The story of the monorail in the desert is a story that my dad had in his writings, when he explored the old west. I myself have not been there, mainly because I never read all of his writings until the last few years when I have had more time to go through my dad's collection of saved writings. This is the story he wrote:
This story begins 24 miles north east of Randsburg, California on the way to Searles Dry Lake and just east of the Pinnacles that all of us have seen on our way to Ballarat just before you come to the town of Trona. At the beginning of the dry lake, where you see the Trona Railroad, is the start of what was a small monorail that ran in an easterly direction over the dry lake into Layton Canyon and through the Slate Range through Panamint Valley, Wingate Pass and beside Brown Mountain coming out into a small valley to Epsom City. Here a miner had been looking in the area for any rich deposits of ore he could find, but instead of gold he found epsom salts. He realized that this rich find might be worth filing a claim on so formed a company and acquired a small plant in Wilmington, California to refine and prepare the salts. He hired men to work the mine, built a camp up in the Panamint Range and gave it the name Epsom City.
The road from Randsburg to Epsom City was a rough sixty miles away. A better way was needed to transport cargo. The miner came up with the idea of a monorail which was comprised of elevated trestles and shaped like an "A" about 3-5 feet off of the sandy ground. The legs could be adjusted in order to conform to the land and ran for 30 miles, starting at the magnesium siding that was beside the Trona railroad. From there it could then be transported to his plant in Wilmington.
Several types of engines and ore cars were used to transport the cargo on this unique monorail. They chugged along at the rate of 15 to 20 miles an hour, but several problems started to arise. Too much foreign material was getting into the sacks of the epsom salts and that hurt business. A cloudburst that washed away some of the monorail did not help business either, but they did rebuild the washed away section and kept trying to make a go of things. After several years of money problems they finally gave up and the operation was abandoned.
Epsom City became a ghost town of mostly tents and some wooden shacks, but was visible for many years after it was abandoned. In the 1940's campers found this little settlement with it's monorail. Unfortunately, the wood was used for camp fire; the scrap from the iron tracks was salvaged.
Now, I do not know if there is anything left to make the trip to that area worth while or not. I wish I had the time to check it out for myself, but I guess I have to leave that to the rest of you guys.
From the desk of Johnnie
Old West Collector and Historian