Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Located just down the road from one of the nation’s busiest national parks means a busy tourist train! The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is 10 minutes from the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park in California. The railroad features a 4-mile, one hour, narrated excursion riding behind steam-powered locomotives that were once used to haul huge logs out of these very forests.

A Brief History of the YMSPR

The YMSPR runs on track originally laid for the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company to help to help them bring logs from the Sierra National Forest to the company’s sawmill. The company and railroad operated from the late 1800s to the early 1930s when the Great Depression hit and the trees became harder to reach.

The railroad’s first locomotive, #10. (Photo: BobTalbot61 CC by SA 3.0)

For three decades the land and track remained essentially untouched, until, Rudy Stauffer, a Hungarian immigrant, began reconstructing part of the railroad in 1961. He would then acquire Shay locomotive #10 in 1967. That was the beginning of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. 20 years later Stauffer purchased Shay #15 and the railroad has just kept growing.

About YMSPR’s Shay Locomotives

Of course a Shay locomotive is exactly the locomotive to bring to a former logging line, as this kind of geared steam locomotive is exactly what what loggers used to bring logs out of the forest. A geared locomotive is slow, but strong and nimble. It can pick its way up a steep grade on track that might not be as even as a main line would be.

The two shays at the YMSPR were originally built for logging companies. Shay #10 was built in 1928 by the Lima Locomotive Works for the Pickering Lumber Company, while #15 was built in 1913 by the same Lima Locomotive Works (Lima held the patents for the Shay design) for the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company.

Shay locomotives were built by the Lima Locomotive Works, Lima Ohio (NearEMPTiness CC by SA 4.0)

Plan a Visit

Aboard one of the trains, you’ll go on a one-hour narrated journey through the pine-filled wilderness of the Sierra National Forest. You’ll see how loggers worked their way through the forest to the west before shipping logs to the saw mill and then timber to Califnornia growing cities or back east.

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad operates through the summer from early April to late October. For more information, visit the YMSPR website or call (559) 683-4636. Plan your visit and relive the rich California history of the post-Gold Rush era.

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