Major Events in the History of the
Yosemite Valley Railroad Company
1902(December 19), Articles of Incorporation filed with the State of California to form the Yosemite Valley Railroad Company, To be head quartered in San Francisco. John Drum named president of the railroad.
1903Frank G. Drum, brother to John, named president. 1
 (February), N. C. Ray, Chief Engineer for YVRR begins lobbying in Washington to make changes in National Parks boundries.
1903
&
1904
Political fighting in Washington D.C., Fresno's Mr. Needham, a member of congress, caused many headaches. Congressman Needham, it seems, was worried more about his Frenso constituents than the rest of his district. Finally, a group of Mariposa, Merced and Modesto business men sent a telegram to Needham to work for the "Bills" relating to the YVRR.
1905 (February), Park Bill2 finally signed and approved President Teddy Roosevelt. Clearing way for the YVRR to start construction.
  Contract awarded to James H. O'Brien to build the railroad
  (September 27), Construction Begins at K and 24th Streets in Merced.
  (October 7), Construction of Bear Creek bride at 26th and R streets began.
  O.W. Lehmer of the Santa Fe Railway named superintendent of YVRR.
  November 4), First YVRR rails spiked down.
  (November 25), Number 1 - YVRR first locomotive arrives at Merced on the Santa Fe.
  (December 18), first regularly scheduled train on the Yosemite Valley - only ran six miles.
1906 (March 4), Tracks competed From Merced to Merced Falls.
  (April 18), San Francisco suffers major damage from earthquake and fire. Luckily the Yosemite Valley railroad was constructed as far as it was - otherwise it may have been cancelled.
 (April 26), Scheduled trains service to Merced Falls.
 Early records of the railroad were lost in the fire after the earthquake.
 (May), Announcement - round-house to be built for the YVRR on their land at 20th and R streets
 (May 22), Accounting department moved to Merced headed by J.H.Ellis - first group to make Merced YBRR headquartes
  (June 6), YVRR welcomed to Snelling. A large Native Sons of the Golden West parade and picnic at Snelling - the YVRR carried passengers to the gathering.
 (July 6), C.H.Wright appointed freight and ticket agent at Merced.
 
Herald introduced          First YVRR Herald
 (September 17), contract let to build YVRR Offices and Depot on R street between 17th and 18th streets
 (December 1), Grant Nickerson replaces N.C. Ray as chief engineer
1907 (February), YVRR orders "matched passenger train" from Hicks.
 (April 25), Yosemite Terminal Company incorporated.
 Round Trip fare set at $18.50; including stage trip from El Portal to Yosemite Valley and return.
  (May 15), First official train from Merced to El Portal.
 Yosemite Transportation Company stages YVRR passenger to Yosemite Valley from railroad terminal at El Portal
 Ticket Offices opened in San Francisco, Los Angeles, El Capitan Hotel in Merced, and Yosemite. Other railroads also sold YVRR tickets.
 Yosemite Terminal Company builds the Del Portal Hotel at El Portal
1908Frank G. Drum becomes president of Yosemite Transportation Company
 (January), Yosemite Lumber Company chartered, Mill to be located at Merced Falls.
 (March 26), YVRR puts new matched train into service at Merced - coaches and Observation car built by Hicks Car and Locomotive
 (March 31), Railroad Postoffice begin opertaion with postmark Merced-ElPortal.
 (April 9), Locomotive number 20 totally rebuilt at Merced YVRR shops.
 Yosemite Transportation Company corporate headquarters moved from Los Angeles to El Portal.
1909(April 15), Pullman sleeper service from LosAngeles to ElPortal began.
  (October 6), President of the United States,
William H. Taft rides YVRR to Yosemite. Returns four days later over the YVRR.
 (November 19) YVRR reopened after storm damage, closure was only a few days
1910Siding built for barites plant at El Portal.
 (April 1), Pullman service began from Oakland to El Portal.
1911(January 2) Huge excursion of Merced people to El Portal
 (February 4), YVRR damaged by heavy storm in Merced Canyon - Snelling flooded
 February 25), YVRR reopen after flood damage.
 (April 4), Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and daughter, Miss Ethel Roosevelt take YVRR to Yosemite after visit with Mrs. S. F. B. Morse at the Crocker mansion.
1913 Yosemite Lumber Company builds the inclined railway at El Portal.
 Yosemite Lumber Company builds large saw mill complex at Merced Falls.
  (November 19), First Yosemite Transportaion Co. motor stage begins opertion between railroad terminal and the Yosemite Valley.
1914Big Trees Auto Stage Line began operating from El Portal to Merced and Tuolumne Groves to Yosemite Valley.
 (June 2), Major accident above Bagby, two killed, four seriously injured, 16 minor injured
 (August 14), Roundhouse burned.
 (October), Replacement roundhouse described.
1916(September), Desmond Park Service Company took over operatations of Del Portal Hotel and Yosemite Transportation Company. The U.S. Park Service required that only one company be allowed to operate within the National Park. Desond was the company selected by the Park Service.
1917Round Trip fare lowered to $13.50;
Transporting automobiles from Merced to El Portal $12.50
 (April 6), United States enters World War I
  (November 3), Del Portal Hotel at El Portal burned - total loss.
 (December 26), President Woodrow Wilson used the Federal Possession and Control Act to nationalize the majority of U.S. Railroad, including the YVRR.
1918YVRR starts construction of El Portal Hotel.
 (November 11), World War I ends.
1919 (October 19), King Albert of Belgians with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Leopold takes YVRR train to Yosemite.
1920(March 1), U.S. Railroads, including the YVRR, returned to their owners by the USRA.
 (March), Tom Mix began making movies along the YVRR and in Yosemite Valley.
 (July 6), another wreck, Engine and baggage coach off the rails - New Jersey Democratic delegation.
 (December 24), O. W. Lehmer resigns as general Manager. Became a member of board of directors of railroad.
1921(January 1), William L. White became General Manager
 
