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Narrow Bauge Railway Runs beetween Reno and Prineville, Ore.

What would become one of the longest narrow-gauge railroads in the United States was incorporated in 1888 as the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway, better known as the N-C-O.  Some passengers insisted N-C-O stood for the “Northern California Outrage” or the “Narrow, Crooked, and Ornery.”

History writer Patricia A. Barry says it was “damned and ridiculed by many,” but “was a boon to countless stockmen and other shippers” before its final owner, the Southern Pacific, shut it down in 1929.
Before the railway existed,  the nearest railway shipping point for Southern Oregon’s remote Asturias and Lakeview areas was Gazelle, Calif., 200 miles to the Southwest, or Reno, Nevada, 200 miles to the southeast.  At its zenith, the N-C-O ran from Reno, Nevada, to Prineville, Ore., passing through Madeline, Alturas, Lakeview, Paisley and Silver Lake.
Barry tells a tongue-in-cheek story about a woman who repeatedly and anxiously asked the conductor when the train would reach Alturas. When she revealed she was about to give birth, he wanted to know why on earth she had boarded the train in the first place.  She replied, “This train is so slow I didn’t know I was in such a condition when I got on!”

Sources: Barry, Patricia A. "A Layman's History of the N-C-0 Railway." The Journal of the Modoc County Historical Society 4 (1982). 

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.