Highway 40

The Lincoln Highway at Donner Summit

The following photographs go with our YouTube video, where Norm Sayler of the Donner Summit Historical Society describes to Trey what we are seeing. You can watch the video at the bottom of this post.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.04-04-56-18.png

The above photograph shows the first snow removal equipment on Donner Pass. These vehicles didn’t work The Lincoln, but the early Highway 40, which followed the second-generation Lincoln Highway.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.02-14-33-29.png

Another great photograph is showing the first snow removal equipment on Donner Summit.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.04-05-27-25.png

The above photo shows an automobile headed down the grade at Donner Summit. This photograph is before the snow removal equipment. The snow was hand dug by eager merchants and others who were looking for the first customer to come over the summit.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.04-05-29-34.png

A fantastic shot of a couple of automobiles headed down into the auto subway under the Southern Pacific tracks next to the China Wall. The snow looks dirty as the very same people who hand-dug the snow would bring ash and coal dust to sprinkle on the snow in an attempt to help it melt faster.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.04-05-31-52.png

This view is of the very beginning of the construction of The Rainbow Bridge. We are looking at the right abutment or approach to the bridge. You can see the railroad snow tunnels on the mountain behind. Notice the automobile on the road just before the abutment.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.04-05-34-24.png

What looks like the Rainbow Bridge is the scaffolding for the new bridge. The actual height of the bridge will reach those two abutments we see towards the top of the photo.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.08.04-05-36-23.png

Here is a cool photograph of the construction of the Rainbow Bridge. We can see the new bridge, the roads approaching, and if you look very closely at the very bottom right, you can see an automobile headed up by the small pond and using the original alignment of The Lincoln Highway since the bridge is not yet complete. Then small pond the car is passing was formed by the construction of the second-generation Lincoln, which blocked its outflow.

screenshot-photos.google.com-2019.07.31-06-56-05.png

A beautiful postcard photograph is showing the newly completed second-generation Lincoln Highway bridge, complete with dirt approaches, which changed to asphalt when the road became Highway 40. The plaque pictured used to be at the lookout point near the bridge. It now rests at the Donner Summit Historical Society.

A lost section of Highway 40 at Eagle Lakes Road.

Monday took us to the high country for one last chance to enjoy it before the first snow of the season, maybe on Thursday. Monica and I had On Yesterday, Monday, we had intended to visit Yesterday, Monday, we had intended to visit Prosser Reservoir, just north of Truckee, to follow the old Emigrant Trail. We never made it! We usually pick some destination as a goal, but if we find something else along the way that interests us, we will change plans, and that's what happened Monday.

Eagle Lakes exit on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80.

Eagle Lakes exit on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80.

On the way, we had decided to visit Eagle Lakes Road, just of Highway 80. If you turn right after exiting the freeway, you have access to the original Lincoln Highway. There is a T marker there indicating it was also the Truckee Trail Emigrant route. We had made that visit a couple of weeks ago but now wanted to turn left and cross under the freeway as we had seen some homes there, between the two expressways. The area is so narrow and surrounded by cliffs that Interstate 80 has two routes over this place. One is the eastbound lanes and the other the westbound lanes, separated by about a quarter mile. Between these two expressways, the south fork of The Yuba River passes, with a few cabins built along the river. Just as we were passing across the river, we noticed another road, which I assumed to be a lost section of Highway 40, the highway that predated Interstate 80.

20181119_114848.jpg

Highway 40 was built in 1926 and operated as an Interstate highway system until the present Interstate 80 was constructed in 1956. Highway 40, in many cases, followed the old Lincoln Highway, which was America’s first transcontinental automobile road. In this area of The Sierras Highway 40 followed the Yuba River, while The Lincoln Highway and the emigrant trail avoided the steep, narrow canyon and followed a route on a ridge top.

On this map you can see the amazing number of trail and routes through this narrow gap in the mountains. The red line is the lost section of Highway 40 we walked. The blue line in the Emigrant Trail and the original alignment of The Lincoln Highway. The yellow line is The Union Pacific Railway, and the white lines are the two sections, eastbound and westbound of Interstate 80. What’s no shown is the oil pipeline and cable lines that also transverse this spot. Amazing place!

On this map you can see the amazing number of trail and routes through this narrow gap in the mountains. The red line is the lost section of Highway 40 we walked. The blue line in the Emigrant Trail and the original alignment of The Lincoln Highway. The yellow line is The Union Pacific Railway, and the white lines are the two sections, eastbound and westbound of Interstate 80. What’s no shown is the oil pipeline and cable lines that also transverse this spot. Amazing place!

20181119_120220.jpg

Once we left the car and started walking down the old roadbed, we were greeted by this fantastic rock retaining wall. They had to do this as there was no other way to support a road in this narrow canyon. It appears that after highway 40 the people who built Highway 80 decided to split the expressway and avoid this tight place. The old roadbed runs about a quarter mile to an old bridge crossing which has had the bridge removed. The remains of the bridge were used to make a retaining wall for the new Interstate 80.

Old site of Highway 40 bridge, with present day Interstate 80 bridge, westbound lanes behind.

Old site of Highway 40 bridge, with present day Interstate 80 bridge, westbound lanes behind.

What a fantastic find for us. I imagine very few people have seen this as most are speeding by on Interstate 80, and there are no services at The Eagle Lakes exit. It's fun to explore these old sections of road as you can hear the present travelers speeding by on the Interstate, oblivious to the history around them. This spot is an example of why we "slow down and take the road less traveled".

Here is a short video of our Eagle Lake Roads adventure.