Category Archives: History

August 12, 2017 Cajon Pass Highway Tour – Updated

South end of Blue Cut showing fire damage.

On August 12, 2017, I will be hosting this websites first highway tour in the Cajon Pass area. This tour will cover the roadway from Verdemont to Cajon Summit. Some portions will have to be skipped, unfortunately, due to fire-related closures. The start of the tour has changed from the initial announcement. It will now begin at Devore, in front of Tony’s Diner at 18291 Cajon Blvd, San Bernardino, CA 92407 at 8 am. Please do not park in their parking lot. There is plenty of on-street and off-street parking in the area.

After a brief introduction, we plan to leave at about 8:30 am. The tour will stop at the following locations:

  • Verdemont (backtrack)
  • Cajon Blvd (at the freeway)
  • Kenwood Ave
  • Keenbrook
  • Blue Cut
  • Debris Cone Creek
  • Cajon Junction
  • Cajon Summit

Additional stops may be added if needed. I strongly recommend bringing water and snacks as there are few water/food stops along the route. Please RSVP if you plan to attend this tour. Again, we will be leaving the starting point no later than 8:30 am. Please RSVP no later than August 11 so that I can get a rough number of how many will attend. I look forward to seeing you out there!

A tunnel on US 80?

In the late 1940’s, plans were being drawn for improvements to US 80 in San Diego County. The highway, as it was then, had changed little since its last upgrade between 1928 and 1932. While much of the highway was on a better alignment than before, the section between Alpine and Descanso still needed more work done. This part of the roadway still had sharp curves and steep grades. The combination of these conditions, including increasing traffic, made it rather treacherous at times.

Portion of the highway plans showing the realignment between Willows and Ellis.

In 1950, the first phase of improvements were made to this segment of highway. Beginning near the present-day West Willows interchange, a new alignment was constructed. This new alignment had a shallower grade than the original alignment. It was also a lot straighter. It followed eastbound I-8 until near East Willows. At the present-day East Willows interchange, the alignments met again. From there, the old alignment was straightened quite a bit. Portions of this new alignment are still in use as the westbound lanes of I-8.

Detail view of the tunnel location. West portal is located at the arrow.
Aerial photo of Deadman’s Curve near Viejas, CA. Note the provisions built for the tunnel on the west (left) side of the large curve.

At the large curve, known as “Dead Man’s Curve”, the 1950 improvements ended. It was at that curve, however, that a tunnel was planned to be constructed. The tunnel was a part of an additional phase of improvements that were never constructed. It would have been about 800 feet long and two lanes wide. I have not found any drawings of what the tunnel may have looked like. Most likely, however, it would have had a stone-faced portal, similar to other tunnels constructed around that time. Grading for the tunnel was partially done on the west side, though nothing was done on the east end.

Plans for the Sweetwater River Bridge near Los Terrinitos. Note the proposed alignments on either side of the bridge.

East of the tunnel, the alignment would have taken a different course. Instead of following the original alignment, a new one would be built, similar to the I-8 alignment, but rejoining US 80 near Los Terrinitos. There, a new bridge was constructed over the Sweetwater River bridge, bypassing the original 1917 bridge to the south. East of Descanso, another realignment was planned, though no provisions for this ever got past the planning stage. This bridge, along with the improvements to the west, were planned to be a part of an eventual US 80 expressway or freeway alignment. All of these plans were put on hold as other projects in the region.

When plans shifted from upgrading US 80 to the construction of a brand new freeway, the tunnel plan was scrapped. Instead of a tunnel, a deep cut would be dug into the mountain, allowing for a more even grade across the area. The alignment chosen also reduced the number of river crossings from three to one. The freeway alignment also bypassed the section of US 80 through Guatay. In doing so, it had to cross Pine Valley creek at a rather deep section. The valley was bridged using a new method called “Segmental Balanced Cantilever”, which resulted in the highest bridge on the Interstate system at 450 feet above the floor of the canyon.

Plans for I-8 between West Willows and State 79 (Descanso)
Detailed plans for the tunnel area showing the old alignment in relation to the present freeway.

Today, little remains of the tunnel’s planned location. Only vestiges of the old alignment can be seen around the large cut where the tunnel was planned. A vista point was constructed within the cut as well, at the edge of which a portion of the original alignment can be seen. I-8 also utilizes a portion of the 1950’s alignment. From near Viejas Creek to just west of East Willows, the two outermost lanes of I-8 eastbound mostly use the 1950’s concrete, with portions replaced and a new lane added to the left. From East Willows to near the Vista Point, westbound I-8 follows the 1950’s alignment, while not using the paving as it does to the west, it does follow the grade. You can see this in the road cuts as the style of cut is different between each side of the freeway.

