Trona Railway Brief History and Operations
The Trona Railway operates between Searles Yard and the town of Trona, CA, roughly 30 miles in length. Searles Yard is used as an interchange between the UP\SP Railroad and the Trona Railway. This line serves three mineral mining operations that operate next to Searles Lake (a dry lakebed) near the towns of Trona and Argus, CA. The current parent-company owns all three of these operations along with the Trona Railway and its tracks & equipment.
The Trona Railway operates most days of the week, starting from and returning to its base at Trona, CA. Typically, the day will start by switching the three main facilities at Searles Lake:
• Trona Facility (mostly borax hoppers)
• Argus Facility (potash\soda-ash hoppers and acid tankers, some boxcars)
• Westend Facility (borax and potash\soda-ash hoppers)
The Argus and Trona Facilities are right next to one another and are somewhat connected, with the Argus Facility being the northern side of complex. Here you will also find the Trona Railway's locomotive and car servicing-shops. The Westend Facility is just a few miles out of town.
All of these facilities mainly receive empties and send loads, except for the acid tankers. The Argus Facility on some days will also have coal-empties to be picked up (see notes below). Once the day's switching is completed, the outbound cars are then pulled to Searles Yard. Along the way, if necessary, the Navy Siding (see below) will be switched out.
Trona Railway Notes on unit-coal operations:
The Argus Facility contains a large loop-yard. Coal cars are taken from this yard, several at a time, and unloaded. The empties are returned to the loop-yard until ready to be appended to an outbound train to Searles. We don't know if the coal-empties are taken as a unit, or returned piecemeal.
Coal loads picked up from Searles Yard are typically handled by splitting the power and running those locomotives as DPU or Manned Helpers at the end of the train. Also, if the excitement of this line hasn't already overwhelmed you, the the coal loads may be run back to Trona in two sections instead of DPU or Helpers.
The US Navy's Ridgecrest Base (aka China Lake) is not very far from Trona, and used to be served by the Lone Pine Branch before that portion of the branch was abandoned. After abandonment, a small siding and spur facility was built on the Trona Railway about 15 miles from Trona on Randsberg Wash Rd.
The Trona Railway receives occasional cars from the UP to be spotted at this location and later picked up to be returned to the UP. Navy personnel with trucks come and offload the railcars and transport the goods to the base. We will leave it up to the user to decide what cars and what goods are handled there.
Another nearby government facility called Skytop makes use of Navy Siding for receiving tankers of jetfuel, which is most likely then trans-loaded onto trucks.
Searles Yard Interchange Operations
Both the UP\SP and the Trona Railway may operate for the purposes of interchange within Searles Yard and on the remaining eastern portion of the Lone Pine Branch. Within Searles Yard, the Mainline is the track containing the wye-switches adjacent to 601.
• Setouts shall not block the mainline thru the yard
• Setouts by either railroad shall be made in such a way as to not prevent proper pickup by the other railroad
• Both railroads should block their setouts in such a way that any empty cars will be at the rear of the outbound train
• Setouts may be made on any of the following tracks, listed in order of preference:
◦ yard-tracks 601, 602, and 603
◦ on the remaining portion of the Lone Pine Branch east of Searles Yard
◦ on the east leg of the Wye and the Wye tail (aka Track 150) (Note: Setouts must not block the mainline)
• UP\SP, if their power is to be left at Searles Yard, may do so on the west leg of the wye