The boomtown of Bodie is located in a high, cold, treeless area, where wood was in great demand both for lumber and fuel. The largest stand of Jeffrey pine in the world occurs southeast of Mono Lake, about 30 miles from Bodie, and was a relatively accessible timber resource.
The Bodie Railway & Lumber Co. was formed in February 1881, and a narrow gauge (3 feet) line from Bodie to the timber stand was finished by that November. The railroad carried both finished lumber and fuel wood to Bodie, and wood also fueled the locomotives.
The sawmill was sited on the edge of a shallow ravine for convenience in handling the logs. The railroad ran along the ravine so that planks could be skidded down to it by gravity. Lumber trimmings also fired the steam engine that ran the sawmill. Temporary spur lines were built into the forest for logging, with large teams of oxen and mules to drag the logs to the railroad. The soft pumice sand made operations more difficult and animal power was critical.
Know Before You Go
Mono Mills is 9.1 miles east on California State Route 120 from the intersection with US 395. The site is on the north side of the highway and includes a kiosk with an extensive set of interpretive signs.