Cable from Pino Grande to Camino Mill

20 Jun 2007

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.

The Machine Shop at Pino Grande

Notice the line shaft operation of the machines.

Obviously not a view of what they were cutting.

Lumberjack’s Cabin at Pino Grande

The Sawmill

The lumber was cut up here on top, went down the cable to a train that took it to Camino for further processing.

Sugar Pine was the preferred lumber and many mills, not Pino Grande, moved in order to find new stands.

Bucking a tree into manageable lengths

The logs were brought to the mill by rail, so there was an-up-on-top RR and a down-at-the-bottom RR

The Top of the Cable

How lumber, people, supplies got up and down from the river to the mountaintop.

Washing the sinkers that came out of the pond

One of the engines that supplied power to the mill

The carriage where the logs were moved back and forth through the saw.

The planing mill at Camino.

This is where the lumber was finished before being shipped out to market.

This gives us an idea of how big an operation Pino Grande was.

Mr. Nyberg was General Superintendent of the Michigan-California Lumber Co. Operation at Pino Grande and Camino

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.

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Comments

  1. George Parker Says: February 17, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    I went accross the old cable in 1927 with my family on the way to camp 9, where my father was working. Some years later, perhaps 1934 I went accross the new cable (not as scary) on my way to camp 11. The tramways were some great engineering feats.

    I recently drove down toward the South Fork north out of Pollock Pines, and at one spot, if you know where to look, you can see a scar where the North cable was located.

    2-17-08
    George Parker

    • Hi My name Dave, do you know how to get to pino grande,

      where the mill use to be? I know its on a dirt road that ends.

      I remember going up Spring st. from Placerville but from there

      i dont remember Can you Help?

      • Sierra Nevada Logging Museum Says: November 7, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        Hi Dave,

        No, I don’t know the directions on how to get to Pino Grande. We’ve had both visits and e-mail from folks that have been up there, but I’ve never been. The Eldorado County Historical Society was helpful to me when I was putting the web section together and perhaps could at least put you in touch with someone who could give you good directions.

        snlm

        John

      • Dave Hough Says: May 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm

        You can get to the old Pino Grande site from Wentworth Springs road or from Mosquito Road. There isn’t much there anymore. Use Google maps and do a search for Pino Grande and you’ll find the marker on the map near the intersection of Wentworth Springs and Mosquito road. If you decide to go up there, check out the old Bret Harte Hotel at Deer View or stop by the cable point on the north side while you at it. The cable house is long gone but the concrete tubes in the hill side are still there. I live in Pollock Pines and these are summer hiking/quad stops for us.

  2. Joni Taylor Says: August 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    George,
    Amazing that you talk about riding the old cable at Pino Grande. My mother had several family members who worked at the mill and talks about riding that cable as a youth too. Her uncle, Bill Gibbs, was a forest ranger and worked closely with the folks at the mill. Her uncle, Willard Farris, was a saw filer and her other uncle, Clarence Saylor was the paymaster at Pino.
    All my life I’ve heard stories of her family working various lumber mills. Her grandfather, Edwin Starr (Ned) Foster, was the millwright at the Caspar mill.
    Small world.

  3. Small world, indeed. About two weeks ago, the beginning of August, 2008, a woman came into the museum. She had a lot of family involved in the Pino Grande operation. She remembered the cable ride as something that became routine for her family regardless of how scary the first ride must have been.

  4. Having previousely published a book (now on sale at the Placerville News, the museum at the fairgrounds and the Chamber of Commerce called Roads to Mosquito) I am now writing a book called Saw Dust & Gold Dust about the lumber mills in El Dorado County. I wish to obtain personel accounts and photographs and will give full credit to each contributor. Please contact Jim Gunn at jagunn90@hotmail.com.

  5. I’ve always been fascinated by our local history. I have several old pictures of the Pino Grande mill. I was looking at maps, and notice there is a “Pino Grande” and an “Old Pino” listed. It appears that Pino Grande on the map is nowhere near the American River, so is Old Pino the actual location of the old saw mill?

  6. George Parker Says: October 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Joannie,

    Just read your letter about the cable and Pino Grande. I spent most of my summers in the camps where my father was timekeeper (one man office). I so often heard him phone Clarence Saylor in Pino. He had to forward all the food orders that had to come from Camino.

