The railroad never made it to Rail Road Flat; the name came from a few hundred feet of wooden track and some rails laid by a miner for his mule-drawn ore car.
The place was settled in 1849, and proved to be a rich placer and quartz mining area for a short while. During its popularity, the town had a three-story hotel, seven saloons, several stores, a school, butcher shop, shoe maker, restaurant, and numerous homes scattered about the hillsides.
Water to work the placers was in short supply, so an engineer by the name of W. V. Clark decided to build a ditch and bring in plenty. He constructed a ditch which brought water from the South Fork of the Mokelumne River to a reservoir located on his property about one-half mile south of town. The reservoir was at an elevation of three thousand feet which guaranteed a sufficient supply of water to the town and mines below.
The Rail Road Flat Post Office was established in 1857 while mining activity was still going strong. Even by the early 1870’s, there were still five or six stamp mills in operation. Black Fever decimated the town’s population in 1880, from which it never fully recovered.
Although there is nothing left from the Gold Rush era to see in Rail Road Flat, the scenery in getting there is spectacular. Traveling along the winding highway through forest-clad mountains proves the old adage: The way justifies the end.
Rail Road Flat is located east of Mokelumne Hill. Take Hwy 26 nine miles to Ridge Road, four miles later Rail Road Flat Road will branch off to the old camp.
A Stone Monument with a mine car atop it marks the site of Rail Road Flat and tells a brief tale of the old mining camp.