for the truck-transfer at Keeler were (a) the desire to avoid full car loading & unloading "in the middle of nowhere", keeping that task confined to a larger yard facility with better security, (b) much of the gondola cargo was raw ore -- and there was a "car dump" facility at Mojave that allowed efficient transfer of this type of load, and (c) the U.S. Army ammo depot at Hawthorne regularly sent ammunition transfer shipments south to the naval facilities at the Ports of L.A. & Long Beach using the C&C and the SP Owens branch -- and required that any offloading be done in a secure location like the Mojave yard, which had tracks fenced off for just that activity.

Traffic peaked just before and during WWI -- and the ammo transfers spiked, of course, during WWII -- but after the war it was decided to concentrate the West Coast ammunition movement at the dock facilities in Vallejo -- which, of course, cut the narrow-gauge railroad out of that picture.  Eventually the supporting mining activity played out, and the C&C, always expensive to operate, became superfluous, with operations ceasing in the early 50's, and the remaining track removed by 1961.     

The C & C actually has a pretty good following and a decent website:

https://carsoncolorado.com/

It seems that Engine #18 was recently restored to working order and is housed in Independence these days.

Inyomono395

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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 136; the tale of Owens Lake and the Carson/Colorado Railroad
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2017, 12:53:14 AM »

http://www.sierrawave.net/slim-princess-gets-new-permanent-home/

http://www.sierrawave.net/dave-mull-tells-tale-slim-princess-engine-18/

http://www.sierrawave.net/slim-princess-steam-locomotive-moved-eastern-california-museum/

Here are some local news articles if anyone is interested. Pretty cool pictures from when they moved the train to it's new location

Its pretty cool they were able to not only save the Engine but also get it completely restored.  There is another really nice narrow gauge museum with an active track loop in Sugar Pine up near Yosemite on 41.  It seems like people really love to save the narrow gauge stuff for whatever reason.

 


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