Herald changed to Vernal Fall         YVRR second Herald - Vernal Falls
1922 July 22, YVRR & MID deadlocked over relocation of RR so that Exchequer dam can be erected.
1923Yosemite Lumber Company moves operations from El Portal to new location, Incline, on north side of Merced river.
 (June 23), President of United States Warren Harding scheduled to travel over YVRR to Yosemite Valley, he never made the trip - he died in San Francisco after a trip to Alaska.
 (July14), YVRR & MID dealock ended RR permit calling for relocation bids.
 (August), Frank G. Drum, President of YVRR dies in San Francisco.
 Fred T. Elsey became President of YVRR.
 (December 29), YVRR to have emply insurance.
1924Relocation of 16.7 miles of the YVRR begins, to allow construction of Merced Irrigation District's new Exchequer Dam.
 YVRR Buys 50 gravel cars, all secondhand, to hual materials to the dam site.
 Construction of Exchequer Dam began.
  (October 16), YV honors C.H.Grant, long time YV employe, by naming locomotive number 21 the "C.H.Grant"
1925Exchequer Dam places heavy work load on YVRR.
  State Highway 140 opened as all year automobile route to Yosemite National Park.
  (September 19), Special train carries members of the Merced Chamber of Commerce to Exchequer dam site and Pleasant Valley.
  (November 25), Merced Rotarians travel over YVRR to visit construction of Exchequer dam
1926(April 18), relocated section of railroad opened, from Merced Falls to Detwiler. Most notable: Barrett Bridge 1, 660 feet long, 236 feet above low water and 7, 207, 000 pounds of steel;four tunnels totaling 3, 615 feet.
 (April 21), YVRR renamed so stations to honor former officers.
 (June 23), Special train to the completed Exchequer Dam for dedication.
  Crown Prince Gustaf Adophus of Sweden takes YVRR to Yosemite Valley.
1927(March), Round Trip fares reduced to $10.25
 (April), Yosemite Portland Cement Company open quarry for lime stone at Emory.
1928 (July 4), Yosemite Portland Cement Company plant at Merced becomes operational.
1929(August 19), General offices and Depot burned
 (September), Winston Churchill takes YVRR to visit Yosemite
 (October 11), Contract awarded to rebuild YVRR Merced Offices & Depot on site of burned depot
 (December 20), new General Offices and Depot opened
1930William Letson became President of YVRR
1931 Brother of Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Prince Nokhuhito Takamatsu and bride ride the YVRR to Yosemite.
1932El Portal Hotel burned - total loss.
1933(July), William L. White named president of American Short Line Railroad, resigned from YVRR and moved to Washington D.C.
 (July 19), Ray D. Toner named General Manager of YVRR by President Letson
1934(October 22), Yosemite Valley Railway Company incorporated
1935Ray D. Toner, General Manager dies
 (May 1), William L. White returns to take over General Managers position.
 (December 23), YVRR sold at auction on city hall steps in San Francisco .
1936(January 1), YVRy takes control with Bonsall as trustee.
  January 3) YVRy main offices move to LosAngeles, operational management remained in Merced. William White named G.M. & V.P., Howard Bonsall take over as trustee.
 
