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Nostalgia & History > Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6


Date: 03/19/17 11:50
Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: BoilingMan

I've mentioned this railway once or twice before and figured it might be a kinda interesting thing to elaborate. 
First, some back story:
In the 1910's & 20's Pacific Gas & Electric constructed a huge hydro-electric system that took water from the Yuba River (on Donner Pass) and dropped it over and over again down the Bear River Canyon.  The project involved two connecting spurs to the SPRR  (both long gone) and two incline railways, one (still operational) at Spaulding Dam and this one at Drum Powerhouse.  The Drum Powerhouse is in a deep narrow canyon with, at the time, no access other than above- a 1000ft drop!  Everything- the penstocks, company housing, powerhouse, turbines, generators, etc had to be lowered from the cliff above. 
Staging was done at a site named Drum.  Drum evolved into a town, of sorts, that had a schoolhouse and (for a short while) post office.  For years access in and out of the powerhouse and it's supporting company housing was this incline railway.  Many of you know Ken Yeo of the Calif State RR Museum.  As a boy Ken lived at Drum Powerhouse and rode the tram up to attend the school at Drum.  Several old timers here in Dutch Flat were from PG&E families and were quite familiar with "The Tram"- my next door neighbor Nancy rode it to school with Ken in the early 30's.
Enough-  let's walk!
SR

Photo 1.  An overview.  This is all about maybe 10mi up from Dutch Flat.  The SPRR is a mile or so off the bottom of this view.  The Drum Town site was the also the end of the SP branch that existed from 1912 until the late 30's or early 40's.
Photo 2.  Approaching "The Edge".  To my left are the two original penstocks, a third now comes in from the right, outside this view. The building houses shutoff valves for the penstocks.  the foundation to it's right is all that remains of the motorhouse that controlled the tram.
Photo 3. The view from the top.  There are three penstock pipelines: the light & dark green to the left were constructed first (1912 & I think, 1928).  The silver line was added much later, probably in the 60's..








Date: 03/19/17 13:24
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: icancmp193

Lots of incredible development at multiple places up in the mountains by PG&E and further south, Southern California Edison.

Tom Y



Date: 03/19/17 18:02
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: EtoinShrdlu

FWIW, the connection to the SP for Spauling was made at a place called Smart, which was about 1 1/2 miles east of what is now Switch 9. You can still see the grade where it comes up to the SP, but it's very easy to miss, particularly if traveling eastbound.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/19/17 18:04 by EtoinShrdlu.



Date: 03/19/17 18:52
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: BoilingMan

Right. And once at the Spaulding Dam site it connected to a narrow gauge construction RR.

The Drum branch took off at Orel (spelling?) or Forebay- these might be two names for the same place? I've explored about half this line and will try and finish the job this summer. (In researching this PG&E adventure I came across a better map)
SR



Date: 03/19/17 21:32
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: 1ST_OUT

Drum and Orel are the same place. The branch at Smart took off about 2000 ft west of where the station of Smart was, it is much easier to see in the winter when there is no foilage on the trees. The station was approx at current mp of 172.8. Most of the old right of way and branches are still visible if you know approx where to look for them. 



Date: 03/19/17 22:42
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: EtoinShrdlu

>The Drum branch took off at Orel (spelling?)

That's always the way I've seen it spelled.

>or Forebay- these might be two names for the same place?

Never thought to look over the edge at Forebay. According to my researches and notes; W to E: Forebay, Orel, Tunnel 1, Knapp, Blue Canon. Orel and Forebay are close together. In situations like this, occasionally I wonder whether both stations existed concurrently.



Date: 03/20/17 01:23
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: Evan_Werkema

EtoinShrdlu Wrote:

> FWIW, the connection to the SP for Spauling was
> made at a place called Smart, which was about 1
> 1/2 miles east of what is now Switch 9. You can
> still see the grade where it comes up to the SP,
> but it's very easy to miss, particularly if
> traveling eastbound.

Was this the same grade originally used by the Birce & Smart lumber railroad? 



Date: 03/20/17 23:32
Re: Drum Powerhouse Tram (Incline railway) #1 of 6
Author: BoilingMan

Yes Evan- they used the same grade.  Also, I did some further digging and found that Orel was indeed renamed Forebay- they are the same place.
SR



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