This featured image covers two dates for a reason. The St. Francis Dam, a former dam in San Francisquito Canyon above Santa Clarita, California, collapsed at 11:57:30 pm on March 12, 1928. The ensuing flood caused a great deal of damage along the canyon and the Santa Clara River Valley. Over 500 lives were lost that night in, even in 2018, the second largest disaster by loss of life in California. The even had repercussions throughout the world. Following that event, dams, as well as other large projects, no longer were approved by engineers. Geologists had the final say, not engineers. Both geologists and engineers also had to be certified by their state government to work as professionals.
The head engineer on the project, William Mulholland, was a great engineer. He oversaw and helped design the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was the largest and longest project of its time. It is still an engineering marvel today, more than 100 years later. The disaster ruined his career and during the investigation, he not only took full responsibility for the event, but also was said to have “envied the dead”. The collapse took a big toll on the “Chief” and he died a few years later.
This post is in memory of both those that died that fateful night in 1928 and to William Mulholland. A man that went from the “Savior of the City” to a pariah in just a few years.
Recently, I became a board member of the Ridge Route Preservation Organization. This group is dedicated to helping preserve and promote the historic Ridge Route in southern California. One of the first things I have done as a part of this group is to create a new website for the group. This site is an offshoot of the “RidgeRoute.Com” site, hosted by Harrison Scott. The new site will give updates on the progress we make regarding the roadway as well as any other news pertinent to the Ridge Route. Come take a look at “http://ridgeroute.org“.
Road signs come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. Each one carries a specific meaning to help guide you down the road in a safe manner. This installment will discuss each of the types of signs and what they mean. Road signs come in a variety of colors. Each color has a meaning, which can be quite important to know. The colors run from red, yellow, white, blue, green, brown, and orange.
Red signs mean something is prohibited. Only a few signs use this color – stop signs and wrong-way signs are the most common of these. Stop signs are also the only one that is octagonal. The color red was not the first choice, however. Stop signs used to be yellow with black lettering. Color might depend on where you were. Eventually, stop signs became standardized with a red background and white lettering. Yield signs and some no parking signs also use this color scheme. While yield signs don’t prohibit movement, they are there to warn you of opposing or side traffic.
Yellow signs are advisory or warning. Things such as upcoming intersections, curves, and other roadway hazards are generally marked with yellow signs. Curves are a good example of this. The speed signs at curves are advising you of a safe speed for the curve. They aren’t a speed limit for the curve. It is a generally good idea to travel at the advised speed. Depending on many conditions, you may be able to go faster that the posted speed. With this in mind, I have found that 25 mph seems to be a breaking point for curves. Curves posted at 25 mph or higher can generally be driven faster. When they are posted lower than 25 mph, slowing down is highly advised. I’ve seen speeds as low as 5 mph posted on some roadways. I’ve also seen speeds as high as 60 mph. A curve with that high a speed is not a problem, but may be in an area with few curves and it is nice to know you don’t have to slow for it. Upcoming intersections are also posted with yellow signs. These signs tell you not that one is coming up but what type it is. Some signs are customized to show specific intersections, especially if it is a blind intersection in a curve.
Black and white signs are regulatory signs, meaning they show some sort of rule that must be obeyed. Speed limit signs, for example, use this scheme. This is different than the curve advisory signs, which also show speed, as these signs show the maximum limit, not the advised limit. Parking signs are also generally in black and white as they limit or restrict parking in an area. Other signs in this category include bike lanes, passing, and other signs restricting either the movement or type of vehicle allowed in an area or lane.
Blue signs are very specific in use. They act as guides to hospitals, telephones, and where services can be obtained. Roadside services can include gas stations, food, and lodging. These signs can be quite helpful for roadway users that are unfamiliar with the area and are not sure what sort of services can be obtained at a particular exit. Use of these signs varies by state as well. Some states show specific businesses, where others are more general, e.g. “Gas, Food, Lodging – Next Exit”.
Green signs are also guide signs. These give directions, by use of an arrow, to locations such as cities and roadways. They also give mileage to locations along a route. On freeways they generally show distances to the next exit, where others show distance to the next three cities. They may also mark things such as bike routes, which are roadways where there is no marked lane specific for bicycles but may be easier for bicycling in general.
There are also brown signs which mark recreation and historic area, such as beaches and parks. Park lands, such as national monuments, are marked with brown signs as well as forest areas. Beaches, such as the various State Beaches along the coast are marked with these brown signs as well.
The last signs covered here are orange. These are for construction areas. These signs perform a wide variety of tasks but always mark a construction area. These are to be heeded in part to ensure the safety of construction workers. Detour signs also use this color scheme and mark an alternate route in case the main route is closed. Always use caution in areas marked with orange signs. In addition to construction workers, roadway quality may greatly vary as well. Well-paved roads may be turned to dirt for a time during the construction and speeds may be greatly reduced from normal.
