Nevada County Narrow Gauge Histrical Model Railroad History

History of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge railroad - 1876-1942

The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad was built from the Central Pacific Railroad depot in Colfax, CA. to Grass Valley and Nevada City.  Traveling the roads by horseback or stagecoach could take the better part of a day and importing the heavy timber and mining equipment for the local mines was hard enough when the weather was good but the dirt roads were near impassable in the winter.  Construction was begun on February 11, 1875 and the last spike was driven on May 20, 1876.

For the next 66 years, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge railroad (affectionately called the “Never Come, Never Go) was the prime method of shipping freight and passengers between Nevada County and the Southern (ex Central) Pacific rail connection in Colfax.

NCNG Locomotive #8
NCNG Locomotive #8
NCNG Boxcars
Colfax yard, NCNG on right and Southern Pacific on left

The first three engines were wood burners, built for the NCNGRR by Baldwin Locomotive Co.  All the NCNGRR engines were converted to oil by 1916.   The engine roster:

Engine #1 4-4-0 named the “Grass Valley”
Engine #2 2-6-0 named the “Nevada”
Engine #3 4-4-0 purchased in 1877, a twin of #1 but never named
Engine #4 0-6-0 purchased in 1899 from Lake Tahoe Railroad
Engine #5 2-6-0 purchased in 1889 from Lake Tahoe Railroad
Engine #6 2-6-0 purchased in 1915
Engine #7 4-4-0 purchased from Southern Pacific
Engine #8 2-8-0 came from the Denver & Rio Grande in 1933
Engine #9 2-8-0 came from the Southern Pacific in 1933

NCNG Grass Valley Yard
Colfax Yard
Colfax Yard
Colfax Yard

The NCNGRR had two gas mechanical switchers, #10, a 0-4-0 Plymouth which was acquired and wrecked in 1936, and #11, a 0-4-0 Whitcomb.  Two standard gauge engines, a two truck Heisler and two truck Climax, operated around 1913 on dual gauge track from Colfax to a gravel spur on the Bear River.

In its' short time, the NCNGRR had many ups and downs.  The railroad was home to the highest railroad trestles and bridges in California and the world's first female railroad owner, Sara Kidder.  There were several problems including trestle fires, tunnel cave-ins, and even the wreck of a circus train in 1883.  For 66 years, it was the fastest way for passengers to get to San Francisco and other points served by the Southern Pacific from the Colfax depot.  It not only brought the necessities of life from the outside world, but transported miners and citizens to various picnics and events and also shipped out produce, timber, and gold.

Improved roads and better trucks, busses, and private cars led to the suspension of passenger service in 1938.  The NCNGRR continued freight service up until July 10, 1942 when the doors were closed forever.

Bear River Bridge
Bear River Bridge
The N.C.N.G. Historical Model Railroad (originally known as the "N.C.N.G Project") is a non profit California public benefit corporation not associated with any other museum or organization that owns, maintains and operates the historic model railroad exhibit and displays for educational purposes.
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