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Friday, March 15, 2013

Jackass Flats Trestle

Jackass Flats Trestle from East Zayante Road.
In Zayante near the junction of East and West Zayante Roads, there is a short trestle that crosses Zayante Creek. This trestle has been popularly known as Jackass Flats Trestle for some time, though the origin of the name or its original branding is unknown. It is a broad-gauged trestle with three cement pilings supporting it, one in the creek and two on either end. A driveway to the Jackass Flats property passes under the trestle on the south end. The trestle is mostly supported by a long steel structure that bridges the river, with ties set on top to support the tracks. Remains of access support ladders hand beneath the trestle on both ends (visible below).

The trestle was originally built by the Southern Pacific Railroad, probably in the 1930s to replace an earlier trestle, though it could possibly date earlier. No dates have been found on the trestle. Through to the early 1980s, the trestle was used regularly to haul sand loads from the Olympia Sand Pit. After the plant ceased using rail transport, the bridge went into a prolonged disuse.

Today, the trestle is in an advanced state of decay. While owned by Roaring Camp Railroads since 1985, it is very rarely used and, when used, only the lightest diesel engines pass over the trestle. Many of the ties are rotten and the tracks themselves are somewhat rusted. The trestle mostly remains because Roaring Camp seeks to retain their property rights along the right-of-way to Olympia. Tom Shreve, chief steam engineer at Roaring Camp, has stated that the trestle is not safe for through traffic and Roaring Camp has not decided if they wish to repair it or demolish it.

The trestle as looking from below heading southward.
Scan of the Jackass Flats property encompassing multiple time periods. (From Legends of Jackass Flats)
In 1985, local author Wilton Von Gease, possibly the owner of the adjacent property, wrote Legends of Jackass Flats (Cambrian Press), a surprisingly long (172 pages) western comedy about the Zayante property. It is likely that the name of the trestle comes from this book and that prior to that time, the bridge had a simpler, more formal name, probably Zayante Trestle #1. Unfortunately, this historian does not have nor has he seen a copy of the book in person. It is long out-of-print but is available second hand from various retailers.

The future of the Jackass Flats Trestle is in flux and it is likely that it will be demolished as a safety hazard in the not-so-distant future. While one can hope for its renovation and reuse in a reopened Mountain Route, that prospect seems extremely unlikely now.

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