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Winter 1971 - Page 78


A trip over the present Sierra would have to exclude the romantic branch line with its switchbacks and bridges to Angels. The Sierra interchanges with both the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific at Oakdale, California. Passenger operations ceased in 1 938 so we'll have to imagine the train.

There's a certain amo un t o f glamo ur about most of the real railrod operations - particularly if you don't have to shovel the coal that keeps a steam locomotive going - but o ne railroad ; the S ie rra, in the foothills of California's S ierra Nevada mountains h as h ad more than its share of glamour. From the average man's viewpoin t the fac t that the railroad was the two-railed star of such motion p ic tures as "High Noon," "Duel In The S un," and " U nion Pacific" as well as dozens of television specials including every episode of "Petticoat J unction" is e nough to make it in teresting. The model railroader, in search of a prototype for his relatively short trains and excess of locomotives in relation to cars finds the S ierra interesting too. The line's steep grades and tight curves kept most trains down to less than twenty cars. Trains of only two or three cars and a caboose were commo n during the railroad's busiest y ears of operation. The line reached from the rolling farmlands at the base of the gold rush country righ t into the mo untains. When th e terrain b ecame too tough for the stan dard gauge operation the most famous of the three-foot gauge railroads; the West S ide Lumber Co . , took over to reach well back into the timb er. Even the railroad's rolling stock had a unique fascination all its own. The Sierra is one of those

t oo rare shortline operations that serve as perfect prototypes for mo st model railroads. The S ierra was established in 1 89 7 to haul the gold ore shipme n ts from the fringes of the Mother Lode country , cattle, and lumb er out of t h e mountains a n d down to the S alinas Valley c onnection with the mainline Santa Fe and S outhe rn Pacific railroads at Oakdale. This connec tion wit h two of the West's largest lines is yet another reason . why the Sierra makes such a fascinating p ro totype for a mo del railroad. Few short lines c onnected with mo re than one railroad let lone two with such diverse equip me n t styles as the AT&S F and SP. The S P 's passenger equipme n t, from the p re streaml ined day s of heavy steel and dark green pain t , was the only "modern" passenger equipmen t t o find its way onto the S ierra. The S ierra c limbs from' Oakdale's I S S-foot elevation to 1 40 5 at J amestown , 1 79 6 at Sonora, and 2 6 9 0 at Tuolu rnp. e in 5 7 rail miles. The railroad has owned a total of 2 5 locomo tives

The Sierra 's uses the Santa Fe tracks to reach the station. Here, the Santa Fe crosses the Southern Pacific tracks with the Sierra 's steel Oakdale enginehouse in the background. The line 's three diesels live here.

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