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The bonus of vacationing with dogs

If the dachshunds hadn't barked excitedly at the passing trains, we might never have noticed the Keddie Y.

By Georgianna Pfost / October 9, 2008

Down the track: The famous Keddie Y spans the waters of Spanish Creek far below.

Adrian Studer/File

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When we arrived for a week's vacation in the Sierra Nevada, we didn't know we were stepping into railroad history. I didn't even notice the multiple tracks as I snapped a few photos of a train heading across the interesting old trestle high above Spanish Creek.

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We'd found the rental cottage on a website listing area lodging and picked it because it looked cozy and quiet and allowed dogs. But we didn't know that our dogs were train buffs of sorts and would quickly and noisily introduce us to the world-famous "Keddie Y."

Back home, our two dachshunds regularly bark at any and all "rumbly" vehicles (as we've come to call them) – particularly those boxy delivery trucks that rumble as they roll by, motorcycles of all shapes and sizes, and the weekly garbage and recycling trucks.

Apparently, the mountain-climbing freight trains in Plumas County sounded like extra-large delivery trucks to extra-long Taffy, and during our week in the mountains, she spent many an excited moment barking ferociously at these trains as they lumbered past on the trestle to the northwest and sometimes high along the rocky slope across the creek.

That was actually how we noticed the "Y": We stopped to see what "T" was barking at and realized that only some of the trains took the track along the slope while others disappeared at the end of the trestle.

Perhaps Taffy thought her avid barks had sent those latter trains hurrying into the hills, but as we leafed through the area visitors' pamphlets, we soon discovered that those trains were simply on the north leg of the Y.

The Keddie Y (or Wye) is apparently the only railroad wye in the world with two legs as bridges and one ending in a tunnel. What we were seeing (thanks to the dogs and our unexpectedly excellent viewpoint down the creek) were the tracks emerging from under California's Highway 70 as they run out of the Feather River canyon and separate into two.

As the pamphlets explained, the Y was completed in 1931 to allow trains to travel north to connect with traffic from the Pacific Northwest, or to continue east-west across the Sierra – and it was still functioning smoothly (despite Taffy's barking).

The visitors' information also reported that railroad buffs come from all over the world to stop on the edge of the highway and snap a photo of this unusual engineering feat, and we got a glimpse of that view from the postcard we picked up later in nearby Quincy.

What the postcard didn't capture was the dog's-eye view that had first led us to notice this interesting bit of railroad history, and I found myself laughing as I imagined Taffy standing at the base of the Y and stopping a train. Now that would have made a great picture – and made history, too.

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