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Carson & Colorado Railroad

Carson and Colorado at Mt. Montgomery Tunnel - 1882

The Carson & Colorado Railroad (C&C) was a narrow-gauge railroad that operated in the states of California and Nevada in the United States. Founded in 1880, its primary purpose was to serve the mining areas in the region, particularly those around the Owens Valley and the mining boomtowns in Nevada.

Key Points About the Carson & Colorado Railroad:

Origins and Construction:

The C&C was originally intended to stretch from the Carson River in Nevada to the Colorado River, hence its name. However, it never reached the Colorado River. The line started in Mound House, Nevada, where it connected with the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, and extended southward.


The railroad traveled through a variety of terrains, including the harsh environments of the Nevada desert and the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. Its route passed through towns like Hawthorne, Bishop, and Independence, and at its furthest extent, reached Keeler, California, on the shores of Owens Lake.

Economic Role:

The railroad was crucial for transporting silver ore and other minerals from the mines to smelters and markets. It also carried goods and passengers, becoming an essential economic lifeline for the isolated communities it served.

Decline and Legacy:

The decline of mining in the area, coupled with competition from more direct rail routes and the rise of automobile travel, led to the gradual reduction of its operations. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which had absorbed the C&C, eventually discontinued the line in sections, with the final parts ceasing operation in the mid-20th century.

Today, the history of the Carson & Colorado Railroad is preserved through various historical societies and museums, and parts of the old railroad grade are still visible.

The Carson and Colorado Railway was a narrow gauge railroad that ran from Mound House, Nevada, to Keeler, California below the Cerro Gordo Mines. It was incorporated on May 10, 1880 as the Carson and Colorado Railroad, and construction on the railroad began on May 31, 1880. The 300-mile route reached an altitude of 7100 feet in Montgomery Pass. The Carson & Colorado began operations with the first train arriving at Keeler on August 1, 1883.

The railroad served an arid area heavily dependent on mineral resources for economic activity.

The line was reorganized as the Carson and Colorado Railway in 1892. The C&C was sold to the Southern Pacific Company in 1900. Silver and gold discoveries at Tonopah, Nevada and Goldfield, Nevada provided a major boost of revenues shortly after the Southern Pacific purchase. The northern 140 miles from Mound House to Mina, Nevada was converted to standard gauge in 1905; and the C&C was merged into the Southern Pacific's narrow gauge subsidiary, the Nevada and California Railroad. The Nevada and California Railroad was reorganized into the Central Pacific Railroad in 1912. In the early 20th century, it operated under the name "Southern Pacific Keeler Branch". Portions of the line were abandoned in the 1930s and the 1940s, and the final run was on April 29, 1960. The rails were removed in January, 1961.

Keeler Ghost Town
The railroad never did link Carson City with the Colorado River as its named promised: by the time it reached Keeler in 1883, most of the local mines had played ...

Owenyo/Manzanar Route Guide
The road curves north and then east again at the old Lone Pine railroad station. ... Along this stretch, the old railroad bed for the former Carson & Colorado ...

Timeline of History of the Mojave Desert

History of Cerro Gordo - Mojave Desert
... shafts and an aerial tramway connecting the mine with the narrow-gauge Southern Pacific Railroad at Keeler , which had absorbed the old Carson & Colorado ...

Cerro Gordo Route Guide
Keeler was the southern terminus of the Carson & Colorado narrow-gauge railroad. The railroad never did link Carson City with the Colorado River as its named ...

Big Pine to Furnace Creek Route Guide
Along the route: Just after crossing the Owens River a plaque on the left marks the site of Zurich, a railroad station on the Carson & Colorado line. Traces of ...

Monuments in the Mojave desert
Location: On shoulder of NW corner of Colorado River Bridge, North K St, ...... Carson & Colorado Railroad was built between Mound House (near Carson City, ...

Mazourka Canyon Route Guide
Kearsarge Station is also gone, although you may be able to find traces of the buildings and railroad bed. This was the local station on the Carson & Colorado ...

Railroad History in the Mojave Preserve
A more moderately graded route was located in 1868 by General William J. Palmer, working for the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division. [40] That railroad ...

The Salt Lake Route
The first concrete evidence of Union Pacific intentions consisted of the Union Pacific interests pushing construction of a subsidiary Utah Southern southwest from ...

Railroads in the Mojave Desert
Dunscomb, Guy L. A Century of Southern Pacific Locomotives, 1862-1962. Modesto: published ... Hemphill, Mark W. Union Pacific Salt Lake Route. Erin [ Ontario ...

Boron and Copper Discoveries
Immediately Smith's Pacific Coast Borax Company bought up the property. In 1905 the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad (later the Union Pacific) was ...

Timeline of History of the Mojave Desert
1906 Salt Lake City–Los Angeles railroad built through the desert (later became Union Pacific Railroad) 1916 Federal Aid Road Act leads to development of ...

1950s map, shows map of narrow-gauge railway from Laws to Keeler via Owenyo, the connection with the SP "Jawbone" branch to Mojave and Los Angeles. The map also shows surrounding towns, such as Bishop, Lone Pine and Olancha. The route of Hwy 395 is also marked. The map is dotted with little pictures of sites such as Mount Whitney, the hotels at Bishop, and the water tower at Keeler.
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