Trona Railway

Trona Railway Steam Engine
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.

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).

 Photograph from http://www.railfan.com
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.

Rail line construction in 1915 near Searles Lake
The Trona tracks — J. Whitelaw Collection 1915-20

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

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


(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.

Leave a Reply