Friday, December 22, 2023

Angels Branch-Sierra Railroad by Zina Abbott


This is my third post on the Sierra Railway, which connected Oakdale in the San Joaquin Valley to the gold fields and lumberyards of the Sierra Nevada Motherlode region. You may find my other two posts by clicking HERE and HERE

Jamestown after Hotel Nevills burned in 1915.  Mainline passenger train 2 on left with 4-4-0 No.6. Angels mixed 22, (without any freight cars), on right with Shay No.11.

The Angels Camp branch of the Sierra Railway brought freight and passenger service to the bustling gold mines in Calaveras County. Construction began in 1897, the year the tracks reached Jamestown. Unlike the eight months needed to construct the 40 miles of track between Oakdale and Jamestown, construction of the 19.3 miles of the Angels Branch took four years to complete. This was due to the elevation changes and resulting steep grades.

A system of four switch back spur tracks were designed to bring the Sierra Railway nineteen tortuous miles over trestles and bridges from Jamestown to Angels Camp.  The Angel’s branch was completed September 15, 1902 and operated until 1935.


No. 10 at Melones water tower 1903

The route was designed by a young and ambitious civil engineer named William Hamilton Newell.  the Angels Branch developed Passing through areas with such colorful names as Table Mountain, Tuttletown, Jackass Hill and Gee Whiz Point.

Gee Whiz Point in 1916

Gee Whiz Point refers to the exposed precipice at the end of pair of switchbacks reached after the train worked its way up Indian Gulch after crossing the Stanislaus River to Calaveras County north of Tuolumne County. From here, a thousand feet above the river rapids, the entire expanse of the canyon came into view. Trains would often stop here to let passengers drink in the awe-inspiring vista that gave this location its name.


No. 9 with mixed cars on Tuttletown trestle

Because of right of way acquisition problems with the gold mines and the engineering challenges of the Stanislaus River canyon, track laying stopped at Tuttletown till March 1901.

McArdle switch 2. Right side is the reverse track.

To get through the canyon two switchbacks were constructed. The McArdle switchback on the south side and the Pendola switchback on the north side. To find a hand-drawn map of the switchbacks on the Angels Branch, please the check out the blog post on “Angels Branch-Sierra Railway of California 1912 by CLICKING HERE


Combine 5 built 1902 by Holman and Co. in San Francisco

This 19-mile long branch line of the Sierra Railway ran from the Sierra's main yard at Jamestown to the mining community of Angels Camp. In addition to commercial uses, this train was used as a commuter train for workers and school students, who traveled from other parts of the county to Sonora.

Completed in September of 1902, the line here utilized many unconventional elements in its design including multiple switchbacks, curves of nearly 30 degrees, and gradients that hit 4.26 percent in some locations.

 No.10 pulls first excursion September 15, 1902.

With a reputation for daring construction and rugged beauty, this route became a favorite for sightseeing and excursion trains as well as the normal passenger and freight traffic for which the line was built.

 No.30 pulling train Mixed 22 with combine 5

Near the town of Melones, the Sierra encountered the Stanislaus River Canyon, which necessitated the use of four switchbacks to keep grades at a minimum. This required the use of a shorter locomotive than used on other lines, which led to the purchase of the 2-6-2 Baldwin No. 30, which was specifically built for the steep and crooked Angels Branch. Until the No. 30’s arrival, the line had operated solely using geared locomotives.

Baldwin Locomotive Works completed locomotive number 30 in May, 1922 for the Sierra Railway Company of California. She is slightly smaller than the common Baldwin-built logging 2-6-2. The locomotive was built for service on the railroad’s branch line to Angels Camp in Calaveras County, which opened for service in September, 1902.

Angels Camp Depot 1905

It was difficult to find a single straight section of track on the entire 19.3 miles from Jamestown to Angels Camp. In some places, curves reached a maximum of 29 degrees, while grades topped out at 4.26 percent. Major stops were Jamestown Yard, Omega, Tuttletown, El Rico, McArdles, Melones, Carson Hill, and Angels Camp.

Bridge over Stanislaus River-now under water due to New Melones Dam

Part of the route included crossing the Stanislaus River. A 300 foot trestle and bridge crossed fifty feet above the river. Due to the construction of the New Melones Dam in 1976, the old bridge and town of Melones is now covered by water.

Carson Hill Crossing

Unfortunately, completion of the line coincided with the decline of California’s Gold Rush, including the “second gold rush,” which began in the late 1880s. As the mining industry slowly collapsed, the need for the railroad faded. Declining profits coupled with the development of paved roads and automobiles led to the Angels Branch line being abandoned in March 1935. Within two years the rails were gone, and a year after that the entire company filed for bankruptcy and entered receivership, eventually re-organizing itself as the Sierra Railroad.

Many sections of the Angels Branch route remain visible today. Grab a snack and something to drink, then settle in to watch this You-Tube which will take you on the remnants of the Angels Branch of the Sierra Railway. Please CLICK HERE


My latest release is my Christmas Quilt Brides romance, Beulah. To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE




My other Christmas romance this year is Vinegar Pie by Varinia from the Old Timey Holiday Kitchen series.
To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE




My most recent romance set in Tuolumne County, the home of the Sierra Railway, is A Watchman for Willow
To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE 








Tuolumne County Historical Museum


Monday, December 18, 2023

Merry Christmas!!!


