Rails West
Second Transcontinental Line and Santa Fe Bring Competition

While the race to complete the Pacific Railroad could perhaps be described as a horse race between two railroad companies, the competition for a transcontinental railroad line across Southern California and the southern part of the nation could perhaps be better described as a game of chess. On one side of the table sat Leland Stanford, Collins P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker, the "Big Four" who had incorporated the Central Pacific and now wanted to control rail transportation within California. On the side sat several challengers who wanted a share of the profit.

SP Locomotive prepares to enter tunnel 10 between Walong and Marcel Two Southern Lines authorized by Congress

A group of businessmen in San Francisco, California, led by Timothy Phelps, incorporated the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in December 1865, to build a railroad between San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, then build eastward to the eastern boundary of the state.

In July 1866, congress passed a bill authorizing the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, based in San Francisco, and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company, based in St. Louis, to build a second transcontinental line from San Francisco to St. Louis. Both companies were to meet at the Colorado River near the 35th parallel.

The Southern Pacific acquired the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad following authorization by the state legislature in March. Grading began on the extension southward at 4th Street in San Jose in April 1868, carried out by the Santa Clara & Pajaro Valley Railroad which had been incorporated in January. The line reached Gilroy in March 1869 and Hosister in July 1871.

The Southern Pacific was purchased by the directors of the Central Pacific, Leland Stanford, Collins P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker in September 1868. The Atlantic & Pacific remained primarily in Missouri.

The Texas Pacific Railway was given a land grant by Congress to build along the 32nd parallel in 1871. Thomas Scott, President of the Texas Pacific, negotiated with San Diegans in 1872 to bring the line into their city.

Southern Pacific Line Constructed through Southern California

The Central Pacific directors feared competition from the Texas Pacific Railway. Planning began on a Southern Pacific line through the southern part of the state on the way to the Colorado River, intending to beat Scott to the state line. Stanford and the rest of the directors decided not to construct the originally projected line from Tres Pinos to Visalia through the Pacheco pass due to the cost of construction and expense of operating over the mountains. The Central Pacific began building a more level line southward from Lathrop in December 1869, to connect with the Southern Pacific route. This line was built without the benefit of land grants or other government concessions. Trains reached Modesto in November 1870, Merced in January 1872, Sycamore (Herndon) in April 1872, Fresno in May 1972, and Goshen in August 1972. Practically all of the larger valley towns began as railroad towns along the line. Goshen, 146 miles south of Lathrop became the end of the Central Pacific line, as the line had reached the original survey for Southern Pacific through the San Jaoquin Valley.

The Southern Pacific line was placed in Service to Delano in July 1873. The SP's main construction efforts were focused in Los Angeles. Pressed for funds, the SP managed to obtain a subsidy in November 1872, from Los Angeles businessmen and residents who feared being left off a main line of a southern transcontinental road. City leaders gave their holdings in the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad to the Southern Pacific Railroad. In addition, the county provided a $602,000 cash subsidy to the Southern Pacific and rights of way to build lines to Pomona and Anaheim. A line was extended from the station on Alamedia Street to Naud Junction where one line continued 22 miles northward to San Fernando, and the other 29 miles eastward to Spadra.

Train No. 17 at Tehachapi Loop, C E Watkins photoConstruction in the San Joaquin Valley resumed in April 1874. In October 1874 the SP line reached Bakersfield. The tracks were constructed to Caliente in April 1875, at an elevation of 1,291 feet, which remained the southern terminus of the line for more than a year while more than 3000 American and Chinese men worked on the line through the Tehachapi Pass. At the pass, the railroad crosses over itself forming the Tehachapi Loop, at an elevation of 4,025 feet, a climb of 2,734 feet in 28 miles. A total of 19 tunnels were required. Trains reached the summit in July 1876. The Tehachapi Loop was hailed as one of the greatest engineering feats of its day.

As crews worked their way through the Tehachapi Mountains from the north, constructing the Tehachapi Loop, other crews were building the SP line out of San Fernando, which required digging a tunnel. Construction on the 6,966 foot long tunnel began in March 1875, the longest of its kind at the time, with workers digging round the clock from both ends. The tunnel headings met in July 1876. Tracks were soon heading northward into the canyon.

On September 5, 1876, at Lang Station, near Palmdale, Charles Crocker, President of the Southern Pacific Railroad drove a gold spike to complete the San Joaquin Valley line. Southern California and Los Angeles were linked with San Francisco and the East. A train from San Francisco reached Los Angeles the same day. Produce and manufactured goods could now be shipped more reasonably and quickly. A land boom began. The down side was that the directors of the Southern Pacific and Central Pacific had monopoly control of the major railroads in California, allowing them to control prices.

San Bernardino residents were also recruited for funds but declined. The SP line continued eastward from Los Angeles through a new town of Colton, seven miles south of San Bernardino. The line reached the Colorado River across from Fort Yuma, Arizona in 1877, the end of the distance the charter allowed. After a few political maneuvers, the line was extended into Arizona, reaching Tucson on March 20, 1880, and El Paso, Texas on May 19, 1881.

The Southern Pacific opened a line to Santa Barbara in 1887. The Coast Line was extended northward to connect with San Francisco in 1901.

