The Shay

The Shay Team

On February 26th, 2013, the Shay No. 4 ran again. A grant conceived of, written, and approved of in principle 6 or 7 years ago, was given final authorization to proceed in June, 2010. The grant provided for restoration of the boiler, repair of any running gear, and called for the locomotive to be run on compressed air on the short piece of track where it sits. The Glass family and veteran locomotive repair man, Norm Comer removed the 18,000 lb. boiler, sent it to Torrance, CA where it was ostensibly repaired and returned to the museum, all of which was paid for by the CCOG grant, administered by Calaveras County Department of Public Works. The boiler repair was not properly done and the repair company came and got the boiler, returned it to Torrance, redid what needed to be redone, and returned it to us 4 days before the deadline imposed by the grant. Ron Glass, his sons, Greg, Travis, and Shawn, along with Norm got the engines reattached to the boiler, got the boiler back on the locomotive, and connected the engines to a huge compressor. The Shay was run back and forth to demonstrate the successful completion of the project. Because the locomotive sits beside a public water source, we are not allowed to fire up the boiler, and the grant recognized this, calling for it to run by the compressed air. Our tentative plan is to provide a storage facility that can be charged by a reasonably sized compressor and then it can provide air for demonstrations.In the meantime, work will continue on the trucks, brakes, compressor, many air lines, valves, gauges, generator, cab and tender.

Now that the grant money is spent and so is most of the museum’s Shay account, we could really use some donations to complete our work. Please Contact Us for ways to donate.

A huge thank you to our miracle worker family, Ron, Greg, Travis, and Shawn Glass, plus our paid employee, Norm, who was worth more than every cent we paid him.

The Sierra Nevada Logging Museum’s historic Shay steam logging locomotive was built in 1920, was Lima number 3092, and was operated by the Yosemite Lumber Company in the Stanislaus National Forest from 1920 to 1943. The engine is a three-truck, three-cylinder Shay weighing 164,100 pounds. It is standard gauge.    It was used to pull log trains from the woods to the top of a large incline near El Portal. From the bottom of the incline the cars were shipped on the Yosemite Valley Railroad. The goal of the Logging Museum is to offer the public the opportunity to see “No. 4” in operation at the Museum site in White Pines, (near Arnold), California.

For a chart of all its mechanical specifications CLICK HERE but after going to that page, click on number 3092 in the chart on the left side of the page.

The Logging Museum acquired this piece of California’s history for $22,000 in 2004 from the Nevada State Railroad Museum’s collection at Boulder City. The fact that the locomotive survived until we acquired it is a remarkable story in itself.

No. 4 came home from Nevada on a nine-axle low-boy trailer that needed three slow, careful days to reach the Museum site. A team of Museum and locomotive workers installed a short section of rails up to the back of the locomotive’s trailer and the engine was slowly winched down onto its permanent display track. Today it sits above the shore of White Pines Lake where Museum visitors can enjoy it.

The locomotive will undergo extensive restoration to put it back into working order. In Spring 2007, the locomotive’s boiler was formally inspected and found to be in good, restorable condition. The Museum has been awarded a Department of Transportation/CalTrans grant for the mechanical restoration of the locomotive. As of late fall 2007, we are waiting for CalTrans to complete the processing of the grant. In the meantime, we are making sure that we are ready to go with tools and storage facilities when we receive the approval from CalTrans.

Our restoration planner and advisor, Chris Allan of Historic Railway Consultants, estimates that mechanical restoration will take three years. Another year has been allowed for boiler repair and restoration, if on-going inspections show them to be necessary. If all goes well, No. 4 will be completed in 2011.

A condition of the grant is that the Museum match a portion of the contributions from DOT/CalTrans. As part of this matching effort, a special locomotive “No. 4” fund has been set up to handle donations. All contributions to the fund are tax-deductible and will be used exclusively for the locomotive’s restoration. And your donation can bring you a very special No. 4-related gift!

