Sierra Nevada history

Army Convoy, 1919

In 1919 the U.S. Army decided to send a convoy of trucks, motorcycles, tractors, and men on a transcontinental trip from Washington DC to San Francisco. The road they would follow was the recently completed Lincoln Highway. Some of the convoy's journey was filmed, and we look at the section from western Nevada to San Francisco, California. The text comes from a diary and film record made during the trip.

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.

Weimar Crossroads railroad subway painted

Monday found Monica and I heading up to the Big Bend area, specifically Hampshire Rocks campground. Along the way in Weimar, we painted a Lincoln Highway "L" on the Union Pacific railroad subway. This particular subway, built in 1928, during the last year of The Lincoln Highway.

Weimar railroad subway with new Lincoln Highway “L”

Weimar railroad subway with new Lincoln Highway “L”

Location of Railroad Subway

Location of Railroad Subway

We had intended to head to Prosser Reservoir, just outside Truckee for a night of camping, but instead found ourselves staying at The Hampshire Rocks Campground, near Big Bend. This particular campground had only recently opened two week earlier, due to the massive amount of snow that was still on the ground. The snow was all gone in the camp, so we found ourselves a beautiful spot right next to The South Fork of The Yuba River. Everything about this place is great, except your only a hundred or so yards from Highway 80, so traffic noise is a constant unless you get down next to the flowing river. This place's location among the natural beauty and incredible history, is what makes it so desirable. The Lincoln Highway runs right through the camp if you know where to look.

Campground at Hampshire Rocks

Campground at Hampshire Rocks

Map of Hampshire Rocks area.

Map of Hampshire Rocks area.

Just a few hundred yards west of the camp entrance, on Hampshire Rocks Road, is a most unusual structure. What looks like a fireplace chimney, but has no flue, has kept locals mystified since it's origins, whenever that was. One local say's it's related to The Overland Emigrant Trail, which passes right in front of it. While looking at the mystery obelisk, we almost tripped over a "C" marker, as we call it. These concrete posts are what is called a "right of way" marker. The state would bury them, and I'm told they are 4 feet tall, to mark their area of influence along the road. Someone else had put some "marking tape" around it, but the three or four other times we had stopped here, it eluded us.

Mystery obelisk in background, “C” marker in foreground.

Mystery obelisk in background, “C” marker in foreground.

The next day found ourselves heading to Truckee and hunting down some Trails West “T” Markers for The Johnson Cut-Off Trail of the 1850’s and some Nevada sections of The Lincoln Highway. More on that in the next post.

Eisenhower and Army convoy leave Washington DC headed to San Francisco

It was on July 7th, 1919 that The Army's Motor Transport Corps convoy left Washington DC headed towards San Francisco. The trip was to see if the military could move men and machines across the country using the recently "completed" Lincoln Highway as the route. They almost didn't make it, arriving in Oakland seven day's behind schedule.

The convoy included, "24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers, including a young, Bvt Lt Col Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Tank Corps, and 258 enlisted men." The experience Eisenhower had on the trip helped formulate his plan as President for an Interstate Highway System, still in place today.

The National Archives has a video of some of the trip. It's fascinating to watch, and at the 18:47 mark we start to see the mountains of Nevada and California, and the climb up Meyers Grade, across the summit, and down into Kyburz at the 21:45 mark.