The Long Valley

Starting downgrade through the Long ValleyAfter crossing another washout, the roadbed heads almost straight down the eastern side of this valley. About a mile long and between 500 and 1,000 feet wide, this stretch has gently descending hills to the left and sharper cliff faces to the west. The river is some 30 feet below the roadbed in the heavy growth.

For some time after the railroad was abandoned it was possible to drive down the right-of-way and thus tour most of the canyon. Much was held in private hands and used for livestock. There are several springs to be found on the eastern hillsides with many of them flowing year 'round.

Egyptian Temple ?Below one of these springs there was a water tank placed on a shelf about 15 feet above the roadbed. This tank now lies down in the riverbed, just above the fan at the bottom left of the photo. Some of the cliffs to the west look almost like carvings. This one reminded me of an Egyptian Temple entrance.

Once on the roadbed again, the trail is fairly easy going. A view from one of the small promontories to the east is a rewarding detour. Because of these promontories and the undulating nature of the land the T&T's roadbed was mostly built on fill and juts out from the hillsides. If these fills were above mean springtime water level, they should suffer little damage, except in a big flood. Big floods did come ... in 1916 and 1938 in particular. Flooding or heavy rains meant additional operating precautions and repairs to the fragile roadbed. These additional costs had to be borne by the users of the Tonopah & Tidewater as well as trying to amortize the reportedly $50,000 per mile cost of building through the Amargosa Canyon.

Even in good times the operating speed of the trains in the canyon was not particularily high, the northbound time table allowed 20 minutes for the distance between Morrison and Tecopa - about 20 M.P.H. maximum.

Typical TTRR wooden culvertOne of the recurring problems faced by the Tonopah & Tidewater were the numerous small washes that came down from the hills. They drained the land for some miles to the east. As a precaution, most of the washes had culverts built under the roadbed.

In the early 1900's these were accomplished through the use of large roofed 'sluice boxes' If heavy rains came and the culverts hadn't been kept clear of debris, the water would often wash out the culvert and the roadbed above. Regular inspection of the track was necessary to prevent more accidents similar to the one on August 9th, 1908. A cloudburst in the Eagle Mountains southeast of Death Valley Junction caused a track washout and subsequent wreck of the southbound train at a location just north of Shoshone. In this situation the volume of water overcame any defenses the railroad had planned.

Remains of TTRR bridgeIn the rush to construct the railroad and save costs the T&T originally employed timber braced and protected spans, wooden culverts and water diverters. Only where the obstacle was not 'fillable' would the construction gang use a bridge or trestle of more 'permanent' materials.

After the T&T was opened for traffic, locations that were frequently washed out or damaged by the river's flow would be noted and crews would return and construct concrete water diversion channels with timbered spans.

One of the largest is just visible from the highway north of Tecopa Hot Springs. It is up the wash, just after crossing the old right-of-way. This one includes a filled in wooden trestle lead-in, concrete abutments and remains of the 'in river' trestle support poles. But even here, heavily constructed concrete diverters and supports without ongoing maintenance are being slowly eroded and the Amargosa is reclaiming the land.

What is around the bend?Near the end of the Long Valley the river and consequently the Tonopah & Tidewater take a firm left turn. This cut marks the 'boundary' between the Long Valley and the Swamp. Along the way down Long Valley, the Amargosa River has dropped some 80 feet for a total drop of 170 feet since Tecopa.

At the end of this cut the trail is about 2.1 miles in to the Amargosa Canyon with some 3.5 miles yet to go to reach China Ranch. Returning to Tecopa would be just under 1.5 hours walk. All up-hill!

So, a rest stop or lunch break might be in order at this time. If this is your planned turn-back point - do go on through the cut. If some encouragement is needed, certainly the opening view on the next page would be a great reason!

 

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01/25/2005