Trona Railway

Photo by Ernest Kraut — 1953

In 1913 the American Trona Company decided to build its own railroad. The Trona Railway was incorporated March 12, 1913 and on September 22, 1913 ground was broken. The railway was completed March of 1914 and commenced operation September 6,1914.

trona rr ticket

In its early days the railroad offered passenger service on a flat car with plank seats. Later a steel coach was provided until passenger service was discontinued in 1937.

Railway Service Car 1914
Peggy hitching a ride — J. Whitelaw Collection 1915-1920

In October 1935 the Trona Elementary School contracted with the Trona Railroad to transport Children from Borosolvay, Burnham and Westend. At first the steam engine made the trip then a motor train was purchased. This motor train was used until 1938 when the Corporation purchased a school bus and rented it to the Trona School Board (1).

trona school train

Motor train used as school transportation in Trona.

trona school train 2

Engineer and conductor 1)Quintus Richards and 2) Ollel or Allel Parker.


 Photograph from
Photo: Ken Kidder

After use as a school train the California Western M-200 shown above was bought from the Trona in 1941. The only rail-car built by the Skagit Steel & Iron Works, it is shown at Ft. Bragg in 1947 with its original Buda gas engine. The car is preserved today (1987) by Pacific Locomotive Association at Niles Canyon near Fremont, California.(2)

The Trona Railway  is a Trona RR page that the author one told me was also going to cover  the Jawbone Branch from Mojave to Lone Pine and the Lone Pine Local someday. That was over a year ago. Web pages take time.

The Trona tracks — J. Whitelaw Collection 1915-20

Trona Railway Time Table

At one time Railfan & Railroad Magazine had a great on-line article about the Baldwins on the Trona by David C. Lustig. Unfortunately the magazine has changed its website policy and they now only publishes articles on the web that are no longer available in back issues. If you are interested in reading the article you can go to their website and order the November 1987 issue for $3.50. Once all the remaining issues are bought up and Railfan & Railroad Magazine  puts it back on the their website I will link to it again.

View from the depot — J. Whitelaw Collection 1915-20

Baldwin Switchers AS RS – Diesel Trains Pt 82 – NE Rails

Model Railway based on Trona Railway

(1) “Searles Valley Story” was written and published by Searles Lake Branch of American Association of University Women in 1975 for the Nation’s bicentennial.

(2) Baldwins on the Trona by David C. Lustig Railfan & Railroad November 1987.

3 thoughts on “Trona Railway

  1. George J

    I’ve recently started my own, HO scale version of the Trona Railway. At present, I’m building benchwork and laying roadbed and track. Also, I’m looking for any information on the cylindrical covered hoppers run by the TRC as it appears the Bachmann cylindrical hopper is a dead ringer for it.

  2. Jim Keller

    Hi, Thanks for your page. We weekended at Pioneer Point during WWII to get to some civilization from China Lake. I delivered Pepsi through the mid ’60s from Barstow. So the Trona RR has been part of my life for 70 years. I have been searching for photos of the high cube hopper cars Trona RR acquired in the early ’60s. They were iron oxide red and when new were quite striking against the desert backdrop.


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