 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!!!

I hope that the holiday season finds everyone happy and healthy. 
Overdosing on Christmas romance books and sappy Hallmark movies is a must this time of year. There has been an abundance of Holiday movies made this year and it's wonderful to see author friends making the leap into getting their books made into movies.

I can't say I've read many Christmas books. Though I have watched a lot of them on Hallmark. My Christmas story listening (audible is my best friend) will be two books by my mom's favorite authors. I've read quite a few Linda Lael Miller books, but never anything by Debbie Macomber. I hear she's a great author though.

I hope the New Year is good to everyone and your best year yet.
With any luck 2024 will be lots of book conferences and travel for me. With any luck I'll have Rimrock Book 3 published and a new Wild Love book published as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Calamity Jane



 Calamity Jane, whose real name was Martha Jane Cannary, was a legendary American frontierswoman and a key figure in the Wild West during the late 19th century. Born around 1852 in Princeton, Missouri, her early life was marked by the hardships of the frontier. Orphaned at a young age, she took on various jobs, including working as a dishwasher, cook, and prostitute, to survive in the rough and tumble environment of the American West.

Calamity Jane gained notoriety for her unconventional and adventurous lifestyle, often associating with famous figures such as Wild Bill Hickok. She became a skilled horsewoman and sharpshooter, earning a reputation for her fearless demeanor. Her name became synonymous with the Wild West, and she was often portrayed as a tough, independent woman who defied societal norms. Despite her rough exterior, there is a mix of fact and legend surrounding Calamity Jane's life, with some accounts romanticizing her exploits. Her legacy endures as a symbol of the fearless women who made their mark in a challenging and tumultuous era in American history.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays,





Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Best Kind of Research

Thanks, Roy, Hopalong, Gene, etc.

 Before I wrote my first historical romance I told everyone who would listen that I didn't like to study history (even though I had a minor in it from college) and I wasn't interested in the least in westerns and such. Then my agent asked me to try my hand at an historical. Her timing was good because I had just fallen madly in love with LaVyrle Spencer's books and she wrote both contemporary and historical romances -- but her historicals are fabulous. "Hummingbird," "The Gamble," and "Vows" were wonderful and had me wondering if I might have one of these types of stories inside me.
Taking up the challenge, I launched into my first attempt which I called "Wildcat" and the publisher ended up changing the title to "Blazing Embers," a title I never liked. Reminded me too much of "Blazing Saddles." Nevertheless, I was hooked.
But what was truly astonishing was that I didn't have to conduct as much research as I had thought because -- from somewhere -- facts about the west and living off the land came to me. How did I know these things?
I traced this unearthed knowledge to two sources: my parents' stories of living the farm life in Missouri and my childhood Saturday morning TV fixation with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy.
My dad loved westerns and we always watched what Daddy wanted to watch on TV. So we spent our evenings watching Gunsmoke; Paladin; The Big Valley; Bonanza, Have Gun, Will Travel; The High Chaparral; Wanted: Dead or Alive; The Rifleman; Maverick; Bat Masterson; Wagon Train; Cheyenne; Death Valley Days; Laramie; The Lone Ranger; Rawhide; and Sugarfoot. I grew up in a time when westerns were the most popular genre on TV. Is it any wonder my mind sopped it all up and stored it for future use?
I'm reminded of Margaret Mitchell telling of sitting on the porch and listening to her old relatives relate their personal tales of the Civil War. Little did she know at that time that she would use all of their stories in a novel called "Gone with the Wind."
So it was with my parents. I listened to their tales of picking cotton, training mules, fixing plows, digging outhouses and wells, making soap, butchering pigs and chickens, putting up meat and canned vegetables, and sleeping six or seven kids to a bed. It all came back to me when I began writing historical romances.
If you haven't read LaVyrle Spencer's books, then you have a treat ahead of you. Hers are some of the few books that I have shed tears as I read sentimental and touching passages. She retired from writing in 1997 or thereabout and I don't know why. Her books are wonderful and hold up well.
Please feel free to read my historicals, too. My personal favorites are "Primrose"
and "Cheyenne's Shadow" originally published by Avon Books and now available on Amazon.

"Amos" - a new story in the Kiowa Wells saga

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

In my post for Sweet Americana Sweethearts, I wrote about how I accidentally created a town. That town was Kiowa Wells, a place somewhere out on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. I've populated that town with stories I've written. 

The town appeared in the novel "Josie's Dream", continued in "Chasing a Chance", and "The Outlaw's Letter". The latest installment is the book, "Amos" which will be released as an ebook on December 22, 2023.

This story continues the saga of Amos Krieder and Mary Jane Pierson, who were minor characters in "Josie's Dream". I little realized when I finished that story and wrote the others that I would one day return to the story of these two people. Seems they had other ideas.

Oh, they've been leading me on a merry chase with star-crossed love, bad guys who don't seem to be, and a lovely chance to talk about the other characters from earlier books. 

Never fear, this is a stand-alone story that does not require reading the other books. It's more of 'I remember them' if you had read the others.

There are still some finer points these characters are asking me to address, so this post will be short. I mustn't disappoint these two.

The book is available for pre-order now. I hope to release a print version later in 2024. In the meantime, keep reading. There are some great stories out there by some amazing writers that make great gifts.

Pre-order Amazon

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy.