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.
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).
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 man on the left in this picture is Jeoffrey Lycurgus Robinson. He was the Trona Railway general manager from sometime before 1930 until his death in 1952. He was very proud of the this center-cab Baldwin that he posed with. The Baldwins replaced the steam engines that were previously being used. They represented a huge step forward for the short-line railroad.
Trona purchased two new Baldwin DT 6-6-2000 center-cabs in 1949, numbered 50 and 51.
An AS616 (#52) was purchased new in 1954.
All the other Trona Baldwins were purchased used, starting with #53 (ex-SP 5249), followed by #54 (ex-Kaiser Steel/Eagle Mountain RR of some number – I wanna say #1012, but I really don’t remember).
The two centercabs were sold to Peabody Coal and used at the operation near – appropriately enough – Baldwin, Ill., along with numerous other Baldwin roadswitchers Peabody picked up secondhand.
Both center-cabs were eventually retired by Peabody and scrapped by Hyman-Michaels at their Alton, Ill., facility. (Trainorders)
At one time Railfan & Railroad Magazine had a great online 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 purchased and Railfan & Railroad Magazine puts it back on the their website I will link to it again.
The following photos were sent to me by the Fred Austin Family.
(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.