Monday, February 8, 2021

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 10) - Track Plan Details of Owenyo

In my previous posts, I cover some changes of the layout construction (Part 9) and some additional planning of what freight cars I'll be needing for modeling the 1950-53 era (Part 3) & (Part 4).  In the last week or so, I've found additional information in the form of period photos of Owenyo dating back into the 1940s and a couple into the late 1930s.  Also, as mentioned in (Part 8), I found the Santa Barbara UC GIS page for the Fairchild 1944 Aerial Surveys of the Owens Valley.

Note: These photos cover a plethora of different topics, so I'll be cropping and referring to these photos several times in the next few posts to bring out the various bits of details that can be found.

Track Plan Details of Owenyo

1944 Fairchild Aerial Survey photo of Owenyo - North roughly to the right.

All of this new information is allowing the refinement of my track planning at Owenyo and more information on the structures around the station.

SPNG Transfer Dump Trestle

The SPNG built a trestle over the SP standard gauge at the south end of Owenyo to transfer bulk goods across to the SG cars.  Reportedly the early maps show this as a 'Beet Dump Trestle' which would indicate the growing of sugar beets in the Owens Valley in the days before the Los Angeles Aqueduct removed much of the water flowing into Owens Lake and Mono Lake.

North to Right, 2021 remnants of Owenyo transfer trestle.

Measuring the remains showing in GoogleEarth shows the transfer portion of the trestle pit at about 275ft, or six 45ft coupled GS gondolas.  This seems to be born out by the cut of SG gondolas sitting out from under the trestle in the photos below.

My model will be able to handle about four 45ft coupled cars under it.  So I'll have to do some selective compression, but it certainly is reasonable.  Doubling the cut of cars going under the trestle dump certainly is another operational wrinkle to throw into operating sessions to load a couple more cars.

SPNG Trestle from SE side, NG track in foreground. 1939 -

Standing on the NG trestle looking north 1930s. -

Notice the culvert-trestle on the SG along the NG ramp trestle section at left.  That will be a fun detail to add to my model!  This photo certainly leads me to want to keep the sub-roadbed 1/4" MDF to as narrow under the track as possible for the SG.  Foam will make up the rest of the layout top, which will be sculpted down a bit here and there.

Another northward photo at a later date without the NG turntable. -

A nearly duplicate photo, but several years later, after the NG turntable has been removed.  Looks like the SG also has a new black steel water tank up near the wye.  Even long-distance photos can be used to pull additional details to detail a model railroad.

NG Trestle looking north at crews unloading. - Dennis Burke photo -

A nice color photo showing the way the scenery will be colored.  Also the stark color of the material being dumped out of the NG cars into the SG gondolas at the trestle.

Details abound, GS gondolas shoved under the trestle. -

Great detail photo.  Including the multiple prominate signs appealing to the crews to, "STOP - TRAINMEN MUST NOT RIDE CARS BEYOND THIS POINT".  Really?  I had no idea there would be a problem with continuing to ride the cars *under the trestle!*

3D CAD view of the west (south) end of my new 2/3's length dump trestle. (Feb 7, 2021)

One wonders if they ever shoved an NG gondola off the end of the trestle into or onto standard gauge gondolas.

SPNG 9 with water car working the NG cars on top of the trestle. -

Here's a photo from the SG side of the trestle.  This will be the side my model will be viewed from.  The backdrop of my planned layout will require cutting off the trestle well before the NG could get down to 'ground level'.

A photo documenting a good plan to have the derail at the bottom of the transfer trestle! -

Here's a nice view without any cars in the way.  A string of SG gondolas are waiting at the far end of the trestle.

SPNG 22 shoving cars up the trestle. -

SPNG 18 with a water car on the NG trestle -

A nice side view of the ramp section of the transfer trestle.

A nother photo of SPNG 22 shoving A-frame gondolas up the trestle. -

  Notice the last solid bent under the SPNG 22's tender.  The bents to the left of that with the SG in the "Basement" have been constructed more like a tunnel bent to clear the larger SG gondolas.

In the later years, SPNG 1 (diesel) shoving A-frame gonds up the trestle and dumping into SG cars. -

The trestle dump was used up into the last days of the operations at Oweno.  Here SPNG 1 works the trestle dump.  I don't plan in modeling into the era when SPNG 1 was placed into service, but this is a great action shot of the number of men needed to operate the dump cars on the trestle.  Looks like a fun job! (Yikes)

Unfortunately, my layout and space constraints will prevent me from having much of the ramp section of the NG going up to the trestle.  Perhaps 6" or so of the part not over the SG track below in the pit.  Also I'll only be building my model about 180ft long, not the prototypical 275 odd feet, which the aerial photos show for the footings.  The number of bents will be reduced to 12 on ~17ft centers.  Should be fun to finish researching and then building.  I'm still planning to adjust the size of the pit in width, I think it should be wider than what is shown in the CAD rendering.

