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Author Topic: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40  (Read 2369 times)

Max Rockatansky

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Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« on: June 25, 2017, 08:39:57 AM »

Given I was early on my approach to Echo Summit/US 50 I took Donner Pass Road up to the summit and Donner Summit via I-80 coming back:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/151828809@N08/84w98E

Given the real notable history here I'll probably start updating this thread last.  There was a VW club heading over the pass eastbound and I'm fairly certain that they caused an accident near the Rainbow Bridge with a pedestrian.  I did all of Donner Pass Road from CA 89 through downtown Truckee as well.

Brian556

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2017, 09:55:41 AM »

I like that you posted b/w copies of some of the photos
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2017, 12:25:53 PM »

I like that you posted b/w copies of some of the photos

Yeah, totally a timeless road that fits the motif for monochrome. Tricky thing was taking those between the VW club, people driving up hill, and the ambulances.  Really I think they look better if you can filter out people and cars since they tends to modernize the look IMO.

xcellntbuy

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2017, 07:28:33 PM »

Magnificent photos! :clap:
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2017, 12:14:47 AM »

Magnificent photos! :clap:

Thanks, this one is my favorite looking down towards Donner Lake with I-80 on the left...in black and white of course:

z16 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

kkt

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2017, 06:31:58 PM »

So many new historical markers!
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2017, 10:12:46 PM »

So many new historical markers!

Nevada County really has done a good job making Donner Pass something of a tourist destination.  I seem to recall the road wasn't super popular with tourists in the past, but always had a crowd because of the ski resort and back story with US 40 in addition to the Lincoln Highway.  Really I don't know why anyone with a couple spare minutes would bother with I-80 considering how beautiful Donner Pass is compared to the angle Donner Summit gives you.

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2017, 03:33:08 PM »

Alright....on to that really well known transportation history that I mentioned in the original post.  Donner Pass for those who don't know had the first recorded wagon crossing in 1844.  The whole saga of the Donner Party occurred in the Winter of 1846/1847 which really is an intriguing story if not a completely morbid one. 

Really the first route over the Sierras via the Donner Pass area wasn't too much different than Donner Pass Road ultimately ended up being.   The main difference ultimately was that the route for wagons was much steeper than the Lincoln Highway iteration ultimately ended up being was known as the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road which was completed by 1864 to assist with construction of the First Trans-Continental Railroad.  Really this site goes into far much more detail about the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road than I can:

http://cprr.org/Museum/DFDLWR_Duncan.html

In addition to the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road there was two additional wagon roads that were apparently used; Coldstream Pass and Roller Pass to the south of Donner Pass which were in use by 1846.  This site has some really good links to maps showing all the wagon routes alongside Donner Pass Road in addition to the rail alignments:

http://donsnotes.com/tahoe/donner_routes.html

The Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road became a state highway apparently in 1909 with Donner Pass Road opening as a realignment due to rail crossing accidents in 1912.   Donner Pass Road ultimately took out almost all of the really steep grades by using hairpins that approached the pass from Donner Lake.   A really interesting article about a winter snow race on the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road showing the bat shit crazy grades can be found here:

https://snowbrains.com/racing-over-the-sierras-by-car-in-record-winter-of-1911/

By 1913 the Northern Sierra Route of the Lincoln Highway was aligned over Donner Pass Road.  Ultimately the Lincoln Highway was replaced by US 40 but I've always heard that the Lincoln Highway promoters kept meeting well into 1928.   The 1918 State Highway Map is the earliest I can find and it just shows a road going over Donner Pass but no route names:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239613~5511905: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=83&trs=86

The 1926 State Highway Map doesn't show designations either but gives the surface conditions of the roadways.  Donner Pass Road is shown as unimproved west out of Truckee to Donner Lake but graded over Donner Pass:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239604~5511901:Map-Showing-State-Highway-System--C?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=79&trs=86

Not much changes by 1928 when the Lincoln Highway about to check out.  There are still no route designations but what "IS" and "ISN'T" considered to be a primary state highway is more clear:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239602~5511900:Map-Showing-State-Highway-System--C?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=78&trs=86

By 1930 US 40 appears on State Highway Maps and all of Donner Pass Road from Truckee to the actual Pass appears to be classified as "Improved."

