Cable from Pino Grande to Camino Mill
Editors note: Funny how things work out. I just recently found out that I’ve not been pronouncing the name of the mill correctly. Being a Californian, I gave it the Spanish pronunciation. Come to find out, it was pronounced Pie no Grand. .Who’d have known if Steve Polkinghorn hadn’t told him. Wikipedia says that the original name was Pinogrande
Photo of our piece of the cable on display
(click on image for larger and clearer image)
The Museum has a piece of cable that was donated to us that is very interesting and historic.The cable we have was used by the Michigan-California Lumber Company to move lumber across the American River from the Pino Grande Mill on the north side to the Camino mill on the south side of the river.Briefly, it was installed in 1901 and was in operation until 1949. The distance of the cable over the river was 2,650 feet (other sources say 2814 feet) and it was about 1,200 feet from the the cable to the river below. A narrow gauge railroad took the rough cut lumber from the mill to a tower on the north side where the carriage was loaded, moved across the gorge and unloaded in a tower on the opposite side onto the narrow gauge railroad which took it to the mill in Camino. There is a very comprehensive history of it in a book published in 1984 by Steve Polkinghorn called “Pino Grande: Logging railroads of the Michigan-California Lumber Co.” The mill that operated for about 50 years at Pino Grande started out as the world’s first all electric sawmill at Folsom, CA. Prisoners from Folsom Prison had built a dam and put in an electrical generation plant that operated the saw mill as well as the trolley system in Sacramento. The mill operation at Folsom was never a success, with a number of different problems, most of which had to do with what they were trying to do with moving and storing logs on the river. In 1901 the mill was taken to the top of the mountain at Pino Grande and a steam plant furnished the power for the saws and other operating gear. The mill at Pino Grande worked well, with the big problem being getting the rough cut lumber down the mountain to be finished and shipped out. A system of railroads and the cable system over the river ended up successfully getting cars loaded with lumber down the mountain and over the river to where they could be moved by locomotives to the mill at Camino.Wikipedia has a short piece of explanation about this very interesting railroad at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino,_Placerville_and_Lake_Tahoe_Railroad
An extensive web site with many, many photos including a discovery of the South Landing remains, can be found at: http://www.trainweb.org/foothill/micalmp.html It is amazing to this editor how many great photographs there are of the Pino Grande operation.
The Pino Grande mill no longer exists. However, the Camino mill is now owned and operated by Sierra Pacific Industries (closed at least temporarily in Summer 2009), and there is still a road called Cable Rd in Camino that dead ends at the American River where the south tower of the cable was located. The Sierra Nevada Logging Museum is fortunate to have a section of one of those cables, shown in the photo above. There are also some remnants of the mill and dam at Folsom.Thanks to the Eldorado County Historical Museum and the Polkinghorn book for this information. Pictures to be added as we get them.
And we have them, thanks to Wayne Hofer of Martinez whose father worked at Pino Grande in the 1940’s. Thanks so very much for the never-before-been-seen-on-the-web photos, Wayne.
Notice the line shaft operation of the machines.
The lumber was cut up here on top, went down the cable to a train that took it to Camino for further processing.
This is where the lumber was finished before being shipped out to market.
Note that the kids did not go to school during the winter. Your editor’s parents sent him to a school very near Camino that only operated in good weather. I think he figures that it was to get him out of their hair.
Map of 1910 Pino Grande, Sandborn Fire Map
Thanks to Lee Rogers for this map. Visit Lee’s Camino History site at