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The Slim Princess

The railroad in the Owens Valley was more than just a stretch of the imagination. It was a vision inspired by tales of rich strikes in the mines of California, when a lull in mining activity was settling on the Comstock and in Virginia City, Nevada.

“Let us have a railroad from Carson City to Colorado,” wrote a journalist in a Nevada newspaper in 1871.

Several surveys were made by the Virginia & Truckee (V&T) Railway Company by the late 1870s to run a line south from Carson City. By 1880 a line was laid as far as Bodie and on May 10, 1880 the Carson & Colorado (C&C) Railroad Company was incorporated.

Much speculation was made about an intended final destination in southern California, but nothing was made official until March 25, 1882 when the company announced it would build over Montgomery Pass, into the Owens Valley and toward Mojave.

The announcement said that the railroad had great potential for mining and agriculture, the latter in an effort to include the local farming industry. But it was the news from the mining claims in the Inyo Mountains at Panamint and Cerro Gordo that fueled the excitement. Plus, the nearby Darwin Mines were producing well and the Owens Lake was a rich source of soda and potash. Fortune would favor the brave – it seemed.

In 1882 construction began on a narrow gauge track that would take the line south from Bellville, Nevada to the state line at Montgomery Pass, which at 7,138 feet was higher than the Central Pacific’s crossing of the Sierra at Donner Summit. From there the line would descend into the Owens Valley and in January 1883 Benton was reached.

The Slim Princess, as this railway was known, continued her journey down into Hammil Valley and a gradual descent took her into the Owens Valley. In mid-March the line reached Laws (named for Robert C. Laws, the C&C’s Superintendent) where a station was built and a small town sprang up to serve the nearby mining supply and farming community of Bishop Creek (now Bishop).

Construction continued rapidly at a pace of three quarters of a mile of track per day ending in Lone Pine, where onward journey to Independence for a July 4th celebration in 1883 was made by wagon. The final 70 miles of track connecting Laws with Hawley (now Keeler) on the shores of the Owens Lake was completed just a week later.

A long line in the desert

The entire 143 miles of railway line between Bellville, NV and Hawley, CA did not pass though a single established town along the way. While there is no official explanation for this route selection, historians have speculated that the decision to run this line on the eastern side of the valley may have been based on financial considerations. Although the western side of the valley was populated and thriving for the time it presented certain geographical and terrain problems. Numerous streams and creeks flowed from the nearby Sierra Nevada cutting deep arroyos at fairly regular intervals. Extensive and costly bridging would be required to run the line down the western side of the valley and would, moreover, put the track at risk of flooding.

Lone Pine had suffered a major earthquake in 1872 killing 27 people and destroying 52 of the 59 houses. The quake produced a massive fault scarp cracking and thrusting the ground upward by 15-20 feet northwest of the town and also formed what is now Diaz Lake south of the town. This too would have proved an impediment to building the railway line down the western side of the valley.

Naturally residents of the Owens Valley at the time were not happy with the C&C’s decision to build clear across on the other side of the valley. It was a long trip from any of the towns just to get to the railroad, but until 1931 when the full length of US Highway 395 was paved the Slim Princess was a major means of transportation.

On completion of the track in July 1883 an Inauguration Special was run along the full length of the line. On board this special were Henry Yerington, President & General Manager of the C&C, and Darius Ogden Mills, principal financier of this new narrow gauge and major owner of the then profitable V&T.

After traveling for many hours through the desert heat to arrive at Hawley it was reported that Mr. Mills was heard to say, “Gentlemen, either we built this line 300 miles too long, or 300 years too soon.”

In 1942 the narrow gauge was abandoned from Benton to Laws and in 1960 the rest of the track from Laws to Keeler was also abandoned.

Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site

Loco and cars at Laws Museum – photo: Ron Nickerson

Loco and cars at Laws Museum – photo: Ron Nickerson

Today, less than 150 years since that candid remark by Mills, the memories and experiences of a not-so-long-ago era of railway magnates, miners, farmers, fortune seekers, high Sierra adventurers, and travelers who rode the Slim Princess can be enjoyed at the Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site.

By today’s standards it’s a short, easy drive of just 6.5 miles to Laws from Bishop where this extensive museum site with a section of track and working railroad cars is a glimpse back in time to when a railroad station was the heart of a bustling western town.

This is not just another theme park – it’s the real deal. Many original buildings, train engines and cars, salvaged and restored structures, and thousands of artifacts celebrate the rich history of this railroad.

The museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm year round. This summer train rides on the old Death Valley Brill Car No. 5 will thrill both kids and adults. See the summer train ride schedule here.

The Laws Good Old Days, Saturday, September 10th, is a family fun day of music, Pioneer crafts and the ‘famous pie auction’. Wander through the museum buildings, ride the train, watch skilled artisans make their crafts the old-fashioned way, or just sit on the cool grass under the spreading cottonwood trees and listen to the live music performances.

Railroad Express

Celebrate the holiday season in early December at the “Railroad Express” with rides in DV#5 rail car, games, prizes, goodies to eat, carol singing, a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, story telling and so much more railway magic.

For more information about Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site visit or pop into the Bishop Visitors Center at 690 N. Main St.

 

 

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3 days ago

Wishing you and your littles a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!! ❤️

#visitbishop
Photo by Betsy Forsyth
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Wishing you and your littles a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!! ❤️

#visitbishop
Photo by Betsy Forsyth

Comment on Facebook

Always enjoyed fishing the canal.

We went a couple of years ago maybe 3 yrs ago what fun times we had there🤗

Love Bishop and the Sierras

So beautiful and amazing pictures thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

My favorite place 😍🤗

I think the big Brownies got a few of those

Put any campfire completely out!

Beautiful

That's so cute.

Love that canal

Beautiful

Thank you 😊

Sweet .

Be there soon

❤️😍

So many wonderful memories there!

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4 days ago

Last year... Please #RecreateResponsibly!!!Remember this from last year? The smoke was horrific, and most of the fires weren’t even right here. Please remind ANYONE that is going camping, be it here in Inyo County, or elsewhere, to PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE!!

Earlier this week Mammoth Lakes Fire Department responded to TWO different fires that started because campfires were not extinguished properly (one was a dispersed camping fire, and the other was in an area where fires are prohibited)!! It is going to be a tough year with the dry conditions, so we need to act accordingly!! Extreme fire conditions already exist. If you make a fire, please do it in a campground where there are fire pits, and make sure it is COMPLETELY out.

Please #RecreateResponsibly !!!
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Last year... Please #RecreateResponsibly!!!

Comment on Facebook

We need to stop the lightening and get rid of the power lines. No more electricity 🥰

Just everybody use common sense. And don't forget to pick up after yourselves. Leave no trace. <3

It gripes my ass when people just don't care. It doesn't take rocket science to put out a camp fire and to know how dry it is and we have international signs where people around the world know what they mean even when they can't read. They have no heart or respect for life animal's or human. I pray we don't have a repeat of last year.

It was awful, be careful out there. Be mindful of nature.

Its sound like it will be a dry summer across the west.....be careful....barb

Beautiful

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5 days ago

If you are wondering what it's looking like up Big Pine Creek, here is a shot from a couple of days ago. It is the view up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek from the North Fork trail. Thank you to Alan Haight for this stunning shot!!

We welcome you to send your beautiful photos to us in Messenger, or on Facebook or Instagram make sure to tag us #VisitBishop! Thank you!

#visitbishop #RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #bigpinecreek
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If you are wondering what its looking like up Big Pine Creek, here is a shot from a couple of days ago. It is the view up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek from the North Fork trail. Thank you to Alan Haight for this stunning shot!! 