    I started working summers there when I became 16. Steel gang, section crew, bridge crew, loader, limber, choker setter, brakeman, fireman, etc. It was good to make 60 cents per hour.

    I have written a few stories about that life on:
    http://www.trainweb.org/foothill/micalmain.html
    if you are interested

    George Parker

  7. I run the website that George’s stories are featured on. Thanks George!! It it called Foothill Rails and covers the Michigan-California Lumber Co and 6 other local roads.

    Please come by to visit and I would love to feature any stories about the railroad or company that anyone would like to contribute.

    http://www.trainweb.org/foothill

    norcaltrain@internet49.com

  8. Bill Schreiber Says: December 28, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Trying to find out anything about the death of William Warring (aka Billy Warring) said to have been crushed to death between two train cars of the Pino Grande. Thanks.
    Don’t have a specific date or time.

  9. Try asking the Eldorado County Museum for information about Billy Warring. They have been very helpful to us in regard to Pino Grande.

    snlm

  10. Mike Adams Says: October 29, 2010 at 5:45 am

    My wife and I live in the area described around Cable road and found this article so interesting, I had to visit our neighbor Mr. Polkinghorn to thank him for his contributions to this area……..

  11. Dave in AZ. Says: December 17, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    My parents took us kids camping to pino grande in the 60s,

    i went back in 80s, You could still see the foundation of the mill, i found the railroad ties (no track) also a bridge across slab creek . mostly over grown.

    is there really a community there or just somewhere close

    called pino grande?

  12. A.Holcomb Says: April 4, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    My father and I have visited N.cable point several times.We got there by A T V and by foot.Its part of P.ville history I’m facinated!

  13. Lota Braden Piel Says: June 19, 2011 at 10:15 am

    My dad, Arthur Braden, worked in Camp 15 and Pino Grand as a fireman on the railroad. We lived summers in the Camp or at Pino and the winters in Camino, My dad had Braden Road built in the 40’s. We went to grammer school in Camino and high school in Placerville. I was so excited when I came across this website. Thanks

    • Sonny Wells Says: February 11, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Lota Mae Braden – I remember you from grammar school in Camino. My Step-dad was Bill Snyder and he & your dad, Art, were very good friends.
      Sonny Wells

  14. Lota,
    This has been an amazing part of our web site. There are so many of you out there who had a connection to Pino Grande. And it seems, you all have vivid and mostly happy memories of the camp. The museum itself gets a few visitors a month who have a Pino Grande connection and when I am working on the days they visit, they tell me stories about their experiences there. Most of those stories are homey in nature and interesting to me, but probably not to most of our web site visitors. I love hearing them, and I love hearing from web visitors like you. Thanks.
    snlm
    John

  15. With regard to William Warring, he is probably not the man I replaced at Camp 15 in summer of 1941, and I never found out how bad were his injuries.

    I was an “extra” man this summer. and I was working with Bill Berry, the forester, where a donkey had just been unloaded at a new landing. The brakeman trying to couple the engine to the steel covered car was crushed between the car and engine. I then became a brakeman.

    • George,

      Thanks for the reply; I haven’t read the string of comments on this site for awhile though still pursue the family genealogy that includes Billy
      Waring. See Roy’s comment below. Based on the date in 1922 I don’t think he is the man you replaced at Camp 15.

      Regards,

      Bill Schreiber

  16. Vickie Vincent (father, Arthur M. Vincent) Says: December 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    My father used to hunt up in the area of Pino Grande. He took us camping there one year in the 60’s. He knew all the history of the lumber mill. My brothers were running around the area while we were camping. The area was pretty wooded where we were camping, but in a clearing they found half buried in the ground a “wooden” home plate. We had it in our garage for years. Then on an episode of California’s Gold, Huell Howser visited the Mill and the person giving him the tour told him that the workers of the mill had formed a baseball team. I was really excited. I’m sure the wooden home plate was from the games that they played there. Unfortunately, I have looked in my father’s garage but could not find it. I wanted to take the home plate and donate it to the museum up there. My father passed away a few years ago, so I did not get the opportunity to ask him if it still existed. Since it was “wooden”, it may have just deteriorated by now. I do plan on visiting the mill and museum next summer.

  17. Thanks for the post and the story about the home plate, Vickie. We’ll be very glad to see you at the museum when you come over.
    snlm
    John

  18. Candi McCord Says: July 17, 2012 at 7:52 am

    My father and grandfather (Harry Nick Collias and Nick Harry Collias) worked for the Michigan-Cal Lumber Company in Pino Grande. In fact, on the 1940 Census, their address is listed as Camp 14. I am tracing my family tree and it is so interesting to see these pictures and hear these stories.