Following US 80 and its history across the mountains east of San Diego is fascinating. As technology progressed, each alignment became better and easier to travel. Unlike many other highways in California, US 80 didn’t go through an expressway phase. It went from a two lane highway to a four lane freeway on a new alignment. In doing so, the brief period when the original alignment was to be upgraded brought some interesting ideas. The tunnel, as well as some of the extra bridges planned, were a part of those ideas. They would be lost to time if it weren’t for a few bits of information on roadway plans from that era. In time, I may uncover yet more mysteries and unbuilt sections of the highway still unknown.

San Diego Electric Railway Exposed!

For the first time since 1949, a section of the San Diego Electric Railway, double track at that, is exposed for only a short time before it will be destroyed in Hillcrest. They last saw service on April 23, 1949 as a part of the #7 streetcar line. The City of San Diego is currently restoring the 1914 Georgia St bridge over University Ave. As a part of this project, they are also lowering University Ave between Park Blvd and Florida St.

These tracks represent a bit of San Diego history and I highly recommend a visit in the next week or so before they are gone. Remnants of the former railway are getting harder to find as time passes and more roads are torn up for various projects.

Looking east from Georgia St, tracks are in the median.
Looking easterly toward Georgia St
Looking toward the Georgia St bridge with the tracks in the median
Angled view of the tracks between Georgia St and Park Blvd.
Looking down at the torn up eastbound tracks.
Railroad ties on top of the Georgia St bridge from the roadway below.
Torn up tracks and a #7 bus
Looking west from near Florida St.

More information about the San Diego Electric Railway

Los Angeles County Survey Records

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has a wealth of information available on their website. With a bit of patience and some looking around, you can find quite a few treasures using their mapping application. I’ve so far found the original survey data for the “Bridge To Nowhere” roadway, plans for other roadways that were never built in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, as well as the forest service permit for the Shoemaker Canyon Road that was never completed.

http://dpw.lacounty.gov/sur/landrecords/index.cfm

US 6 Tour goes east!

It has been a while since I’ve added to my US 6 tour. For quite some time, it “only” went to Tonopah, Nevada. While that town makes for a good end point, it left quite a bit of very interesting and scenic highway out of the tour. US 6 across Nevada is one of the emptiest highways in the lower 48 states. It gives travelers and geologists alike a very good cross section of the Great Basin as well as a look at the mining past of Nevada. With that in mind, my US 6 tour now extends to the Utah / Nevada State Line, covering approximately 620 miles of roadway.

Take your time and enjoy the tour!

Virtual Tour of US 6 Introduction

Image of the Week – 3/26/2017

Taylor St at US 80 (Now I-8) in 1960, looking east

Wigwags – Part 4

When you did deep enough and look hard enough, you’ll find there is far more history left in Southern California than you might think. I have found this to be true when it comes to finding wigwags in the region. This one, in Hawthorne, CA, is along a former Pacific Electric Railway line that headed to Manhattan Beach. Located at Eucalyptus Ave just north of El Segundo Blvd, it still presses on as a lasting tribute to the old railway, now a part of the Union Pacific Railroad.

General view along Eucalyptus Ave showing the crossing.
Closeup of the wigwag.

New Ridge Route Video, sort of

After finally resolving some software issues, I have finally been able to start editing and posting videos again. My most recent one was taken in November 2015 along the Ridge Route from near Liebre Summit. It shows some of the issues the road is facing presently regarding erosion and a lack of maintenance.

Image of the Week – 2/9/2017

Walker Pass with an ACSC sign and 178 shield.

Ridge Route Online Petition

Tumble Inn arch on the Ridge Route
Tumble Inn arch on the Ridge Route

Hello all,

The Ridge Route in Southern California needs your help. The Ridge Route Preservation Organization has put together an online petition to help get the roadway back open and in working order. It has not been fully open to traffic since 2005 and is in need of your support. Please sign this petition to get the legislators and the Angeles National Forest to fix what they did wrong. More details are on the site for the petition.

Thank you for your time and efforts!

https://www.change.org/p/help-save-the-old-ridge-route-road?recruiter=558871232