Livestock Transfer Platform

Great detail photo of the stock transfer platform with the sloped deck. -

The SP transferred livestock at Owenyo between the NG and the SP's fleets of stock cars.  This photo is great to show that the platform is not level, but inclided to account for the difference in deck heights of the two gauges of cars that it serves.  This view from the standard gauge side, obviously given the points of the switch right in the foreground to the little pocket track stub spur, north of the stock transfer platform.

View looking North on the NG main.  Stock transfer platform at left. -

Interesting photo above showing a T&NO stock car at Owenyo.

Another view from the top of cars on the turntable lead. -

In this shot it appears that a string of empty A-frame gons are being left on the stock transfer track after being pulled off the transfer trestle.

"South" Transfer Platform

Looking North, a great view of the "South" and "Middle" transfer platforms. -

Time to count telephone poles.  It looks like there are talk-back speakers rigged to the tops of some of these poles.  I wonder if the phone booth looking shacks on the platforms at the base of the poles are phones to call the yard office or yardmaster regarding what they've just been squaked at from the speakers on the poles.

Gypsum bags being transferred by hand-truck from the SPNG boxcars to SP 102856, B-50-series post-war boxcar. -

These two photos are great examples of the hand labor moving bags of gypsum across between the NG boxcars to the new post-war SP 102856.  Looks like I need to pick up a post-war boxcar... sigh.  I'll be using these photos to sort out the width of the platform based on the width of the boxcars, I should be able to work this out pretty accurately.

Great view of SP 102856 post-war B-50- boxcar loading bagged gypsum from the NG boxcar. -

Note: the better angle to see inside the little "phone booth" at the base of the telephone pole with the talk-back speakers on it.  Also it is interesting that there is a safety railing installed where there are no steps and a slight raised block at the edges of the deck to keep the hand trucks or workers from stepping back off the edges.

"Middle" Transfer Platform

This shot appears to be taken from the talk-back telephone pole on the "South" transfer platform. - ... owenyo dennis burke_sml_r

This photo would appear to show another view of the 'scheduled' passenger train.  There's at least one steam engine in town, sitting back on the north curve of the wye, next to the oil tank
1944 Fairchild Aerial Survey zoomed in on the wye area.  The two large buildings on the mid-lower-left are the depot and hotel.  (Right to North)

There's also a road crossing through the platforms to the left, just this side of the RPO car.  This road figures into my track plan changes, as it aligns with the depot off to the right with the Train Order signal.  The depot will really only be modelable as a 'flat' against the back drop.

Ore Transfer Bulk Bucket Lift (Perlite, Soda Ash, etc)

The SP SG and NG seem to have set up a mechanized transfer elevator with buckets to transfer the various minerals and ores to standard gauge boxcars.  It shows on the Fairchild Aerial Survey from 1944.  Some photo captions say that this was used for Perlite, which sounds about right, but perlite wasn't being mined and shipped until around 1950, and the following years.  So it was probably built for transferring other ores and minerals before the perlite came around.

North Side

Canvas chute to load the materials into the SG boxcars. Probably using grain doors. Photo circa 1956-1959+. -

Cool shot from the roof of a standard gauge boxcar showing the canvas chute to guide the ore and minerals into the standard gauge cars.  Notice the angled braces off the north and south sides of the shed with the sheet metal cover.  I'm guessing that there was a mechanism like a boxcar door roller, which would move the chute north and south to align with the door of the boxcar.

Notice that a pair of reefers are on the short SG pocket track.  Also notice the SPNG 1 diesel in the background, which appears to be in red/gray, so this is probably around a 1959 photo.

South Side

Great shot of the mech-bucket elevator shed in service loading an OWRN boxcar. - Chard Walker photo -

Here's a great shot of the dust flying around the transfer bucket elevator.  The Fairchild Aerial Survey 1944 photo, shows this whole area over-exposed as white, probably from all the dust all around the area.

This shot also shows a pair of SPMW water cars off at the far left at the SG water tanks.  The Owenyo depot is on the right side, but I'll not be able to model that, as I believe it will end up too far into the backdrop.... I'll get to paint it on the wall or as a flat.

SPNG 18 works by the NG boxcars unloading bulk material into the bulk bucket transfer shed. -

Slightly different angle, but closer view of the same area.  This shot gives an acceptable view of the intake doors on the east side for the NG cars to unload into.  There possibly is a door on the ground to dump into as well.

Time is closing in quickly for Owenyo now... all the buildings and infrastructures being razed. - Rich McCutchan -

Great view of the structure around the transfer bucket machinery.  I'm planning to work out drawings for this loader, if I can't find some plans have already been made.

This is a nice detail view of the "west" switch of the SG wye's high switch stand.

Gantry Transfer Crane - Hand-Powered

Looking South, from the north showing the Gantry Crane - 1937 - Eastern California Museum -

Another great view of the Gantry Crane, in a future post I'll be covering any details I can get off these boxcars.  It seems that the NG ran diagonally from the pinch-point under the crane out to the two transfer platforms to the north and south.

