Re: Yosemite Portland Cement Incline

Jack Burgess



Your summary is fairly accurate.


For a long time, all of the Yosemite Portland Cement buildings (except for the 275-ton storage bin which was used to load the cars and the buildings at the top of the incline) where still there were until destroyed by forest fires a decade ago. The quarry was located about a mile from the top of the incline and limestone was transported from the quarry to the crusher at the top of the incline by standard-gauge Plymouth locomotives.


Henry J. Kaiser (one of the Six Companies which built Boulder Dam) later wanted to get the bid to construct a dam in Northern California but didn’t get the contract so he submitted a bid to supply the concrete cement for the project. After winning the bid, he built a very efficient cement plant west of the San Francisco Bay and could then outbid all of the other cement companies in California. Those companies were in collusion, letting one company submit a high bid on a project and still get the contract. YPC was one of those companies and knew that they could not compete against Kaiser Permanente (yes, Henry Kaiser also started Kaiser Permanente hospitals). Kaiser offered to purchase YPC since he knew that he could sell the equipment for more than the purchase price.


The YV purchased 51 hopper cars in 1924 and initially used them to deliver rock to make concrete for the construction of a dam on the Merced River (which resulted in the relocation of 24 miles of YV mainline and the construction of five steel bridges) so the hopper cars were called “rock cars” on the YV. The Sierra Railroad purchased some identical cars for the construction of a dam near its mainline. Upon abandonment of the YV, 3 cars were sold to Amador Central Railroad, 10 to the Apache Railway, 4 to Santa Maria Railroad, and 32 to Kaiser interests in Southern California. The car in Yreka was actually an ex-Pacific Gas and Electric car, apparently purchased directly from the company that was selling the ex-GN cars.


Interesting question about moving the cars with archbar trucks. Possibly the fact that they were not loaded got around that issue.


As mentioned, Westersfield has a kit for these cars. After Al Westerfield released a kit for a longer version of the same car design, I asked him to considered releasing a kit for the 22-foot car and that I could give him detail photos of the cars since the Sierra Railroad had three of these cars on display along the highway leading to Jamestown. Al later told me that it was the first kit that he released that was for a car which still existed.


Attached us a photo of some of the Westerfield rock cars at the 275-ton storage bin at Emory on my layout.


Jack Burgess



From: [] On Behalf Of Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
Sent: Friday, May 7, 2021 4:48 AM
Subject: [RealSTMFC] Yosemite Portland Cement Incline




While scanning up prints from my collection, I happened upon this view of the Yosemite Portland Cement Co. incline at Emory, California. I snapped the photo around 1967, and it shows the grade down from the loading bins near the top of the mountain. Recent photos posted online show this hasn't changed much, except the roof on the bin house is now gone. 


O.K., this isn't a freight car, but wait Grasshopper, and all shall be revealed.


The YPCCo. went into business in the 1920s. It's quarries were located atop this mountain above the Merced River on the Yosemite Valley Railroad. The stone was lowered to the YV via this double-track incline. From here the YV hauled the limestone to kilns near Merced, California, where the stone was burned to make cement. There is a nice web site with photos at . In 1944 the whole company was sold to Henry J. Kaiser (yes, the Liberty Ship guy). He immediately dismantled the kilns and other machinery which were sold to a concern in Venezuela. It isn't clear if any equipment from the Emory quarries also went to Venezuela, or if it was just scrapped. Kaiser is said to have bought the YPCCo. just to eliminate a competitor, though that may just be bad PR. It is possible the quarries were nearly played out, or that the YPCCo. was becoming unprofitable due to the quarry location and shipping costs.


In any case, with the timber operations that fed the YV gone and automobiles cutting into their passenger traffic even before WWII, the loss of the limestone traffic was the last straw for the YV. The line shut down a few months later.


O.K. Here come the freight cars. The YV owned a small fleet of ex-Great Northern ore cars to cover the limestone traffic. There were, IIRC, 50 cars in this fleet. The Sierra Railroad bought some of these, and several are still at Jamestown on display at Railtown 1897, and one more in Sacramento at the CSRM (in hideous orange paint when I last saw it, though the cars seem to have been black on the Sierra). A few others were cast off to other shortlines for maintenance-of-way purposes. Without a detailed roster I can't say if they were sold directly by the YV or its scrappers to these other lines, or were for a time they were owned by the SRR. McCloud River Railroad had several, Amador Central owned two, and the Yreka Western had at least one, though as my father's photo shows, this car still had the GN side walkways, and may have come directly to the YW from the GN. How these got from the YV to the buyers with their archbar trucks circa 1945 is a head scratcher, but possibly the cars had variances for one-time moves.


Westerfield offers this kit in several road names, including the VY as their 3452. It is still in their catalog.


Maybe Jack Burgess will want to chime in here, as the YV is his special interest and I may have garbled some things in this summary.


Yours Aye,



Garth Groff  🦆

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