Click image to view enlarged photo

Do you love high-quality train art? Supporters who donate $60 or more will receive an 18” x 24” full color lithograph of No. 4 in morning operation. A second winter scene is also available for the same price. These art prints have been lithographed from original oil paintings by the nationally-recognized railroad artist Patrick Michael Karnahan. The prints are signed and numbered by Patrick with limited runs of 500 copies each. Either print is available for your $60 donation, plus $5 California tax and $5 shipping and handling, for a total cost of $70. These beautiful prints are a great addition to your railroad art collection.

If you’d like to own an actual part of the Shay as a donation bonus. It is possible. This spring, when we removed the old tubing so the boiler could be inspected, we reserved several of the most colorful boiler tubes. They have been cut into 6-inch lengths and each is mounted on a small display stand. Each tube includes a certificate of authenticity testifying to its being a genuine part of Yosemite Lumber Company Shay No. 4. Each certificate is signed by our Shay project managers, Patrick Karnahan and Ron Glass. The tubes are available for a $20 donation, plus $1.50 sales tax and $6.50 shipping and handling, for a total cost of $28. You really can own part of the Shay!

To donate to the locomotive restoration and place your order for a print or a section of boiler tubing, please send your contribution and request (with name, address and phone number) to: Sierra Nevada Logging Museum, P.O. Box 3619, Arnold, CA 95223. Please enclose your check or money order for $70 (for prints) or $28 (for tubes). At this time, we cannot accept credit cards.

Thank you for your support!


  1. Mark Francis Says: September 19, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Just discovered your fascinating website. Does the museum have any holdings regarding the Empire City Railway and/or the Lyon’s Dam transfer point with the Sugar Pine Railway? TO pick a very minor nit: your heading “The Survival of YSL No. 4” is somewhat misleading. ‘YSL’ generally is referred (by railroad historians) to the Yosemite Short Line, a short-lived 30 inch gauge railway proposed to connect the Sierra Railway with Yosemite Park. The venture failed as another result of the great earthquake of 1906. Hank Johnston’s book, Railroads of the Yosemite Valley, refers to the Yosemite Lumber Company as ‘YLCO.’ A photo on page 184 shows Shay #1 so lettered.

  2. Mark Francis,
    Thank you for the note. My fellow web administrator, also a Mark, is a train aficionado and when he returns from his current wanderings will no doubt pursue the appropriate correction.
    Thanks, also, for giving us the reference to check ourselves out.

  3. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for jogging my memory on YSL/YLCo. I have updated the Shay pages.

    The museum doesn’t have any material on the Empire City Railway or its incline down to Lyon’s Dam and the Sugar Pine Railroad that I know of. We’re planning to begin collecting Tuolumne County material for the website next.

    I recently learned that the Empire City mill was located at Browne’s Meadow. A part of Browne’s Meadow, known as Merrill Springs, was the final location of McKays’ Clipper Mill, whose history we relate among the Calaveras County mills. It may be that the Clipper Mill’s production was carried down to Lyon’s and the outside world on the Empire City Railway’s incline, at least until the big mill at Standard was completed and the Empire City Railway abandoned.

    Thanks for the nice words about the site. Come visit the museum if you get the opportunity.

    Mark Johnson

  4. Timothy Boles Says: November 2, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Can you put me in touch with those in charge of the shay restoration. Also, information on the Empire City railroad and mill can be found in a book by Adolf Hungry Wolf called: ‘Rails in the Mother Load’.

  5. miragesnlm Says: November 3, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Timothy, Check your email for addresses to contact Patrick Karnahan and Ron Glass.


  6. Hi Guys,
    I came across your site while looking for info on the Yosemite Lumber Co., and the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Co. I understand that the Yosemite lumber Co. had two inclines, the first one on the South side of the Merced River (untill 1923?). And later a second on the North side of the Merced river. Do you have any info if your shay was used on both inclines, or only the later North side? Any info on this would be very welcomed!!
    Enjoyed your site!

