DID YOU KNOW…Wooden snow sheds once protected trains over Donner Summit? | SierraSun.com

DID YOU KNOW…Wooden snow sheds once protected trains over Donner Summit?

From the Norm Sayler CollectionA snowshed and turntable at Emigrant Gap east of Donner Summit.

The snowsheds that can be seen clinging to the mountains above Donner Lake recall the early days of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The few hundred feet of the now-abandoned sheds, however, underplay their importance in moving people and freight over the Sierra Nevada for the last century and a half.

In 1867, Edward Montague, the Central Pacific Railroad’s chief construction engineer, concluded that snowsheds, or “galleries,” were necessary to protect the track from snow and avalanche, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s Big Bend museum.

The sheds had to hold up to 60 feet of snow, depending on the severity of avalanches and the Sierra winter, and were often built of 20-inch timbers 4 feet apart from Truckee pine and fir, according to a Sierra Sun column written by Gordon Richards of the Truckee Donner Historical Society.

As snow removal skills and technology improved, some 40 miles of snowsheds were gradually removed. By the 1950s, most of them were gone. The few remaining wooden sheds were replaced with concrete. The final section of wooden snowshed was removed in 2000.

” Sun staff reports

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