As you can see, road signs come on many shapes and colors. Each help roadway users get to their destination in all sorts of ways. So, next time you’re out on the road, keep this in mind and it may help you on your journey to wherever you may be going.
The tour began at Devore, CA at about 8:30 am after meeting a friend, who ended up being the only person to show. After a quick briefing on what we were to see, we headed south to Verdemont, where we inspected a freeway overpass that had remained mostly intact from its original 1950’s construction. The bridge rail and approach guard rail was original and relatively untouched. From there, we headed back to Cajon Blvd and viewed the old concrete alignment at Verdemont.
After Verdemont, we headed back to Devore to see a section of intact 1916 paving, which acts partly as a driveway for an antenna site. The paving, oil macadam, is quite rare to see these days and was pretty cool to see. Despite all it has gone through, the paving was fairly smooth with only a few major potholes. The roadway damage did also offer an opportunity to more closely inspect the paving itself. The aggregate that was used was fairly large by modern standards and appeared to be granite.
North on Cajon Blvd, we passed a couple of C-monuments adjacent to the freeway. I first spotted these on a trip a few months ago following the Blue Cut fire. It was nice to see they were still there. Those monuments were also at the point where old Cajon Blvd merges with the “new” Cajon Blvd (the extension from Devore on a new alignment).
Our next stop was at Blue Cut. There, we checked out a plaque commemorating the history of the Blue Cut area. Blue Cut, as it was noted on the plaque, was the location of a toll booth on the original wagon road through here. We also inspected the foundations of the 1940’s weigh station, which was removed not long after the freeway bypassed this section. While we were at Blue Cut, we also watched three trains pass by, one of which was a “fast freight”, which was passing another train.
Moving north from Blue Cut, we stopped briefly at the Debris Cone Creek bridge, then headed toward Cajon Junction. At Cajon Junction, we followed the eastern frontage road south to the end of the road. There, we found the trail monument from 1917, which was placed alongside the roadway just after it was paved. The monument itself was moved to its present location when the freeway was built. This location was also the divergence of the original path through Cajon Pass and the later roads, which eventually became US 66. As it was getting a bit hot, we moved onto our next stop – Cajon Summit.
Between Cajon Junction and Cajon Summit, the old roadway has been greatly modified. Only portions of both directions of the former expressway are still visible. The whole section, however, has been closed since the Blue Cut fire burned the area. This same fire, unfortunately, also took what would have been our lunch stop – the Summit Inn Café. The sign still remains, but the whole business is gone. It may be rebuilt, but only time will tell. So far, the site has only been cleared.
After stopping at the summit, it was time to work our way back down the hill. Instead of taking the freeway back to Devore, we decided it best to take the old highway once again. This time, we made an additional stop at a bridge near Swarthout Canyon Road. This stop proved to be quite interesting as we found the foundations for an old structure that was alongside the 1916 roadway. We figured the old building may have been a gas station or some other roadside service building. We also saw two more trains pass by while we were there.
We headed back to Devore to finish up the tour. By then, we were quite hungry, so we decided to have a late breakfast at Tony’s Diner. The food was decent and the location was nice. It was good to be in a nice air-conditioned building as well. Overall, the tour was a lot of fun, even though it wasn’t well attended. Next time will be better and hopefully be cooler.
US Highway 6, now known as Sierra Highway, crossed the Santa Clara River near Solemint, California. The bridge it originally used, constructed in 1938, is planned to be replaced in the near future. This bridge is one of the oldest remaining in the Santa Clarita area and is the longest span on former US 6 in California. The bridge has remained almost intact from its original construction. The only changes have been minor to the bridge itself. The highway, however, has changed quite a bit. In 1968, Sierra Highway, then State Route 14, was widened to four lanes. A second bridge for northbound traffic was added, with the original bridge being used for southbound traffic.
Presently, Sierra Highway is six lanes wide at the river crossing. As the bridges were built with a four-lane highway in mind, only a narrow shoulder along both directions exists. This condition is one of the reasons the bridges across the Santa Clara River are being replaced.
In March of 2017, I took a trip to inspect in more detail the bridge and the surrounding area. It was nice to see the bridge again, as it brought back a lot of memories. I used to live near the bridge and crossed it almost daily. It will be sad to see it go as it is one of the last remaining pieces of the old highway. So, please, check it out yourself while you still can. I’m not quite sure when the construction will begin, it may have already.
After having done a fair amount of research into how roads in Southern California are tolled and how each agency handles the tolling itself, I decided it was time to add another page to the site. Seeing as how each agency uses FasTrak in a different way and that there are, at least for now, five different agencies, each with their own transponder, in the region, it was time to help clarify some things. Please use the link below to access the new page. I hope the new page helps explain the confusion that is FasTrak.