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239599~5511899: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=76&trs=86

By 1934 all over US 40 over the Sierras appears to have been paved:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239594~5511896: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=73&trs=86

The 1935 Nevada County Road Map shows much more detail of Donner Pass Road and US 40 in their prime:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247324~5515373:Nevada-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=53&trs=163

And really from here not much changes until the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 which of course led to the Interstate system.  The first visual change that can be seen on the state highway map with Donner Pass Road being bypassed is in 1960 when a new stub of I-80 is shown running from the Nevada state line west past Truckee to Donner Lake:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239537~5511858:State-Highway-Map,-California,-1960?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=35&trs=86

The adopted routing of I-80 on Donner Summit appears on the State Highway map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239534~5511856:State-Highway-Map,-California,-1961?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=33&trs=86

On the 1965 State Highway Map Donner Pass Road is shown being bypassed by I-80 via Donner Summit, but US 40 still shown as present in California:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239522~5511848:State-Highway-Map,-California,-1965?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=25&trs=86

It isn't until the 1967 State Highway Map that US 40 completely disappears from California:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239516~5511844:State-Highway-Map,-California,-1967?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=21&trs=86

Plutonic Panda

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2017, 01:07:40 AM »

I was stuck here with a special girl of mine who no longer likes me but it sure was a special trip. It was snowing like mad and we had no way to get back to San Francisco otherwise than to back track to Reno, then down to Las Vegas. I-80 was completely shutdown and my stubborn ass wouldn't listen to anyone and I was convinced Donner Pass Rd. Would be open. I was wrong.

I was in a Chevy Sonic almost going sideways down the hill with no chains(I'm young, dumb and broke/wannabe actor in LA; I couldn't afford chains)so I was praying they wouldn't force us to have chains going I-80 Eastbound.

Oddly enough, I can't remember what highway we took going thereafter because we opted for Las Vegas as opposed to hunkering down in the Reno metro for the night. I am almost certain it wasn't US 395 as I'm sure we didn't go back into California but I am almost fairly certain we didn't go as Far East as US 95. Weird now that I think about it...
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2017, 09:53:49 AM »

Well we can figure that out pretty easily, do you remember lots of mountain driving or mostly a flat surface road?  If it was the mountains it was likely US 395 and if it was flatter terrain it would have been US 95..  Either way, I don't think Donner Pass would be an enjoyable trip without carrying snow chains  Even I-80 like you said can be completely brutal in the winter over Donner Summit.

cahwyguy

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2017, 12:02:50 PM »

I'm young, dumb and broke/wannabe actor in LA....

Just an aside to Panda: One of my other hobbies is attending live theatre -- we're seeing a live show almost every weekend in LA and did 17 shows during the Fringe Festival. I review every show I see on the blog side of my site (blog.cahighways.org). This weekend is Actors Co-Op in Hollywood - The Voysey Inheritance. Let me know if you are going to be in an upcoming production; maybe we can meet. (a different form of roadmeet :-) )
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2017, 12:11:58 PM »

Found a video the California State Parks did a couple years back about automotive history on Donner Pass.  Really it is more or less an abridged synopsis of but is pretty good for a seven minute video:


Also, if anyone has 90 minutes to kill and doesn't mind 240p videos this is a pretty decent documentary on the Donner Party and the whole saga of the winter of 1846 at Donner Pass. 

hm insulators

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2017, 04:00:12 PM »

Spectacular photos! I was once up that road (going the opposite direction).
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roadfro

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2017, 08:33:50 PM »

I was stuck here with a special girl of mine who no longer likes me but it sure was a special trip. It was snowing like mad and we had no way to get back to San Francisco otherwise than to back track to Reno, then down to Las Vegas. I-80 was completely shutdown and my stubborn ass wouldn't listen to anyone and I was convinced Donner Pass Rd. Would be open. I was wrong.

I was in a Chevy Sonic almost going sideways down the hill with no chains(I'm young, dumb and broke/wannabe actor in LA; I couldn't afford chains)so I was praying they wouldn't force us to have chains going I-80 Eastbound.

Oddly enough, I can't remember what highway we took going thereafter because we opted for Las Vegas as opposed to hunkering down in the Reno metro for the night. I am almost certain it wasn't US 395 as I'm sure we didn't go back into California but I am almost fairly certain we didn't go as Far East as US 95. Weird now that I think about it...

That's a hell of a detour...And must have been a hell of a storm if the only way back over Donner Pass/Summit was going clear down to Vegas...

