Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad began operations in 1876. The line wound its way twenty-two miles from Nevada City to Grass Valley and then south-east down canyons, across trestles, and through tunnels to its terminus in the Central Pacific railyard at Colfax.
The company had hired John F. Kidder to oversee construction of the new route, and his robust attitude, confidence, and authority drove the project to completion in a record fifteen months. He became the new road’s operating superintendent and soon was president of the company.
The completion of the narrow gauge provided businesses and residents with a reliable year-round transportation link to the rest of the country. Heavy machinery needed for the gold mines was shipped into the county by rail. Merchandise from Eastern suppliers arrived daily for local stores and shops. First Class passenger coaches carried the immigrants who came to work in the mines and build the towns.
In addition to other cargo, outbound trains carried more than $200,000,000.00 in gold bars to Colfax where they were transferred to the Central Pacific for delivery to the United States Mint in San Francisco.
John Kidder ran the railroad until his death in 1901. Soon after, the company’s directors elected his wife, Sarah, as the first woman president of an American railroad. Sarah reorganized the company’s finances and directed the modernization of the locomotives and rolling stock. She oversaw the 1908 rerouting of the mainline including construction of a 172’ high steel bridge over the Bear River. Sarah’s tenure ended after