  7. Good question, Westbert. It seems pretty sure that Shay No. 4 operated in the woods above both inclines. The Shay was built for YLCo in 1920. YLCo operations were south of the Merced River (using the 8100-foot-long incline down to El Portal) from 1912 to 1923. Operations moved to the north side of the river and the Trumbull Peak incline in 1924 and continued to 1935. Not so well known was that there was a second incline on the north side, above the long incline down to the river, that extended the reach of YLCo further to the northeast toward Yosemite Park. This 1600-foot incline was powered by the equipment that had powered the incline down to El Portal.

    Naturally, the Shays didn’t actually operate on the inclines, which had slopes as steep as 45 degrees, which is far steeper than a Shay could handle even without a load. Instead, the log flats were raised and lowered on the incline using steam hoists that were firmly attached to the ground at the top of the slope. At the top of each incline was a web of logging tracks that reached out into the woods. The Shays operated on these tracks bringing in log cars to the top of the incline where the cars were attached to the hoist’s steel cables for the long slow descent to the the river.

    –Mark Johnson (looking at a copy of Hank Johnston’s excellent book, The Whistles Blow No More, for much of this detailed information)

  8. Westbert,

    I usually underestimate the extent of Mark’s (the above poster’s) knowledge, so asked Patrick Karnahan, the Shay Project’s main mover and shaker, before I read Mark’s post. Patrick said in response to your question,

    Dear John:
    It was used on both operations. If you look at the Hank Johnston’s book there are pictures of the Shay on the Southside operation as well as North.
    Thanks Patrick

    So, now you have it from three good sources, if you count Hank Johnston.

    Boy, watching the big chute into El Portal work would have been a sight. That and the cable at Pino Grande must have been mind boggling.


  9. As a professional railroader and experienced shay locomotive mechanic, fireman, and engineer, I am wondering what your plans are for the completed shay. Does the museum have a plan or place to run the engine when its done? I’d be happy to help if you plan to run the old sidewinder.

  10. miragesnlm Says: November 26, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Hi Garrett, Thank you for your offer. The museum has been working with the Forest Service on creating an area near the museum where the Shay could run on a short half-mile of track, although no plan has been formally agreed to. The run would connect the museum area to a logging camp that would show how loggers lived in the woods.

    The museum site is on the bank of White Pines Lake, which is part of the county water supply system. While it’s a beautiful wooded location, the Shay cannot be operated there because a fuel or lubricant spill could contaminate the lake.

    We’ll have more information about crew and operating requirements in the future as planning goes ahead.

    –Mark Johnson

  11. Al Le Fevre Says: January 3, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Hi Mark; I restored the #4 to operating condition and run It in Utah (1973) . I built the number board on the smoke box. the one valve eccentric was built by an expired machinist an I. we also turned the pins on the u joints and built the bushings for the same and I hope they got there to. I do have pic’s of that rebuilding and checking if you would like copies. It was in a wreck and was no longer run after that.

  12. Al, could you contact me about your experiences with No. 4 during its days in Utah. I have a web page about the equipment at Heber and would like to add your comments. Here is the web page:

    And here is the No. 4 portion:

    Yosemite Lumber Co. Shay 4 (70-ton, 3 truck)

    * Built by Lima in July 1920 (Lima 3092)
    * To Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Co. in November 1929
    * Sold to M. Davidson (dealer) in May 1943
    * Moved from Yosemite Lumber location at Merced Falls to Levin Metals scrap yard in Stockton, Calif.
    * Sold to NRHS Promontory Chapter in 1971
    * Sold to Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, Nev.
    * Sold to Sierra Nevada Logging Museum, White Pines (Arnold), Calif., in August 2002

    donstrack @ (take the spaces out)

  13. miragesnlm Says: January 15, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Al,

    I’m sorry about the delay in responding to message and your generous offer. We were on a long holiday trip and only got home yesterday afternoon, so I’m just starting to catch up on the mail and messages.

    We are extremely interested in your knowledge of Number 4 and the photos that you could provide. We’d be happy to compensate you for the expense of copying and mailing them. I don’t know that all the parts you refurbished are still with the engine but I know that the number board is there and that it is very nicely done. (We keep it locked in our basement so it doesn’t walk away.) Patrick Karnahan and Ron Glass are leading our restoration project so they may have things that they would like to talk over with you.

