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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 7, 2010

Yosemite rail line ready for spring

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad's steam engine Shay No. 10 was built in 1928 and weighs in at 83 tons the heaviest narrow-guage Shay locomotive currently in operation.

Courtesy of Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

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Springtime at Yosemite National Park in California and the park's historic rail line is sprucing up for summer passengers, following a very wet winter.

"We've had a lot of snow up there this year," said railroad owner Max Stauffer. "One storm in particular brought a lot of trees down over the lines that we are just now clearing up."

Stauffer isn't worried about missing the April 1 opening. "We have a great crew, we'll be up and running in plenty of time."

Starting its 44th year of operation, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad runs on a segment of rail once used by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Co. Between 1899 and 1931 the company transported more than 500,000 million board feet of lumber harvested from what is now the Sierra National Forest.

Today, the only freight is human. Two vintage Shay steam locomotives have been restored giving visitors all the sights, sounds and ambience of old world, steam-powered transportation.

Shay No. 15 was built in 1913 and tips the scales at more than 60 tons. The second engine, Shay No. 10, was built in 1928 and weighs in at more than 83 tons. Shay No. 10 remains the heaviest narrow-guage Shay locomotive currently in operation. The passenger cars are renovated lumber haulers.

"Everywhere you look up here, there is history," Stauffer said. "From the engines that once hauled the lumber and the region's historic buildings, to a museum that details what life was like in Yosemite at the turn of the century, including gold-panning demonstrations."

RIDES: Daily 4-mile rides leave from Yosemite National Park's South Gate on State Hwy. 41. $18, adults; $12, ages 3-12. Sugar Pine Railroad's Moonlight Tour on Saturday nights include a barbecue, a sunset ride on the train, and entertainment. $48, adults, $24, ages 3-12. Under 3 are free. www.ymsprr.com.

Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, www.yosemitethisyear.com.