July 2009 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles




Sky high gas prices along with sluggish economic conditions have severely impacted our tour business for over a year.

We have reluctantly decided to suspend our tour operations for the time being.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to all who continue to support us.

LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support


Support Room 8's charitable legacy by donating to the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation or adopting one of their cats.

Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.

A Bodie Sesquitennial


Sat. Aug. 8 2009



Live Music

Watermelon & Pie Eating Contests

Living History

Costume Rental


Old Tyme Photos



Members Only Events

Albert's BBQ Dinner

After Hours Entertainment


for information

Phone 760-647-6445


or click on the poster above for email.


Mules can taste the difference--so can you



The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:  echco@msn.com


It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.



Click on the bag to find out how.


Visit Michael Piatt's site, www.bodiehistory.com, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Mono Lake Committee.


Back to the past in California City--Wimpy's!

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505

Hey Brother,

Can 'Ya

Spare a Job?

The nation's economic downturn has severely affected the newspaper industry. My job of nearly 30 years was eliminated several months ago.

I'm actively looking for full or part time job opportunities within my diverse skill set.

If you have, or know of any openings, please contact me through this CONTACT  link.




Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway.

     Click your mouse through the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



Electricity Comes to Bodie

by Roger Vargo

Since the start of mining operations in Bodie, California, equipment was driven either by muscle power or steam power. While there were usually plenty of strong backs willing to work for good wages, muscle power had its physical limitations. It was steam, produced by the burning of wood that turned the stamp mills, raised the ore carts and lowered the men and equipment into the mines.

Old boiler at Bodie.

Wood was also burned in the residents' uninsulated homes to provide heat and cook meals.

But wood was a precious commodity in the high country mining town. The nearest forests were miles away in the Sierras or south of Mono Lake. Wood had to be hauled on the backs of pack animals, or in wagons. During the winter months, Bodie was isolated from wood shipments by 20-foot snow drifts.

The Bodie Railway and Lumber Company was formed in 1881 to build a rail line from Bodie 32 miles to the Jeffrey pine forest in the volcanic hills south of Mono Lake. A lumber camp and sawmill were built at Mono Mills. The mill and the locomotives were, of course, powered by steam.

Drawing of Mono Mills by Robert Likes.


The railroad operated during the snow-free months of the year, usually closing down by November and resuming operations in April. Bodie's fortunes began to decline, ironically, after the railroad was completed. None the less, the little narrow gauge short line operated intermittently until 1917. There were even grandiose plans to connect the line to the Slim Princess (Carson and Colorado) tracks in Benton.

Mines and mills consolidated operations or closed entirely as ore bodies played out. Those that survived continued to be powered by steam.

Thousands of miles away from Bodie, a battle of technologies was raging that would eventually penetrate Bodie's remoteness. Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse were waging a war of words and sparks to achieve dominance in the new field of electrical transmission.

Edison was convinced that locally generated direct current (DC) was the power source of the future. Westinghouse, also an accomplished inventor, realized that DC could not be practically transmitted over long distances because of voltage drops. He was convinced alternating current (AC), boosted (transformed) from low voltage to high voltage for transmission, then transformed back to low voltage at the point of use, was the solution.

Westinghouse held the U.S. rights for several transformer designs and acquired outright the rights to Nikola Tesla's polyphase induction motor designs. By 1890, Westinghouse was selling more than $4 million worth of AC equipment annually.

Edison's plans for DC distribution were short circuited in 1893 when Westinghouse won the bid to power 180,000 incandescent lights at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Back in Bodie, steam was still king. Wood was going for $10 per cord and the Standard mill

Thomas H. Leggett

was spending $2,000 each month to process 50 tons of ore daily. The 24-year old superintendent, Thomas Leggett, had read about a mine in Telluride, Colorado that had installed a Westinghouse AC electric motor powered by hydroelectric power generated three miles away.

While Bodie had sufficient water for its mining and drinking needs, it lacked the volume and flow needed to generate hydroelectric power. The nearest source was 13 miles away on Green Creek, south of Bridgeport.

Leggett concluded that if power could be carried for three miles, it was fairly safe to try for 13 miles. He consulted with representatives of Edison's General Electric Co. in San Francisco. "I found that the development of power-transmission by electricity was in such an early stage that they were still wedded to the direct current, and little as I knew about electricity, I felt the uncertainty of the methods they proposed," Leggett recalled later in an interview.

"I then consulted W. F. C. Hasson, electrical engineer, graduate of Annapolis, who had just opened an office in San Francisco-in fact, I had the honor of being his first client," Leggett said. "This resulted in tying up with the Westinghouse company, which took the contract to carry the power for that distance-13 miles-using a 120-kw. generator at the water-power end, direct-connected with Pelton water-wheels under 300-ft. head, without transformers, the current being generated at 3000 volts and carried on No. 1 bare copper wire, to Bodie, where it was applied to the operation of the mill."

The Green Creek power house and power lines from Twelfth Report of the State Mineralogist, 1894 by Thomas H. Leggett.

Construction began in late 1892 on the Green Creek power house, 355 feet below an old ditch that had been cleaned of debris and fitted with a penstock and 18 inch diameter pipe. Water was delivered at 152 p.s.i. to the 21-inch Pelton wheels driving a Westinghouse generator producing 3,390-3,530 volts AC.

Diagram of electric power line from Green Creek to Bodie.

The boiler and steam engine had been disconnected and the Standard mill retrofitted for electric power in mid-1893, idling a number of workers in the mill and mine. This did not sit well with the idled workers or the town in general. They refereed to the project as "Leggett's folly" and went so far as to ostracize his wife, Fanny, from social events.

