Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

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Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad's Shay No. 10 backing into the shops after a run on the line.
Commercial operations
Built byCalifornia Lumber Company
Original gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Preserved operations
Preserved gauge3 ft
Commercial history
Preservation history

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad (YMSPRR) is a historic 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad with two operating steam train locomotives located near Fish Camp, California, in the Sierra National Forest near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park.[1] Rudy Stauffer organized the YMSPRR in 1961, utilizing historic railroad track, rolling stock and locomotives to construct a tourist line along the historic route of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company.

Service began with the purchase of three-truck Shay locomotive No. 10 from the West Side Lumber Company railway of Tuolumne, California. Built in 1928, No. 10 was recognized as the largest narrow gauge Shay locomotive—and one of the last constructed. After his retirement in 1981, Rudy Stauffer was succeeded by his son, Max, as the railroad's owner and operator. In 1986, the YMSPRR purchased Shay No. 15—also a former West Side Lumber Company locomotive—from the West Side & Cherry Valley Railroad tourist line in Tuolumne.

The two steam locomotives operate daily during the summer months, while the railroad's Model A "Jenny" railcars, capable of carrying about a dozen passengers, typically handle operations during the off-season. Passengers can ride in either open-air or enclosed passenger cars.[2]


View of the railroad's track as it winds south into thick forest cover.

The current railroad follows a portion of grade originally carved into the mountain by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company in the early 20th century. The company originated in 1874, when it was organized as the California Lumber Company to log the area surrounding Oakhurst, California.[3] The Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company once had a large sawmill at Sugar Pine, California, just south of the current YMSPRR.[4] The railroad had seven locomotives, over 100 log cars, and 140 miles (230 km) of track in the surrounding mountains.[5] In addition to the railroad, the Company also transported lumber in a flume that stretched 54 miles (87 km) from Sugar Pine to Madera, California.[6] This was the most efficient way to transport rough cut lumber out of the mountains for finishing and transport at the bottom of the mountain. The Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company practiced clearcutting, which removed almost every single tree within the stands of timber surrounding the YMSPRR track. The thick forest surrounding YMSPRR today belies this history, although large stumps from the original old growth timber dot the forest floor lining the tracks.

A Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Co. log train climbing a steep grade near Sugar Pine, California, circa 1915.

Due to the onset of the Great Depression and a lack of trees, the operation closed in 1931. But the graded right-of-way through the forest remained, enabling the Stauffer family to reconstruct a portion of the line in 1961. The current railroad utilizes locomotives, converted log disconnect cars, and other railroad equipment purchased from the West Side Lumber Company after it ceased railroad operations in 1961.[7]

Max Stauffer died on March 10, 2017.[8] In late August 2017, the Railroad Fire, which started near the railroad, destroyed West Side Lumber Company equipment stored on a side track.[9]

Motive Power[edit]

No. 10 taking on water at the midway point of a crisp morning run.
  • No. 10: a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge three-truck Shay steam locomotive constructed for the Pickering Lumber Company.[10] The locomotive was completed on March 2, 1928 by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio and later acquired by the West Side Lumber Company in 1934. No. 10 burns oil, with a capacity to hold 1,200 U.S. gallons (1,000 imperial gallons; 4,500 liters) of oil and 3,420 US gal (2,850 imp gal; 12,900 L) of water. This locomotive is reputedly the largest narrow gauge Shay locomotive ever constructed.[11]
No. 15 leaving the engine house.
  • No. 15: also a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge three-truck Shay steam locomotive. No. 15 was originally constructed as the No. 9 for Norman P. Livermore & Company, out of San Francisco, California, and soon thereafter sold to the Sierra Nevada Wood & Lumber Co. The locomotive was completed on May 20, 1913 by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio. No. 15 burns oil, with a capacity to hold 1,000 US gal (830 imp gal; 3,800 L) of oil and 2,000 US gal (1,700 imp gal; 7,600 L) of water. In 1917, the No. 15 was acquired by Hobart Estate Co. as their No. 9. In 1938, the No. 15 was given its current number when purchased by the Hyman-Michaels Co., operating out of San Francisco. The West Side Lumber Company purchased No. 15 only a year later. When the West Side shut down in the 1960s, a tourist operation, the West Side & Cherry Valley, acquired the No. 15. After hauling tourists for a number of years, the locomotive sat on static display in Tuolumne, California, until the YMSPRR acquired it in 1988.[12]
  • "Jenny" Railcars: Ford Model A automobiles converted for rail use by the West Side Lumber Company. These railcars each accommodate about 12 people, providing regular service in conjunction with the normal steam operation.[13]
    No. 402 prepares for a tourist excursion in 2022.
  • No. 402: a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge center cab two-truck diesel locomotive. The YMSPRR does not use this locomotive for regularly scheduled revenue service.
  • No. 5: a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge two axle diesel switch engine built in 1935, but not currently in operating condition.[14]

Points of interest[edit]

  • The Thornberry Museum, a historic log cabin built over 140-years ago, offering visitors a glance at what life was like on the slopes of the Sierras over a century ago
  • The Sugar Pine Trading Company, providing a selection of literature and sources related to the YMSPRR, railroads and the history of Yosemite Valley
  • Picnic and event grounds at the eastern terminus of the line
  • Gold panning
  • A rare narrow gauge snowplow, the West Side Lumber Company's plow No. 2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erwin, Emily (2022-06-01). "Fossils to Falls: Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad". YourCentralValley.com. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  2. ^ "Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad: How to visit". Trains. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  3. ^ Hank Johnston. The Whistles Blow No More: Railroad Logging in the Sierra Nevada 1874-1942. Stauffer Publishing (1997) (a thorough study of steam railroad logging in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains around the current YMSPRR). For additional information regarding railroad logging operations, consult other similar works by Hank Johnston, available at "Gifts at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad". Archived from the original on December 16, 2013..
  4. ^ Id.
  5. ^ Id. at 12.
  6. ^ Id. at 87.
  7. ^ "West Side's History". Archived from the original on July 12, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  8. ^ Wilkinson, Brian (2017-03-10). "Business leader and tourism advocate Max Stauffer dies". Sierra Star. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  9. ^ Clugston, Gina (2017-08-31). "Historic Equipment Burns At Yosemite Mt. Sugar Pine Railroad". Sierra News Online. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  10. ^ Other former Pickering Lumber steam locomotives survive today. The Niles Canyon Railway in Fremont, California preserves Pickering No. 12, a three-truck Shay, and No. 1, a three-truck Heisler. The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad maintains No. 11,"Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, Elbe, Washington USA". Archived from the original on November 21, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2009. a three-truck Pacific Coast Shay. No. 3, a two-truck shay, is stored on display at the Tuolumne County Fairgrounds in Sonora, California.[1]. The El Portal Transportation Museum preserves No. 6, a three-truck Pacific Coast Shay similar to No. 11. The Humboldt Log Museum, near Korbel, California, preserves No. 33, a three-truck shay. No. 8 is another three-truck shay, currently in private ownership awaiting repair in Oregon. No. 7 is a three-truck shay on display at the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California.
  11. ^ "Lima Locomotive Works, Inc. Shop Number 3315 - Built for: Pickering Lbr. Co". Shay Locomotives.
  12. ^ "Lima Locomotive Corporation Shop Number 2645 - Built for: Sierra Nevada Wood & Lbr. Co". Shay Locomotives.
  13. ^ "Sierra Scale Models Gallery - Photographs of the Yosemite Mt Sugar Pine Railroad".
  14. ^ Id.

External links[edit]