Re: Some Questions
Gas, lube oil and fuel oil were a large part of the NCNG's traffic in the last years. Standard Oil and Shell had bulk plants at Town Talk and Associated Oil and Union Oil had bulk plants at Hall's Flat a short distance north of the Grass Valley yard limit. Alpha Hardware had heating oil tanks at both Grass Valley and Nevada City. The PG&E "domestic gas" plant just north of Grass Valley used heavy fuel oil to make this gas. The Railroad brought in fuel oil for locomotive use.
Except for Standard Oil all of this was gravity transfered at Oilville. The railroad did maintain an old tankcar tank at this location for fueling locomotives. A short distance up the hill towards the depot was the Standard Oil Co's bulk plant, between the SP and the NCNG's tracks. This is where S.O.Co. loaded their four narrow gauge cars. This plant had a short streatch of dual gauge track with both the SP and the narrow gauge spurs aproaching from opisite directions.
The Idaho Maryland had direct service from the railroad as did the Brunswick mine. There was also a spur for the Pittsburg mine near the Gold Flat trestle. The Idaho Maryland and Brunswick mines had large timber yards for mine props that were served by trhe railroad. Very little mineral product was hauled by the NCNG. The reason for the large SP yard in Colfax was that it was a major helper station in the days of steam.
Colfax started life as Central Pacific RR Camp #20 along the
construction of the Transcontinental RR Eastward out of Sacramento.
As it turned out the area was the highest flat spot the CP could find
to use as a staging ground for the construction up into the Sierra
During the construction of the Railroad, Camp #20 was visited by US
Vice-president Schuyler Colfax, who the people of area really took a
liking to. You can guess what they did to show how much they liked
Local quartz and gold mines in the towns of Nevada (as it was called
before Nevada City) & Grass Valley began shipping their ores on the
CP, which brought in quite a bit of business. Enough business that
the CP when ahead to design and built a township in 1864(?). Between
the mines, agriculture and the railroad plenty of people moved into
the area. This is the business that supported the Narrow Gauge being
As already said, Colfax was the last flat spot before tackling the
summit, and the first flat spot coming down the summit, making it the
first and last chance the railroad had to add and remove helpers
(like Greg said) as well as organize trains. This is the function it
still serves today, but to a lesser extent that it had been in the
days of steam.