The electricity generated at Green Creek was carried over two bare No.1 copper wires stretched 67,760 feet from the power house to the Standard mill.  The larger diameter No.1 wire was chosen over smaller No. 6 wire because of its increased strength. The larger wire also eliminated the need for step-up transformers and simplified the transmission system's design.

The two bare wires were supported on 21 foot, 6 inch diameter poles set 4 feet in the ground. Through town, and in areas of deep snow, 25 foot poles were used. The poles were

Pole No. 40; 4,000 feet from mill. Wire is 17 feet above ground at pole. Snow drift is 15 feet deep (March, 1893). The wires are bare copper and carry 3,100 volts.

spaced 100 feet apart and each fitted with a 4 x 6 inch cross arm. The terrain surrounding Bodie is tough and rocky. Leggett's crew used 500 pounds of dynamite to blast the pole holes.

Power pole and insulators.

The wires were attached to deep groove glass insulators. When the electricity reached Bodie, its potential had been reduced to about 3,100 volts due to line losses.

Contrary to a popular story, the power lines were not run straight because of fears of electricity shooting out the wires at bends. The lines were run as straight as possible because a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, thus maximizing the use of copper wire. Photographs of the original lines show bends and sags as the lines climbed over hills.

Summer view of poles 10 miles from Bodie looking west. Notice how the wires bed is they climb the hill in the distance.

Telephone lines following a different route provided the necessary communication between the mill and power house to synchronize the generator and motor.

The Standard mill and offices were the only buildings on the original electrical circuit. A 120 h.p. synchronous motor ran the twenty 750 pound stamps, concentrators, pans, agitators, settlers and machine shop equipment. A transformer stepped down the voltage to 100 volts for lighting the in mill building and nearby offices. After a 30 day test period, the system was put into full operation late in 1893.

Motor room in operation at Standard mill.

The Standard mine atop the hill still relied on steam power to operate the hoists as AC motors run at a constant speed and are unsuitable for such use. After a fire in the mine's hoisting works in 1894, Leggett installed a DC-powered hoist inside the mine and a DC generator inside the mill.

The rest of the town, too, still burned wood for fuel, and continued to do so for the next 17 years until December 24, 1910, when a new hydroelectric plant at Jordan began supplying power. Unfortunately, the power from the original Jordan plant lasted only until March 7, 1911 when the entire power plant at the base of Copper Mountain was erased by an avalanche (see www.explorehistoricalif.com/december07.html for the story on the disaster).

A Stanley Electric Mfg. Co. generator sits near the  entrance to Bodie today.


Electric Power Transmission Plants and the Use of Electricity in Mining Operations

by Thomas Haight Leggett

Written for the Twelfth Report of the State Mineralogist, 1894


Interviews with Mining Engineers

(interview with Thomas H. Leggett)

by T. A. Rickard

Mining and Scientific Press, 1922


Christmas Delivery at Bodie Sparks Jordan Disaster

by Cecile Page Vargo

Explore Historic California, December 2007


Developments in Electricity and Bodie’s Long Distance Power Transmission

by Michael H. Piatt



George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison & the Battle of the Currents

How dead dogs and botched executions helped pave the way to the power system we enjoy today

by Kevin Jones



SOS-Save Bodie and all our State Parks

by Roger Vargo


California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is saying "Hasta la vista!" to 220 of California's 279 state parks on July 1 as part of his efforts to trim the state's budget deficit of $24.3 billion. The plan is to cut $70 million from the $150 million the park system receives from California's general fund. An additional $143.4 million would be saved in the following fiscal year by keeping the parks closed.

Bodie is still open (as of July 1, 2009), but its fate along with 219 other California State Parks is still uncertain.

The parks to be closed include the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, Anza-Borrego, Bodie, Mono Lake State Tufa Reserve and Red Rock Canyon. Click here to view a list of affected parks.

Many parks' funding will be cut in half starting July 1. Actual park closures are not expected to take effect until after the Labor Day holiday in September.

The California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) is leading the drive to keep state parks open.

According to the CSPF, the general fund allocation to state parks represents 1/10 of one-percent (0.10%) of the entire state budget. California spends about $400 million to run its parks and beaches. About one third comes from the general fund with the remainder from user fees, bonds, gasoline taxes and federal funds.

State park attendance last year was more than 80 million visitors with indications the 2009 visitor count would be even higher.  "State parks draw tourism to California," State Parks Foundation president Elizabeth Goldstein said. "This proposal makes the budget situation worse."

The State Park Foundation estimates that parks generate $2.35 in return for every state dollar spent. This, according to Foundation estimates, could cost the state $350 million in revenue.

Preliminary findings from a recent (June 8, 2009) Sacramento State University survey found that visitors to California’s state parks spend an average of $4.32 billion per year in park-related expenditures, based on attendance estimates by state Parks and Recreation of about 74.9 million visitors a year.

Last year (2008), California's legislature rejected the governor's proposal to close 48 state parks partly due to intense public pressure.

Help support Bodie by attending the annual Friends of Bodie Day, August 8, 2009 and celebrate the sesquitennial (150th anniversary) of Bodie's discovery. Park admission fees collected that day stay in the park!

Click here to see the 2008 vintage celebration. Click here to see the 2007 Bodie Miner  and 2997 celebration.

Join the Friends of Bodie organization to attend the traditional members only BBQ and after-hours entertainment. Phone (760) 647-6445 or (760) 647-6564 or email info@bodiefriends.org for event and membership information.




Cecile and Roger Vargo of Explore Historic California support keeping California State Parks open to all. They are posing with an ore cart in Bodie State Historic Park. No ore cart was damaged in the creation of this image.                                                                  (Photo by Jenna Nustad / photo illustration by Roger Vargo)

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