  19. Just a compliment for John Hofstetter on the excellent work he has done for SNLM.

  20. Roy Van Sant Says: May 7, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    It has been a ling time since Bill Schreiber asked about Billy Waring. William R. Waring was a Victim of “Link & Pin” Couplers.thirty year old billy was crushed while making up a lumber train at the South Cable. This was according to the 5 August 1922 Mt. Democrat

    • Roy,

      Thanks so much for your reply about Billy Waring. I haven’t read the Pino Grande ‘string’ of comments for awhile, though I am still hard at my family genealogy, including this particular branch of the family. I will look up the 5 Aug 22 mention of Bill’s death in the Mt Democrat.

      Regards,

      Bill Schreiber

  21. John Rhines Says: July 29, 2013 at 8:06 am

    It is so good to see that some people care about that history in that small corner of the world. My mother grew up in Pino (she always pronounced it PINE-o). She was the daughter (and I am the grand son) of Ruth and Jack Corker. Grandpa played a small part in the Mich-Cal operations and I have found memories of summers in Camino and camping on the Big Silver. Most of my uncles (mom was one of 5 daughters), worked at the mill, but one, Bob Barrett, owned the local food store in Camino. If there is someone with the last name of Ward or Carsten or Barrett around Placerville, they are most likely kin.
    I visited Pino in 1965 and stood on the concrete anchors on both ends of the cable. In ’95 I took my sisters (from Louisville, KY) and their kids there to see what remains and what mom’s life might have been like. I turned 70 this year, I gotta get my kids and grand kids out there. They are all east coast born and raised (I live in Williamsburg), and they need a better appreciation of where we all started.
    Mom and I and my two sisters all moved to Ky in the mid-50’s. I retired from the CIA in 1993 and work most everyday in my shop as a licensed gunsmith.
    If your ever out this way…

    • David Brunk Says: July 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      dear sir, my name is David Brunk, the family and I have been to pino camping in 60s, 70s 80s i went back in 90s but dont remmember how to get there I know you can go up mosquito rd.
      but thats it can you please help Dave

    • Eugene "Sonny" Wells Says: August 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Hi- I went to High School with a Corker “Corkey” Rines – any relation? We both lived in Camino at the time. -early 50’s

    • John Rhines Says: August 15, 2013 at 7:15 am

      You bet! Corkey was my oldest brother, living with my uncle Bill Ward up above Camino on Mt. Daniher. The middle brother and I were living with my mother in the bay area. Corkey finished highschool in Sparks, NV., joined the Navy and retired off the flight deck of the Ike (CVA 69), as a Master Chief Radioman. We lost him about 20 years ago, he would have been 76 this year. He had 5 sons, so Rhines is no longer a rare name!
      Good to hear from you, keep in touch.

  22. John Rhines Says: July 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Dave – The best I can tell you is to go to Google Earth and try to find it there. I only found it in the (0’s because a cousin in the area knew the way. If you do get there I would love a few pics. When I was there in the 60’s the mill pond was still in evidence, but not much else.
    Regards,
    JR

    • Tyler Blair Harrison Says: January 27, 2014 at 9:37 am

      John,
      our family has a cabin near by. i will go out there and take a bunch of pictures. im not sure if i can post them on this page or not?

  23. David Brunk Says: July 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Hi, In the 60s you could see where the cabins where, My, aunt
    found a 20 dollar gold piece, you could see the foundation of the
    mill, across slab creek that feeds the pond part way up the hill side I found where the upper train tracks use to be, no steel just rail road ties, this went on for miles. Just some info Dave

    mill

  24. Eric Knutsen Says: December 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I would go there with my friend David Bean and target practice in 1975 there was only one cable left going across the canyon he told me he crossed the canyon on that one cable

  25. Tyler Harrison Says: December 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Tyler Harrison,
    me and my family own property about 2 miles from Pino Grande Mill site. I go there often. we had many rail lines running through our property.

  26. David Buunk Says: December 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Hi, My name is David brunk, We have been to pino grande

    in50, 60, 70 and i tried in 90 but i just dont remember how to get there, things change I guess. Do you know? or know someone

    who might? Thanks Dave

    • Tyler Blair Harrison Says: December 16, 2013 at 12:22 am

      Hey david,
      my name is tyler (post above) i would be more than happy to give you directions or even take you there. do you live near placerville? you can e-mail me at tharrison@demtech.com. i was just out there a few weeks ago.

  27. Kenneth Martin Bruce Says: January 25, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Hi: my name is Kenneth Martin Bruce. My grandfather was Dr. Wallace P. Martin. He was the doctor for Pino Grande in the 30’s. His wife was his nurse. My mother Marcella Martin was born there. Haven’t been, but would like to go sometime.

  28. Kenneth Martin Bruce Says: January 25, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    This is Kenneth Martin Bruce. I mistakenly wrote that my grandfather was the doctor in Pino Grande in the 30’s. Not, it was the 20’s

  29. Tyler Blair Harrison Says: January 27, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Kemmeth,
    i would like to take you out there sometime. we have a cabin on 40 acres somewhat near by. we go out there all the time. do you live in the area?

    Tyler

  30. Richard Fritzler Says: March 18, 2014 at 8:54 am

    My name is Richard Fritzler I have lived in Pollock for 20 years and Love slab creek, I have jet skied, boated, water skied and been scuba diving there many many times. FB me if you want a tour. If you go to google maps and type in “slab creek reservoir”, go to satellite view, and then zoom out or in until you see the title “slab creek reservoir”. If you look above and to the left of the “letter S” in the word Slab, you will see a bare dirt spot, zoom in on it and you will see what seems to be the cable anchors. Exactly where the letter “R” is in Reservoir is where the crunched remains of the cable car are, lots of steel, pulley wheels and 5 or 6 giant cables running into the lake. From your boat or kayak, when the lake is full the wreckage is 1′ to 10′ from the waters edge but you must get very close as its overgrown with plants. Follow that shoreline west a quarter mile and you’ll see the old wagon trail road with many Chinese built rock walls along the shoreline. Richard 530 305 2400

  31. Tyler Blair Harrison Says: March 18, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Hey Richard,
    this is Tyler Harrison, Ive been in the area many years now (30+) and my family has been here since 1882. or a few years earlier… im interested in going scuba diving sometime. i live in placerville. .

    hope to talk to you soon.

    Tyler

  32. Sue Taylor Says: April 1, 2014 at 11:24 am

    In 2009, Sierra Pacific shut down the Camino Mill promising to only mothball it… These pictures in the facebook link were taken last week. We had asked the Board of Supervisors to protect Camino, but their inaction has left it open for Sierra Pacific to completetly scrap the Mill and all it’s buildings. It’s a sad day for all of us connected to this history. We are still trying to put pressure on the Board to save the little that is left. Thank you for the pictures. We put the Planing Mill picture on Hangtown Facebook page. It’s the building they are currently tearing down.
    Sue Taylor

    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10152075210468882&id=134273483881

    • Hi Sue, I wish I had known about that meeting. We’re sad to see the mill being taken apart, and worried about what they plan to do with the property. We’d love to see something great happen in this little town – preserving it and at the same time encouraging unique new businesses to breathe some life back into it. We’ve started a new website for this purpose, where we highlight local artists, authors, & musicians, post a little town history and are busy adding a classified section. It’s easy to remember because it’s our town,plus the zip code – http://www.Camino95709.com – we welcome suggestions and comments and after reading your post, will probably start adding updates on the mill.

      Nan

  33. shirley Says: April 8, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    a blast from the past my mom and dad used to buy our food from Barrette’s store and so did a lot of other family members. That was in the late 50’s

  34. Gary Granath Says: May 30, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    How is it that I have a book “Last of the Three Foot Loggers,” written by Steve Polkinghorn? From what I find online, someone named Kreig wrote it. I don’t think so. I bought it a lonyg time ago and still have it. I rode an off-road bike back in 1972 and have been to the North and South footings of the cable. Last time I was near the North end the right-of-way was too overgrown with new pines that I couldn’t get to the site. Also rode across a creek directly to the site of Pino Grande mill. I now live in NC and wish I’d had the opportunity to meet Steve.

  35. Gary, I don’t understand your post. Steve (or R.S.) Polkinghorn wrote the Pino Grande book, but did not write the “Last of the Three Food Loggers.” The last of the three foot loggers was the Westside RR over in Tuolumne County.
    snlm

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