The Owens Valley Subdivision (OVS) is a north/south connecting line which runs from Mojave, California to Reno, Nevada. At its south end, the OVS connects with Santa Fe's original Transcontinental line at Mojave, on the eastern side of the Tehachapai mountains. At its north end, the OVS connects with the Southern Pacific's original line that runs over Donner Pass. The Owens Valley Subdivision is named for the valley which it runs in. The Owens Valley stretches from Bishop, Ca, south to Keeler, Ca, where the Owens River ends in a large lake basin.

The black line on this map represents the Owens Valley Subdivision. It is 375 miles from Mojave to Sparks. This map also shows the Tonopah branch line. The red box is the modeled area.

 

In the late 1800's, the Owens Valley was a very fertile farming land, using the water from the Owens River to irrigate crops. But in 1905, Los Angeles was looking for a water source to feed it's growning city. It came to the Owens Valley with the intent of divirting the flow of the Owens River into aquaducts and pipelines for fresh water consumption and sending it south to the city. The residents of the Valley were strongly opposed to this, and they tried many ways to stop L.A. from taking their water, to the point where they were using dynamite to blow up the diverging waterways. In 1911, the residents finally won out, and L.A. stopped taking water from the Owens River.

At an earlier date, up to the north, another development was happening, but one that was good for the Valley. A narrow gauge railroad, named the Carson and Colorado, was laying it's tracks from Carson City, Nevada, south to the Valley, and in 1883, it's tracks reached the southern end of the Valley at Keeler. Passenger service was now available to the Valley's residents. In 1904, the Tonopah RR completed its tracks to meet the Carson and Colorado at Tonopah Junction, which was located half way between Carson City and Keeler. Passenger and freight service was now extended to the town of Tonopah, Nevada. During this time, the Carson and Colorado also built a line from Laws that went through Bishop and headed northwest, along the Owens River to the town of Mammoth, where a large sawmill was built to harvest the surrounding forest. The line continued north and went around Mono Lake to end in the town of Bodie, which was a rich mining town.
In 1900, the Southern Pacific Railroad bought the Carson and Colorado, and in 1910, the Southern Pacific's standard gauge "Jawbone branch" was completed from Mojave to Owenyo, just north of Keeler. There was a small yard in Owenyo to transfer freight from the narrow gauge to the standard gauge.

In the 1920's, the Carson and Colorado, now owned by the Southern Pacific, built north from the mining town of Bodie, through the town of Bridgeport, and down the Walker River canyon to reach Topaz Lake. From there, the tracks turned northeast, over a small ridge, and dropped down into the valley below Lake Tahoe, finally reaching Carson City, and coming full circle. This line heading north was built in standard gauge, due to increased traffic on the rest of the line, which at the same time was being converted from narrow gauge to standard gauge.

In the 30's, just like everything else, the railroad hit hard times, and by the end of the 40's, the original tracks heading east from Carson City to Tonopah Junction were torn up. There was still enough activity in Tonopah, Nevada to keep the tracks open to Bishop. Although the line from Reno south was kept open, it was pretty much ignored untill the early 80's, when the proposal of a combined railroad of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe went to the ICC for approval. Once the SPSF was approved, the line started to pick up traffic, due to new intrest by the shippers that were on the line.

It is now 1990, and this new "intermodal container" way of shipping freight is taking hold on the Owens Valley Sub, heading mostly north, along with dedicated coal trains coming from the Rio Grande Railroad at Salt Lake City, going south to the Trona railroad and to LA for powerplant use and export out of the country. Online shippers are abundant, creating even more north/south traffic for the Owens Valley Subdivision.

 

 

 

All material on The Owens Valley Subdivision website is Copyright 2007-2009 by Michael Stoner. None of the material (including text and photographs) on this web site may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.