Death Valley Railroad and the Lila C mine tramway

North American Narrow Gauge; West of the Rockies (including Canada; Mexico).
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Randy Hees
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Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Death Valley Railroad and the Lila C mine tramway

Post by Randy Hees » Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:21 pm

I have recently been working on a history of the Death Valley Railroad for the the site... This one has proved difficult, as it is a particular favorite, and it is complicated... a mix of Pacific Coast Borax, the separately incorporated Death Valley Railroad, which shares track and some right of way with the standard gauge Tonopah and Tidewater... The Pacific Coast Borax has several independent but closely related 2' gauge tramways... including the "Baby Gage" at Ryan (of course to add to the confusion there are two town sites named "Ryan")

One of the "less documented" associated lines was the line between Horton and the Lila C mine... it started as a T&T branch, which was abandoned after the Death Valley RR was built... then relaid as a narrow gauge mineral tramway later...

The details including the gauge of the new tramway are less than certain... I am trying a new format for smaller lines... bulleted facts rather than a narrative. As always, comments and additional information is solicited...

As I work on the DVRR page I have found that it is appropriate to break out the history of the 'Baby Gage", the Lila C Branch, and the Ash Meadows operation... The Baby Gage page is up... the others are pending...

The draft article...

Pacific Coast Borax – Lila C mine tramway

6.7 miles long, Death Valley Junction to (first) Ryan, site of the Lila C mine.

• Built as a 6.7 mile long standard gauge branch of the Tonopah & Tidewater, 1907.
• 1914, Lower 3.2 miles (DVJ to Horton) dual gauged by Death Valley Railroad.
• 1916, Upper 3.5 miles abandoned and scraped, third rail removed from lower 3.2 miles.
• January 1920, following new ore discoveries at the Lila C. mine, a agreement was reached, between PCB, the T&T, and the DVRR to rebuild the upper 3.5 miles of the line as a light narrow gauge railroad (1), relaid over the old standard gauge roadbed (still owned by the T&T), with trackage rights over the DVRR from Horton to DVJ. This line was apparently operated by the Tonopah & Tidewater, under their rules (2) in cooperation with DVRR, according to Myrick, using a Milwaukee gas locomotive.
• The last ore was shipped from the Lila C. mine in November 1925, and the railroad was scrapped in early 1926.

The article includes a couple of footnotes...

(1) The gauge of the rebuild line is uncertain. The PCB Company had several 2’ gauge railroad lines several with Milwaukee locomotives, but use of the DVRR suggests 3’ gauge.

(2) Phil Serpico, Tonopah & Tidewater, The Nevada Shortline, reports T&T employee timetable No 25, effective June 1, 1922 includes rules for “Lila C. Trains”

Additionally, the Pacific Coast Borax Company has a 0-4-0t locomotive in the area, not before 1922, but definitely by 1928... eventually the locomotive or at least its boiler was used in the laundry room of the Amagosa Hotel (built 1923 as the company's local headquarters, remodeled 1927 as a hotel) that locomotive from Sterling Borax at Lang California... There are photos, identified as at DVJ showing the locomotive lettered "PCB 1498" (it was built by Davenport in 1916 as c/n 1498) but there are also photos of the saddle tank for the locomotive (loose, on the ground) at Ludlow, still lettered for Sterling Borax, proving the locomotive was repainted for use at DVJ. The repainting and timing suggest that it could have been used on the tramway (assuming the tramway was 3' gauge)
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...

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Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 9:32 pm

Re: Death Valley Railroad and the Lila C mine tramway

Post by PacificCoastBorax99 » Mon May 09, 2016 4:09 pm

This is an interesting thing you've brought up here Randy. I've never really paid much attention to P.C.B. 1498 or to the Lila C. Tramway myself, but the dates do seem to match up, and it would make sense to paint the lettering "P.C.B. 1498" on the side of the ex-Sterling Borax Davenport, if they did use it on the tramway instead of just using it as a boiler for the hotel at DVJ until later. ;)

It would also be more likely the tramway was 3ft gauge, in order to save construction costs by utilizing the section of DVRR track between DVJ to Horton, and from there on out to build the line the rest of the way to the Lila C. at 3ft gauge.

Thinking about it, there's also the possibility that the ex-Borate & Daggett hopper wagons could have been used on this route (if the 4 of them were still being used past 1922), since looking at pictures I have of P.C.B. 1498 don't appear to show any "knuckle" couplers on her buffer beams, which would make the engine imcompatible with the rest of the DVRR rolling stock, though "knuckles" could've easily been added on her if required...


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