    I’m really interested in information about the wreck of the engine because we’ve had a Shay historian wonder if the boiler had been damaged and repaired after he saw some photos of Nr. 4. Can you tell us more about what happened to her and what kind of repairs were needed?

    Thank you for your generosity, and thank you especially for supporting the restoration of Nr. 4.

    Regards, Mark Johnson

  14. miragesnlm Says: January 15, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Hello Don,

    I just went over to your utahrails page to read about the Heber equipment and discovered you’ve added links to the Museum’s Shay pages. You do us a great honor.

    Thank you for your wonderful books and for visiting our site.

    –Mark Johnson

  15. Al Le Fevre Says: February 13, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Hi to whom: There were some lines going to different lub. points, like the cross heads and the main bearing, I had installed a farvle lub distribution system that was Fed from a single piston pump lubricator that was mounted in the cab on the shelf in front of the engineer and linked to the valve motion, but every thing but the lines had been removed the last time I viewed the engine, I would suggest that, that be reinstalled because it give better lub. distribution and a whole lot less oil was used. I had also rebbited the center crank bearing.

  16. Bill in Utah Says: December 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    It’s great to see these wonderful old steam engines being restored. I grew up going to the Heber Creeper yards and taking pictures of these old engines and wishing they could go again. Now several of them are in working order that were rusting away back then.
    I remember watching the #4 running in Heber back in the 1970’s.
    Great work on the restoration.

  17. C.A. HOPKINS Says: April 24, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Hello to all……..
    years ago i work on shays etc. ( FIREMEN ) outfit by
    the name CAMENO–CABLE & NORTHERN RY. This small
    road had WEST SIDE LUMBER Co. NO. I4 running as
    main line power. The owner renumbered 14 to 4 with
    number plate from YLCO No 4 .. ……….

  18. Good Luck on the restoration.

    Wow is this a great web sight

    Could you do me a favor? near one of your wonderful foto’s could you copy down the Lima Number and the gauge somewhere.

    Thank You 🙂

  19. I came close to doing what you asked. I put the information you asked about in the first paragraph.

    Thanks for the kind remarks.


  20. Leighton Moreland Says: February 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm
  21. Thanks, Leighton, for pointing that out. The truth is that we’ve gotten no government money for the Shay, and may very well not. Our museum was built and is maintained with no government money at all, which of course isn’t going to be mentioned by someone wanting to make a point.

    We also bought the Shay, and transported it here, with no government money.

    I tell you than just as information, not to be defensive, because I don’t feel defensive about the Shay at all.

    Thanks again,


    • Leighton Moreland Says: February 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      The picture they use on the article is very unflattering to someone who doesn’t know what a steam engine broken down for restoration looks like. What stage are y’all on the restoration?

  22. Well, we’ve been waiting for a number of years to see if the money from the grant actually does show up. If we get the money, what we can and will do, will be quite different from what we’ll do if we don’t get the money.

    So, right now, its back together, at least externally. We’re talking about removing the fence around it, weighing liability against viewing convenience.

    We’ve been told for a number of years now that the grant is approved and that the money is coming in the next few weeks.

    We’ll have to see what happens. I think our enthusiasm has waned to some extent, at least mine has.


  23. William Riley The Says: February 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I am a member of the Inland Empire Historical Railway Society.
    Previously located at the Spokane, WA Fairgrounds, we acquired land in the country near Reardan, WA adjacent to an operating RR track. Our long term goal is to build a museum similar to yours, and educate the public about the role that railroads played in the country’s history. It has taken us decades to acquire rolling stock. You have a beautiful site and I can appreciate the efforts of all your volunteers and what they have accomplished.

  24. Thanks for the kind words and the information about your project. You have a huge amount of work ahead of you, but with enough enthusiasm and hard work, plus support from your community, you can do it.

    Good luck,


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