Herald changed to reflect new name.          Third YVRR Herald to reflect name change
 (May 13), Yosemite Valley Railroad Company files Certificate of Dissolution with State of California.
1937(October 4, 1937), YVRy warehouse burns, Baggage/RPO 105 and Observation 331 damaged by fire - scraped.
 (December 11), Railroad badly damaged flood damage.
1938(May 5), railroad totally repaired and reopened to El Portal.
  (July 14), President Franklin D. Roosevelt rides over the YVRy
in his special train to visit Yosemite National Park.
1941(March 30), Near Snelling, train loaded with limestone wrecked.
  (December 7), World War II - Pearl Harbor attacked! U.S. Enter World War II officially the next day.
1942(November 11), Last log train from Incline to Merced Falls.
1943Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company closes mill at Merced Falls.
 Southern Pacific Leases engines 25, 26, and 29 - they ran "locals" in northern part of San Joaquin Valley
 (June 22), William White resigns from YVRy to be G.M of Central California Traction, L.A. Foster takes over as G.M.
 (July 1), Lee A. Foster becomes General Manager.
 Started daily Mixed Train service, except Sundays
 (October 24), discontinued of mail service
1944(June 2), last train of lime stone from Emory to Merced, 25 years to the day.
 (July 1), Yosemite Portland Cement Company ceased all operations.
 (August 16), first Mixed Train up one day back the next
 (August 31), Application to abandon Railroad filed with ICC.
 (September 4), Tri- weekly train service, (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)
 (September 4), First YVRy Fan trip
 (December 1), ICC abandonment hearings at City Hall in Merced, only National Lead supported railroad
1945(February 2), Flood closed railroad.
 (February 15), Machine Tool & Equipment offers to buy YVRy bonds at $0.28 on $1.00
 (February 16), Railroad reopens from flood damage.
 (February 28), ICC examiner Romero recommends abandonment.
 (March 3), Merced Chamber of Commerce decides to enter protest over abandonment
 (March 23), Machine Tool & Equipment gains control of YVRy bonds and stock!
 (April 14), Southern Pacific returns the three leasted locomotives.
 (May 22), J. M. McFadden of the Pacific Coast Railroad Association offers to buy the YVRy. The 18 year old, McFadden's offer caused Trustee Bonsall headaches.
 (May 30), last and largest rail fan trip over the YVRy.
 (June 28), ICC approves abandonment.
 (August 6), Hiroshima, Japan is attacked with an atomic bomb - delivered by "Enoly Gay," a B-29, with Colonel Paul Tibbits as pilot and mission commander.
 (August 9), Nagasaki, Japan is atomic bombed - delivered by "Bock's Car," a B-29, with Major Charles Sweeney as pilot and mission commander.
 (August 15), Japan surrenders - for all intents and purpose World War II ended.
 (August 21), Bridge at Bagby burns, YVRy is shut down.
 (August 24), Last official train. Merced to Merced Falls only.
 (September), YVRy - Fated to Junk, as per A. E. Perlman3 of the Machine Tool & Equipment the new owner.
 (September), World War II officially ends.
 (November 29), Removal of rails begins at El Portal.
1946(February), Howard Bonsall, dies in Los Angeles.
 Rails and ties removed, some equipment scraped, some rolling stock was sold to other railroads.
 (December 31), Yosemite Valley Railway files articles to dissolve the company with the State of California.
1947(December 28), Merced County Farm Bureau buys YVRy depot. Depot had been moved to 18th & T streets.


  1. Frank G. Drum was also chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric Company; also, trustee of Western Pacific Railroad during the WP's bankruptcy.
  2. Bill authorized redrawing of western park boundary.
  3. Perlman, it is thought, was working for the Rio Grande & Western R.R. because that railroad needed rails that had been brought on by shortages caused by the War demands. The YVRy had a good rails on its railroad. Pearlman also, did his share of damage to the New York Central railroad a few years later.

Clayton J. Guest, April 21, 2011