FISH CAMP — The Railroad Fire started just across the road from the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Hence the name.
It burned to the north, past the Narrow Gauge Inn which is just feet away, then crossed the road to the east and destroyed several homes. But the railroad was spared.
That was day one. On day two, erratic winds pushed the fire back to the south and east, and spot fires all around the historic property challenged firefighters all afternoon.
Late yesterday, fire on the southern end of the 10-acre property finally crept in and claimed a few treasured pieces of history – burning equipment that wasn’t part of the main rolling stock, but was stored on a side track.
Much of the equipment at the YMSPRR was brought to Fish Camp from the West Side Lumber Company – the last of the narrow-gauge logging companies operating in the American West, hauling logs from the forests of the Sierra down the mountain to the mill in Tuolumne City.
Both steam locomotives that run at the railroad — the No. 10 and the No. 15 — came from the West Side. And both of those locomotives have survived the Railroad Fire thus far, along with all the structures on the property.
The equipment that was destroyed in last night’s fire included a dump car, a flatcar that had been converted from a refrigerator car, and a log car — all from the West Side Lumber Company.
Also on the siding was a small diesel engine, a tanker car, about eight sets of locomotive wheels, and a snow plow that attaches to the front of the locomotive. About 200 new railroad ties also lent fuel to the fire.
At midnight last night, there were crews on site protecting the structures and monitoring the fire as it burned along the south side of the property.
Anyone who has ever visited the railroad knows that owner Max Stauffer, who passed away in March of this year, kept the grounds immaculate, always had beautiful flowers growing all along the walkways, and kept the dust down by running sprinklers on the grounds. Those sprinklers came in very handy last night.
It was a beautiful sight to see the everything still standing in the early morning hours – the engine house, the museum, the bookstore, the gift shop, the rail cars, the passenger cars, and both steam locomotives. But the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is all about history, and the loss of those connections to the past erases just one more little piece of that history.