The remaining 10 miles of this county’s railroad was sold to the Amador County Historical Society and the Recreational Railroad Coalition Historical Society in 2010. In the 1960s the railroad was noted as being the shortest standard gauge common carrier in regular operation in the United States. In 2015 the railroad was designated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a non-insular tourist railroad and received the official designation as the AMC.
- Ione Railfair – Memorial Day weekend, rides available for the public.
- History Run – Spring and fall of each year, check Amc Amador Central Railroad on Facebook for dates and times.
- Weekend short runs – The AMC hopes to start short runs on the railroad on weekends starting in 2016. Please check Amc Amador Central Railroad on Facebook for dates and times.
- Special events – Please contact us on Facebook at Amc Amador Central Railroad if you would like to schedule a special event.
Railroads were first established in the early 1850s in California. The Sacramento Valley Railroad and the Arcata and Mad River Railroad were two of the first railroads in the state. California became connected with the rest of the nation’s railroads in 1869 with the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah, connecting the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads.
In 1873 that the Big Four (Crocker, Huntington, Hopkins and Stanford) organized the Ione Branch, to run from Galt to Ione. Construction started in 1874. In late 1876, the last of the track was completed in to Ione.
The importance of having a rail line that connected the gold mines and timbered areas of the county to the rest of the state was recognized by numerous businessmen. The railroad could transport people and freight (clay and clay products, sandstone, copper, gold, timber and timber products, mining equipment and hydroelectric equipment and other items).
In 1904 Jackson Dennis formed the Ione and Eastern Railway Company and began purchasing the right of way for the railroad. Grading of the rail line began in summer and laying of the rail started in early 1905. In February of 1905, the railroad advertised they could transport freight from Ione to Ranlett Station near the Newton Copper Mine. By March the line was operating from the Ione to Martell Station with stations at Ranlett, Jack Dufene, and Mountain Springs (Sunnybrook).
The Ione and Eastern did not prove to be as profitable as expected and the company defaulted on the bonds in 1908. Charles Erickson, who held the bonds, purchased and incorporated the line as the Amador Central Railroad Company. For the first five years the railroad was not profitable, but with the purchase of a new engine, it became profitable for a number of years. Meta Erickson took over operation of the railroad when Charles passed away in 1910.
Revenues for the railroad diminished greatly with the Great Depression. Two of the railroads largest customers, the Argonaut and Kennedy mines, had closed. By 1932 the railroad stopped passenger service, including the transport of high school students to the only high school in Ione.
The railroad originally had 12 trestles. One trestle burned in 1935 and two more trestles burning in 1938, costing the railroad a large sum of money to rebuild those sections. Consequently, in 1938, the rail line filed for abandonment and closed in November. Local businesses, including the Ione Fire Brick Company and the new mill at Martell, reorganized the line and suspended the abandonment. Numerous improvements were made, but in 1939, two more bridges burned, costing the railroad $18,000. In November of that year the roundhouse at Martell burned. Good news in 1940 was that a new lumber mill was built at Martell, increasing capacity and thus revenue for the railroad. Some of the mines also reopened and started shipping concentrate on the railroad.
The increased revenues from the mines were short lived. With the start of WWII, the mines were again closed. In 1945, the Winton Lumber Company purchased the railroad. They purchased diesel engines, replaced the wooden turntable with a steel one, and replaced some of the rail with heavier rail. Most of the freight included lumber and clay and brick heading west and petroleum products and machinery heading east.
In recent years, owners include Georgia Pacific (1988) and Sierra Pacific Industries (1977). In 1998 the railroad was renamed the Amador Foothills Railroad. In 2010 the railroad was sold to the Amador County Historical Society and the Recreational Railroad Coalition Historical Society.