SP opened the Los Angeles Junction Station, which boasted a hotel and dining room at Spring Street and North Broadway. In 1888, the SP moved to the Arcade Station at 5th and Central Streets, which was rebuilt on an adjoining site three decades later and called Central Station.

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Revives Threat of Competition for Southern California

Post card shows train passing Santa Fe Railway Depo at Perris, California In the Fall of 1868 construction began in Topeka, Kansas on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line under the leadership of Cyrus K. Holliday. The Santa Fe was operating 28 miles of track in 1869. The line from Topeka to Atchison was completed in early 1872 and entered Colorado by the end of December. The line opened to Santa Fe in March 1880.

In March 1881 the ATSF and the Southern Pacific lines were connected at Deming, New Mexico, forming a second national transcontinental rail route, although the connection at Deming saw little traffic as the SP continued to direct eastbound traffic through a more profitable connection at Ogden, Utah.

This arrangement was not satisfactory for the ATSF. The ATSF acquired half interest in the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Company, a railroad company that had received a large federal land grant in 1866. Westward construction had begun at Isleta, south of Albuquerque, following the Atlantic & Pacific Charter along the 35th parallel, as a joint effort by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad (Frisco) and the ATSF. This new line was projected to enter California along the 35th parallel, then proceed up California's Central Valley to San Francisco.

By purchasing a controlling interest in stock in the St. Louis and San Francisco in early 1882, Collis P. Huntington and Jay Gould blocked the ATSF interest in completing the Atlantic & Pacific line to San Francisco. In a compromise agreement, the joint line reached Needles in August 1883 where a connection was made with the SP's branch from Mojave. As predictable, the connection saw little freight traffic as the SP used discriminatory practices to direct eastbound traffic over its own line through Yuma. Through passenger service was begun, following completion of the ATSF bridge over the Colorado River at Needles.

California Southern Railroad Builds Northward from San Diego

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Route Map from the 1881 Grain Dealers and Shippers Gazetteer.San Diego businessmen had long fought for a railroad. After the failure of the proposed Texas Pacific Railway, San Diegians, most notably land developers Frank and Warren Kimball, unsuccessfully tried to convenience the SP to extend a line to the city during the late 1870's. In October 1880 the California Southern Railroad was chartered to build northward from San Diego toward San Bernardino with the intention of meeting the Atlantic and Pacific as part of an arrangement between the San Diegans and the ATSF.

The California Southern Railroad began building a line north from San Diego through Oceanside, then inland through Fallbrook, Temecula Canyon and Perris, reaching Colton in August 1882. After several legal skirmishes with the SP, the CS installed a crossing and completed their line to San Bernardino.

In August 1884 the ATSF managed to reach an agreement to lease, then to buy the SP line from Needles to Mojave. Reports differ as to the reason SP accepted this agreement, a popular belief was that ATSF management had threatened to inaugurate ruinous transcontinental competition to Guaymas over its Sonora Railway line in Mexico. Another possibility is that the Atlantic & Pacific was in a position to build an entirely new line from Needles to San Francisco. By 1884 the political climate had changed. The anti-competitive practices of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific had began to cause a public resentment and driven up the cost of influencing legislation. On October 1, 1884 the Atlantic & Pacific took over the Mojave Division.

Completion of Santa Fe Line Brings Competition and Lower Prices

Also in October 1884 the ATSF purchased the financially troubled California Southern Railroad. The California Southern line was extended 50 miles northward to the Mojave SP line at Barstow. On November 15, 1885 the last spike was driven on the new line through the Cajon Pass. Passengers could now travel and goods could be shipped to and from other Pacific ports from the San Diego docks.

La Grande Station, Los Angeles, Newman Post Card Co. PhotoWith the ATSF line from Kansas to San Diego the Pacific Coast now complete, competition for business began. The area's freedom from transportation monopolies was assured. Prices dropped, a ticket from the Mississippi River, which had cost $125 was reduced to $25 or less by 1887. Citrus and produce farming also boomed, a result of decreased shipping costs.

Continuing problems with washouts in Temecula Canyon and economic growth in Los Angeles encouraged ATSF management to build an alternate line. In 1887 the ATSF bought and built its way from San Bernardino to Los Angeles, making Los Angeles its principal Southern California terminus.

Santa Fe opened the La Grande Station in Los Angeles on July 29, 1893, at 2nd and Santa Fe. The station was unique for Southern California in its Moorish-inspired architecture and included a first-class restaurant, The Harvey House. Damage from the Long Beach earthquake of 1933 forced its closure.

Orange Empire Railway Museum preserves and operates vintage trains on a portion of the original California Southern - Santa Fe transcontinental line in Perris, California.


Sharing A Heritage   Railroad History   Train Technology   Railroad Operation   Railroad Time   Museums & Heritage Railroads   Railroads Today

DigitalNetExpress.com Text Richard Boehle. Photo (top) Donald Duke Collection, (second) C E Watkins photo James H Harrison collection, (third) vintage postcard, (bottom) Newman Post Card Co, Richard Boehle Collection. Entire web site copyright 2002-2010, DigitalNetExpress.com, Burbank, California.