Between 1907 and 1945, the Yosemite Valley Railroad brought flocks of tourists to the park gates at El Portal, where passengers took a stage coach the remainder of the way into Yosemite Valley. The railroad’s turntable, also located in El Portal, served the important function of reversing the main engine and car for the return trip down the Merced River Canyon.
Fallen into Disrepair
The original turntable fell into complete disrepair in the decades after the railroad closed. It deteriorated to a handful of rusty parts, including steel cross-ties, the central hub structure, the concrete perimeter footing, and a collection of random nuts and bolts. Wood structures rotted away, and vegetation eventually overtook the area.
Reviving a Piece of History
Thanks to this Conservancy-funded project, a team of restoration experts brought the turntable and caboose back to life. Using original engineering drawings and historic photographs, the crew reconstructed the original structures down to the smallest detail. The turntable is fully functional: A small group of people can move it by hand, providing an accurate portrayal of its original purpose. Crews also installed interpretive signs that tell the story of the Yosemite Valley Railroad and the early tourists who were among the first wave of national-park enthusiasts.
With your support, we are restoring important treasures that tell the story of Yosemite.