Last week I drove up to Benton, Mono Mills, Bodie and other places around Mono County. On Google Earth I saw the Bodie & Benton Railway grade clearly marked from Mono Mills to just south of Mono Lake. From there it is not marked.
Does anyone know of any maps that show the entire former course of the railway between Mono Mills and Bodie?
If anyone has driven it, does it require high ground clearance and/or 4WD?
I have driven and walked the entire route - from the railroad office building above Bodie, down and into the forests south of Mono Mills. Not one trip, but many short ones and over several decades. In vehicles and on foot.
I've only used standard topographic maps to plot my course. The old 15' series maps show the most of the grade. I've found that overhead aerial/satellite maps (such as Google Maps) show the best to follow the grade, though it's easy to loose in the forests south of Mono Mills.
The grade was never completed to Benton. Grading was abruptly abandoned in Adobe Valley. Many publications cite that it is a mystery, but one publication, written by a former manager of the railroad, stated that it would conflict with the Carson & Colorado Railroad's mission of bringing forest products south from the Lake Tahoe region. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad was the parent company of the C&C, they owned vast lumber interests.
As to trail conditions, I can only state that when I followed the route in bits and pieces, I did so in standard 4x4 pickup trucks that I've owned over the decades, all stock. I did get badly stuck once, when I high centered on the grade near Warm Springs. In the Mono Basin the trail gets quite sandy (pumice sands). As the grade climbs the Bodie Hills, you have to walk northward. There are sites that held trestles, now gone, but their stone abutments remain. I've found telegraph poles. The switchbacks are pretty neat. When I first attempted to gain the railway office structure, I got kicked out. It was 30 years ago and closed to the public. 25 years ago I got a private tour. 18 years ago I went on a public tour. I believe tours are available now. I've also walked several miles of the grade south from the railway office. The grade south into the forests fragmented as timber conditions warrented in those days - the grade never had a set course but ran where there was timber. In the forests south and east of Mono Mills are many old timber camps, with loading platforms still found. There are remains of a flume and sawmill near Sawmill Meadows. I've never attempted following the route of the aborted Benton branch, except to follow it via Google Maps. It's hard to determine its course as it gets into the hills east of Mono Lake.
Enjoy your travels!
Last edited by David A. Wright; 09-23-2015 at 02:42 PM.
David A. Wright
Quote: "Happy Trails To You, Until We Meet Again!"
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