A short distance east of Yuba Pass was the site of a major news event in Donner Route history. In January 1952 the line’s premier passenger train City of San Francisco and its 226 passengers and crew were snowbound between tunnels 35 and 36 for three days, while crews worked desperately to free the train and reopen the line. The highway (then route 40) is only a short distance below the tracks at this point, but the highway too was blocked by heavy snow. Finally the highway was plowed to a spot near the stranded train. Passengers were able to walk to waiting automobiles that took them to Emigrant Gap and a waiting train. It took several more days before crews could free the trapped railroad equipment and reopen the line.
The snowbound City of San Francisco is visible in the aerial view above. In the scene below, a work train and “big hook” crane approach the snowbound locomotives after the tracks to the stranded train had been cleared of drifted snow. The locomotives were first pulled from their snowy entrapment, then the passenger cars were freed one or two at a time. Snow was tightly packed to the top of the engines and cars on the uphill side.