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"Back in the Day," there was a railroad that ran from Merced, CA, to El Portal, CA, to the very western edge of Yosemite National Park.  Known as the Yosemite Valley Railroad, later  named "Railway,"  after a refinancing project, the railroad transported lumber, minerals and passengers for nearly 40 years, between El Portal, and Merced, interchanging with the Southern Pacific Railroad, until the railroad ceased operations in 1945.  One of the most impressive remains of the railroad are the massive piers, and steel skeleton of Barrett Bridge, located at Barrett Cove, CA, which is only visible during drought years...

Photo:  The way it "used to be..."  Photo taken in 1926, by the great railroad photographer, Al Rose, shortly after the Yosemite Valley Railroad was relocated high above the waters of Lake McClure.  Photo was copied from the book, "Railroads of the Yosemite Valley," just to show the "before" appearance of what Barrett Bridge was like, then the railroad crossed the reservoir.

Photo:  January 10, 2014, looking west, high above the Barrett Cove boat ramp, the former YVRR right-of-way is quite apparent.  The railroad grade, cuts and fills are clearly viable, despite being underwater for most of the time since the late 1960's, when the "new" Exchequer Dam was built, and Lake McClure was enlarged.

Photo:  Looking east, from the west end of former Barrett Bridge, on October 18, 2003, the lake level stands at 710 feet, and the piers of the bridge are clearly viable above the low water of the Merced River, and Lake McClure.  You can see the former right-of-way in the center of the photo.

Photo:  Thanks to the worst drought in decades, on January 10, 2014, the lake has lowered to 685 feet, and more of the bridge piers, and part of the steel skeleton of the bridge is viable.

Photo:  California is facing the worst drought in history, but on this Friday afternoon, January 10, 2014, it's a good day to see the partial remains of the western span of Barrett Bridge.  When the reservoir was raised, back in 1968, the Merced Irrigation District elected to remove the steel bridge, but due to a mistake, a portion of the steel structure was left on the west side of the former right-of-way.  The remains of Barrett Bridge are only viable during low water, so in this record drought year of 2014, history buffs, like me, are reaping a bonanza.

OK, here's the "editorial comment."  If you're a communist, a Seattle Seahawks fan, or a hater of short line railroads, please just forget you ever visited this web page.  My take on this, is that the Yosemite Valley Railroad was one of the most unique, and memorable railroads ever to have operated in the western United States.  As a lifelong resident of California, history buff, and railfan, I have loved the Yosemite Valley Railroad since I was a child; I inherited my "love" of the railroad from my dad.  For me, it is a joy and a pleasure to visit the remains of Barrett Bridge.  The Yosemite Valley Railroad was, and is, LOVED, and it earned it's place as a part of California heritage.

Barrett Cove
3100 Barrett Cove Rd.
La Grange, CA
209 378-2411

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