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Minarets & Western Railroad

This previous month I spent some time around the North Fork area in Madera County, California tracking the remaining evidence of the Minarets & Western Railroad.


The Minarets & Western Railroad was a 53 mile standard gauge line between Pinedale (modern River Park in Fresno) of Fresno County north to Wishon at Crane Valley Dam in Madera County. The Minarets & Western Railroad was owned by the Sugar Pine Lumber Company and operated from 1921 to 1933 when it was shuttered for not being profitable. From Pinedale the Minarets & Western Railroad had sidings northward in; Friant, Bellview, Shuteye and a terminus in Wishon. The switching yard in Wishon was located next to Crane Valley Dam which was first built in 1901.  From the Wishon switching yard the Minarets & Western Railroad connected to another 11 mile line that crossed Crane Valley Dam and terminated near a lumber community that was known as Minarets.  Crane Valley Dam was expanded in 1910 which facilitated trains crossing the structure to the lumber camps on it's eastern flank.  

The entire line of the Minarets & Western Railroad can be seen on the 1935 Division of Highways Maps of Fresno County and Madera County.  Below the Minarets & Western Railroad can be seen starting in Pinedale and terminating at Crane Valley Dam.  The 1935 Division of Highways Maps does not show the connecting line over Crane Valley Dam east to Minarets.











The Minarets & Western Railroad from Pinedale approached the Madera County Line via Old Friant Road towards the community of Friant. In Friant the Minarets & Western Railroad crossed the San Joaquin River in front of Millerton Dam.  Millerton Dam was completed in 1942 and partially covers the line of the Minarets & Western Railroad.



The Minarets & Western Railroad within Madera County crossed over North Fork Road/Road 200 west of the 1947 Fine Gold Creek Bridge.  In the first photo below the grade of the Minarets & Western Railroad can be partially seen on the right. 





The Minarets & Western Railroad split from North Fork Road/Road 200 and followed Road 221 towards Wishon on Bass Lake.  The Minarets & Western Railroad crossed Road 222 and the grade was recycled into Railroad Grade Road. 




The Minarets & Western Railroad would have followed Road 222 northward towards Wishon and would have crossed the Bass Lake Flume.  The Bass Lake Flume is also known as the is also known as the Brown's Creek Ditch Flume and was constructed shortly after Crane Valley Dam was expanded in 1910.  Brown's Creek Ditch Flume was rebuilt circa 1920/1921 and includes several metal portions that funnel water from Crane Valley Dam.   The Brown's Creek Ditch Flume has a nearby popular hiking trail which is why there are so many Pacific Gas & Electricity warning signs. 









As Road 222 approaches Crane Valley Dam it enters a clearing in the forest which was the location of Wishon.  




Road 222 ascends to the top of Crane Valley Dam where the Minarets & Western Railroad would have connected to the logging spur on the opposite side of Bass Lake.  Crane Valley Dam was constructed by the San Joaquin Electric Company as earthen reservoir impounding Willow Creeks in 1901.  Crane Valley Dam was first expanded in 1905 and again in 1910.  The 1910 level of Crane Valley Dam is what the Minarets & Western Railroad crossed to the opposite side of Bass Lake.






 

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