Looking North at the south side of the Gantry Crane - 1940 -

Lots of NG gondolas moving bulk soda ash across to SG boxcars.  Lots of details can be gleaned from this photo regarding the NG's company buildings and details in the area between the SG and NG, which I can probably model.  It appears that there is a stack of 'grain doors' this side of the transfer platform.  Seems they might be used to hold the bulk shipments of soda ash.

SPNG engine pointed south at Owenyo, next to the crane - Sept 1954 -

SPNG engine with combine 401 moves by on the NG main next to the Gantry Crane.  Many NG boxcars and gondolas form the background to this photo. 

North side of Gantry Crane, looking South, while transferring power poles from SG to NG cars at the Gantry Crane.  Dennis Burke - ... dennis_burke13_sml

While this photo is here to show the Gantry Crane, there are a bunch of other things to see in the photo, such as the water tanks.  The auto-boxcar is loaded with some sort of crane in the SP A-50-series at right.  The transfer platform details, the other car bodies on the west side of the track in the distance past the two water tanks.

Time to trans-load some flatcars at Owenyo! Eastern California Museum -

Good view of the loading operations and the details of the hand-operated gantry crane.  All sorts of additional operations are pointed to in the photos and the captions at's photos. 

This appears to be an F-70-2/5/6/7 series 53ft flatcar with the power poles on it at the left.  The NG cars are being loaded for over-length poles with idler cars on each side.  A very cool photo!

October 1954 Railfan Excursion

SPNG 18 & 9 ready for the excursions in 1954.  Notice the HW Pullman cars lettered for Southern Pacific on the SG main track, one of the SG steamers in the background there.  - Eastern California Museum -

These photos are interesting in showing the population of Owenyo exploding with the arrival of a SG passenger train of fans coming to ride the NG equipment.  

Great photo from Oct '54 showing humans with the transfer platform! Eastern California Museum  -

The above photo from the tender of the SPNG 9, there's some good info to pull from the photo with the boxcars at the transfer platform North of the Gantry Crane.  I believe I'll be able to scale the ends of these platforms from the size of the people and track gauge.  I need to work these points out so that I can most accurately scale the platforms that I will build on the model.  Given how narrow some of these platforms actually are, I might be able to have more SPNG trackage than I originally planned to have.  Probably at least one track to place SPNG boxcars on to stage the scene.

In Closing

Jawbone Branch track plan Feb 7, 2021.

In this track plan, I've redrawn the whole Owenyo area with corrections for the lengths of the trans-loading platforms and better positioning of the western most NG track, which will run along right next to the wall.  Unfortunately, I just don't have the room for 2-3 extra NG tracks between the platform and the depot and other buildings on the east side of the NG tracks.  I'll probably be 'modeling' the front face of each of the structures as 'flats' against the backdrop, so at least looking at it from nearly chin-level, it will look ok.

Here's a lower angle view, similar to what a visitor will see of the yards at Owenyo - Feb 7, 2021

There should be a number of company dwelling structures, carbodies, etc to the west (south compass, right side from this view) of the wye, which will be between the viewer and the SG trackage.  The exact edge of this benchwork curving out into the wye is still up for grabs as to how much I will leave and put buildings on between the viewing area and the operational part of the layout.  Too much and it risks getting klutzed by the switching crew!  As I start building, I'll probably leave that area un-cut for the current time until I feel out how much I can safely put in that area.

I'm still working on some track changes at Little Lake, putting in the siding and arranging the buildings.  In the next post I'll probably go into more detail on that or the structural issues of stacking Owenyo and Mojave yards.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 2) - Researching and Changing of the Plan

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 3) - Consists and More Bartlett Research

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 4) - Freight Car Roster

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 5) - Pulling the Trigger (Buying the materials for the benchwork)

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 6) - Q&A Continuing Design Tweaks - Working out the logistics for the staging yards other details.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 7) - Film & Construction Begins - Historic movie film clip of Owenyo Local and starting construction of the layout.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 8) - Little Lake Grows - More research materials have surfaced for my modeling of Little Lake.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 9) - Layout Material Changes - Shifting to MDF for the roadbed and moving the foam to secondary scenery uses.

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Part 4 - SP Locals - Tehachapi Pass's SP Local Freights, several of which work out of Mojave.


  1. Great! Not much of the xfer trestle or other footings while I was at NAVWEAPCEN China Lake 69-72. Loads of fun walking the old ROWs from Laws to Keeler, though...found a few spikes and later made some display stands out of the chunks of ties I found....milled out very nicely, too. Vestiges of the spur to the ammo xfer area at NAVWEAPCEN were still visible as was the ROW from Inyokern to the base....mostly gone, now...Old case ammo and leaking silk powder bags came in Aluminized box cars and gas fork lifts with grounding cables....du'h.

  2. Think of the Santa Clarita/Piru area.....that's what Ownes Valley looked like before Mulholland and his criminal friends in LA destroyed it....Plenty of fruit orchards. Then, it became a wonderful desertmovie set for Hollywood types. Lone Pine is a cool little least it was away back, when!


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