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Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad: How to visit

By Alex Mayes | September 2, 2021

California tourist railroad offers rides through the Sierra National Forest aboard trains powered by vintage steam locomotives

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Side view of small steam locomotive waiting on tracks
Side view of small steam locomotive waiting on tracks
“The Logger,” with three-truck Shay No. 10, prepares to depart the Fish Camp station on June 7, 2021. Alex Mayes photograph

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad: An introduction

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad provides a family train-riding experience through scenic vistas. The tourist railroad is located on the western outskirts of Yosemite National Park, two miles south of Fish Camp, Calif. The facility at Fish Camp consists of a two-stall engine house, a museum, and two gift shops. Coming from the east via Route 120, visitors travel through Yosemite National Park, which may pose a challenge during peak season. If you do not have advance reservations to visit the park, you may drive through the park on Route 120 only if you do not make any stops. At the east entrance, a park ranger will place a placard on your windshield which indicates you have authorization only to travel through the park without stopping. (If you stop for any reason and are observed by a park police officer you may be fined $1,000 or more.) A typical trip through the park from Lee Vining to Fish Camp takes about 3 hours.

A view of the rear of a steam locomotive as a rider in an open-air car.
A view from a seat on the 1-hour long, four-mile excursion “The Logger.” Alex Mayes photograph

Locomotive highlights

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad has two steam locomotives that pull the trains, Nos. 10 and 15. Both are geared engines designed by Ephraim Shay and built by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio. Shay locomotives were designed to haul logs from the forest to the sawmill over steep hills on rough track. No. 10 is a three-truck engine, built in 1928 for the Pickering Lumber Co. It was the largest narrow gauge Shay built at 81.6 tons. Shay No. 15 is also a three-truck engine, built in 1913 as No. 9 for Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Co.

Antique car with open sides, fitted with flanged wheels, to move on rails and carry passengers.
The YMSPRR has three Ford Model A automobiles, fitted with flanged wheels, called “Jenny Railcars” and used in regular excursion service. Each car can accommodate 12 riders. Alex Mayes photograph

Riding the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Trains depart daily from the Fish Camp station between April and November. The number of trains vary depending on the number of tickets sold. Trains sell out early during peak periods, so it is advisable to reserve tickets in advance. Friendly dogs ride free.

The most popular ride is the 1-hour tour aboard The Logger. The 4-mile trip winds through the Sierra National Forest over the historic Madera Sugar Pine Railroad railbed. It’s a journey into the past as the conductor regales you with stories of the railroad line, the trees, and wildlife that you see. About halfway through the trip, the train stops for 30 minutes at a grove equipped with benches, picnic tables, and an amphitheater amidst tall ponderosas. Passengers can disembark, photograph the train, and enjoy the scenery.

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad also offers its Moonlight Special. Begin the evening with a BBQ dinner then board the steam train for a ride to a secluded glade for a campfire and entertainment. The nighttime ride concludes with a trip back up the mountain.

There are two types of passenger cars: Open-air and enclosed. Open-air cars consist of huge rough-hewn split logs placed onto flatcars once used to transport logs to the sawmill. Seats are constructed of huge split logs. Enclosed cars have wooden sides and roofs and also built on flatcars.

Visitors may also be able to ride in a vintage Ford Model A automobile on the same track the steam trains run on. The three automobiles, fitted with flanged wheels by the West Side Lumber Co., are called “Jenny Railcars” and used in regular excursion service.

People in open-air railcar that looks like a log.
Passengers in the open-air cars waiting for departure from the grove. The seating areas in the open-air cars are constructed of huge rough-hewn split logs. Alex Mayes photograph
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