Not sure on your route, if you didn't take US 395 through California and didn't go as far east as US 95... Coming from Reno or the Sierra Nevada, there's not really any way to go south between the two that gets you to Vegas. US 95 ALT gets you part way, but you ultimately have to connect to US 95 at some point to reach Vegas.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2017, 04:00:58 PM »

I was stuck here with a special girl of mine who no longer likes me but it sure was a special trip. It was snowing like mad and we had no way to get back to San Francisco otherwise than to back track to Reno, then down to Las Vegas. I-80 was completely shutdown and my stubborn ass wouldn't listen to anyone and I was convinced Donner Pass Rd. Would be open. I was wrong.

I was in a Chevy Sonic almost going sideways down the hill with no chains(I'm young, dumb and broke/wannabe actor in LA; I couldn't afford chains)so I was praying they wouldn't force us to have chains going I-80 Eastbound.

Oddly enough, I can't remember what highway we took going thereafter because we opted for Las Vegas as opposed to hunkering down in the Reno metro for the night. I am almost certain it wasn't US 395 as I'm sure we didn't go back into California but I am almost fairly certain we didn't go as Far East as US 95. Weird now that I think about it...

That's a hell of a detour...And must have been a hell of a storm if the only way back over Donner Pass/Summit was going clear down to Vegas...

Not sure on your route, if you didn't take US 395 through California and didn't go as far east as US 95... Coming from Reno or the Sierra Nevada, there's not really any way to go south between the two that gets you to Vegas. US 95 ALT gets you part way, but you ultimately have to connect to US 95 at some point to reach Vegas.
yeah it sure was.

Now that I'm looking on Gmaps, I'm thinking it might have been US 95 ALT and then we linked to US 95. I remember driving through some towns that looked like something out of a movie. Goldfield was wild. It was also so interesting how when we were driving the roads were clear and the temperatures were hovering at around 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit. Once we entered the towns, however, the elevation seemed to increase and the roads were rather slick with snow everywhere. It was surreal!

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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2017, 04:02:39 PM »

I'm young, dumb and broke/wannabe actor in LA....

Just an aside to Panda: One of my other hobbies is attending live theatre -- we're seeing a live show almost every weekend in LA and did 17 shows during the Fringe Festival. I review every show I see on the blog side of my site (blog.cahighways.org). This weekend is Actors Co-Op in Hollywood - The Voysey Inheritance. Let me know if you are going to be in an upcoming production; maybe we can meet. (a different form of roadmeet :-) )
oh nice! I've finished a year at the New York Film Academy and I'm now going to attend LA City College for 3 years to get my associates. Will be theatre acting but also focusing on Film Acting.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2017, 04:05:36 PM »

Well we can figure that out pretty easily, do you remember lots of mountain driving or mostly a flat surface road?  If it was the mountains it was likely US 395 and if it was flatter terrain it would have been US 95..  Either way, I don't think Donner Pass would be an enjoyable trip without carrying snow chains  Even I-80 like you said can be completely brutal in the winter over Donner Summit.
Yes it was rather flat terrain. We had taken I-5 to CA-14 then connected to US 395. That was a very interesting drive as well shortly after merging into US 395 as there seemed to be about 3-4 dust storms that looked like they were coming straight for us but we never went into them.
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sparker

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2017, 03:32:52 AM »

Well we can figure that out pretty easily, do you remember lots of mountain driving or mostly a flat surface road?  If it was the mountains it was likely US 395 and if it was flatter terrain it would have been US 95..  Either way, I don't think Donner Pass would be an enjoyable trip without carrying snow chains  Even I-80 like you said can be completely brutal in the winter over Donner Summit.
Yes it was rather flat terrain. We had taken I-5 to CA-14 then connected to US 395. That was a very interesting drive as well shortly after merging into US 395 as there seemed to be about 3-4 dust storms that looked like they were coming straight for us but we never went into them.

Yeah -- there's a lot of playas (i.e. dry lakes covered with a patina of dust) arrayed along US 395 in the lower Owens Valley area; if a stiff wind comes up, it creates very localized dust storms that tend to dissipate once out in the brush away from the dry lake bed.  Unless the wind is severe and headed toward 395, only occasionally does the dust affect the road.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Donner Pass Road; Old US 40
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2018, 03:38:39 PM »

Added a blog entry to this series regarding crossing I-80 over Donner Summit.  I linked over some photos of Donner Pass/Donner Summit which I took from the air as well:

http://surewhynotnow.blogspot.com/2018/08/trans-sierra-highway-passes-interstate.html

 


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