We welcome you to send your beautiful photos to us in Messenger, or on Facebook or Instagram make sure to tag us #VisitBishop! Thank you! 

#visitbishop #RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #bigpinecreek

Comment on Facebook

Gosh this is beautiful!

Some of the most rugged terrain I've ever seen is up that canyon! Truly an amazing part of the Sierras.

Have hiked in this region. So beautiful

I highly recommend visiting Bishop. So much to see and do. 🤠

My old stomping grounds!💕

I LOVE BISHOP! ❤

Love the picture

Went as far as june lake

Gorgeous!

Love it there!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful!🏔

Beautiful!

Nice

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6 days ago

It’s spring. Wildflowers are blooming, roads are opening, and more folks are traveling and camping. It’s dry out there. Please please, please be careful with anything that could start a wildfire!!! 🔥 This reminder is for locals and visitors alike. It’s going to take ALL of us to prevent wildfires in the months to come.

#inyocounty #RecreateResponsibly #wildfireprevention
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Comment on Facebook

This is so beautiful!

I love that area!!

So pretty. Wish I were there. <3

Gorgeous!

Beautiful

Beautiful photo!!!

Beautiful

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1 week ago

In case you didn't get the memo: Mule Days is a GO this year!

In concert with health officials, they are planning for a safe event that fans and spectators will remember for years to come. In compliance with State guidelines, mandatory restrictions and capacity limits will apply to arena seating, so be sure to call now to get your reservations. Some of the popular indoor events have been canceled due to these limits such as the Concert and Opening Night Supper. Sadly, the parade is also on hold until 2022. Good news, though... Mule Days IS happening this year and is going back to the roots where Mule Days is all about the mule!

To read more, or buy tickets, visit: muledays.org/2021/04/16/2020-vision-through-the-eyes-of-a-mule-take-2/

#visitbishop #muledays
... See MoreSee Less

In case you didnt get the memo: Mule Days is a GO this year! 

In concert with health officials, they are planning for a safe event that fans and spectators will remember for years to come. In compliance with State guidelines, mandatory restrictions and capacity limits will apply to arena seating, so be sure to call now to get your reservations. Some of the popular indoor events have been canceled due to these limits such as the Concert and Opening Night Supper. Sadly, the parade is also on hold until 2022. Good news, though... Mule Days IS happening this year and is going back to the roots where Mule Days is all about the mule!

To read more, or buy tickets, visit: https://muledays.org/2021/04/16/2020-vision-through-the-eyes-of-a-mule-take-2/

#visitbishop #muledays

Comment on Facebook

Sounds like so much fun!

I HAVE NOT BEEN TO BISHOP FOR 30 YEARS AND I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO A VISIT THERE THIS YEAR. I WAS BORN THERE AND I MAY HAVE A 60TH CLASS REUNION THIS SUMMER. WAITING TO HEAR IF IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN .

Yeah!!! The most fun you can have and still be legal? Or something like that. Stay well.

Thank you for being safe...

We will be there been going there for years Love it

They just approved The Reno Rodeo to full capacity as of two weeks ago and I do believe that the parade will happen as well

I know its a town thing & not affiliated with MD's but any word on the Craft Fair in the Park

No parade outside? Well that’s California for ya! At least there will be an event.

Yep Mule days is coming. this event is when the people are put on show and the Mules get to work out. Mules get to show how smart they are and the people get to show (well we will let you finish this sentence). Come as see for yourself what it is like to be here.

So glad to hear that!!! Miss Bishop soooo much!

The "Mule Days" bumper sticker has worn off the back bumper of the trailer.

Better something than nothing. Sorry to miss it.

Anything happening for 4th of July?

No parade?

what about the arts and crafts at the city park? is that still on?

Perhaps they should give the finger to the very person who ignores the orders for his own pleasures!

Nick Chudilowsky

Whoo Hoo 👏

Becka Lynn Kelley

Awesome!

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