Category Archives: Railroads

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.

Blue Cut Fire Damage – Highways

On September 6, 2016, I finally got a chance to survey the damage to the roadways in Cajon Pass that were involved in the Blue Cut Fire. Portions of the area are still closed, specifically the area north of Cajon Junction, so I was unable to access the Alray UP or the abandoned expressway sections in that area.

I was, however, able to inspect State 138 east of I-15 and all of old US 66 / 91 / 395 south of Cajon Junction. I chose not to investigate State 138 west of I-15 as there was a lot of heavy construction in progress for a four-lane widening project.

I started my journey by taking the “new” Cajon Blvd alignment that bypasses Devore Junction (I-15 and I-215). Caltrans has recently completed reconstruction of this interchange and as part of that reconstruction, they have partly rebuilt Cajon Blvd through here. While much of it is a new alignment, it does follow the original alignment (pre-1937). As a result, I was able to get some nice photos of part of that alignment.

New section of Cajon Blvd adjacent of I-15, south of Kenwood Road.
New section of Cajon Blvd adjacent of I-15, south of Kenwood Road.
Looking southerly along Cajon Blvd toward I-15.
Looking southerly along Cajon Blvd toward I-15.
Pre-1937 alignment of US 66 / 395 running along the base of the cliff.
Pre-1937 alignment of US 66 / 395 running along the base of the cliff.

The burn area itself became very apparent after Kenwood Road. The fire in this area burned as far as Keenbrook, damaging many structures in that area. A few things didn’t get burned though. One, a lone sign that says “EAT” along with its accompanying structure, remained intact. At Blue Cut, the source of the fire, I was rather amazed at what didn’t burn. Most of the cottonwood and oak trees survived untouched as well as most of the guardrail in the median of the expressway.

Just north of Kenwood Road looking toward Keenbrook. Burn area is evident near the trees in the distance as well as in the mountains.
Just north of Kenwood Road looking toward Keenbrook. Burn area is evident near the trees in the distance as well as in the mountains.
South end of Blue Cut showing fire damage.
South end of Blue Cut showing fire damage.
Looking westerly at Blue Cut. The fire burned all around here, but left most of the trees intact.
Looking westerly at Blue Cut. The fire burned all around here, but left most of the trees intact.
At Blue Cut, looking easterly. Despite the name of the fire, it didn't do that much damage here.
At Blue Cut, looking easterly. Despite the name of the fire, it didn’t do that much damage here.

North of Blue Cut, the burn area stops mostly at the old highway, but not east of it. The wooden railing is still intact at Debris Cone Creek. Some structures were damaged near Cajon Junction, such as the Chevron gas station and the McDonalds restaurant.

Looking northerly from the Cleghorn Creek Bridge toward Cleghorn Road. Utility crews are visible in the distance.
Looking northerly from the Debris Cone Creek Bridge toward Cleghorn Road. Utility crews are visible in the distance.
1939 bridge over Debris Cone Creek. Concrete K-rail was added later to protect the wooden railing.
1939 bridge over Debris Cone Creek. Concrete K-rail was added later to protect the wooden railing.
Side view of the 1939 Debris Cone Creek Bridge with its 1952 counterpart. The cross beams in the railing were removed at some point in the past few years.
Side view of the 1939 Debris Cone Creek Bridge with its 1952 counterpart. The cross beams in the railing were removed at some point in the past few years. The fire burnt up to the edge of the 1952 span.
Old railing just south of Cajon Junction, just missed by the fire.
Old railing just south of Cajon Junction, just missed by the fire.

After Cajon Junction, I followed State 138 east toward Summit. The burn area covered the entire highway from Cajon Junction to Summit Valley Road. This section is scheduled to be realigned in the near future as well.

Hwy 138 and the Cajon Amphitheater from Summit.
Hwy 138 and the Cajon Amphitheater from Summit.

Overall, most of the old highways through the Cajon Pass remained intact. Some guardrail was damaged but most was only lightly burned. How this area will react during the next few major rain storms does remain to be seen. Hopefully, mudslides and debris flows don’t become the order of the day.

Wigwags – Part 3

Wigwags, or properly Magnetic Flagman, are a rare sight in Southern California. Recently, I found two more located in Gardena, CA along a former Pacific Electric freight spur. Today, the Union Pacific Railroad operates this stretch to service a lumber yard
at Western Ave. Both of these wigwags are just southeast of the intersection of Western Ave and 166th St.

On Denker Ave south of 166th St.
On Denker Ave south of 166th St.
Wigwag on Hobart Blvd south of 166th St.
Wigwag on Hobart Blvd south of 166th St.

See Also:

Blue Cut Fire Update

While some evacuations are being lifted, others continue. The continuing evacuations are in the northwestern end of the fire, surrounding Wrightwood, Lytle Creek, and parts of Phelan.

Interstate 15 is OPEN in both directions. State 138 is still closed through the area in addition to most local roadways. The BNSF Railway is open and UP traffic is detouring onto the BNSF trackage around the damaged bridges.

Follow these links for detailed information about the fire and what areas are affected:

Inciweb Incident Page

GeoMAC – Detailed fire perimeter map

San Bernardino County Road Closures

Blue Cut Fire Map – Updated

New Fire Perimeter map available through InciWeb as of 8/17/2016 at 10:30 pm

I-15 will open to Northbound traffic soon as well – Per Caltrans District 8.

All Railroad traffic is still shut down through the pass. I haven’t heard of what BNSF trackage has been damaged but the Union Pacific line has been damaged at Alray. There is no ETA thus far for reopening. This also delays and/or cancels some Amtrak service as well, such as the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Sand Fire Information

As the Sand Fire has grown quite substantially in the past few days, it has become more difficult to track where it is going. I’ve found a couple of good links for up-to-date information on this fire. Map below courtesy of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Original railroad bed near Del Mar, CA

The railroad line that runs from San Diego to Los Angeles has seen many changes since it was originally constructed the early 1880’s. One of those changes was at the Los Penasquitos Marsh, otherwise known as Soledad Marsh. Originally, the railroad went around the marsh, passing along the hills to the north instead of going directly through as it does today. This realignment took place in the mid 1930’s. The portion of the alignment crossing the marsh is still used as a utility right-of-way. The majority of the line outside the marsh has long since been redeveloped into housing.

Other than the short section of original right-of-way remaining, the only other trace of the route is through property lines. This lasting section of right-of-way represents one of the last section of intact original grade within the City of San Diego.

Slightly rehabilitated section of the roadbed.
Slightly rehabilitated section of the roadbed.

Remnants of the railroad include a short section of cut, some grading, and a culvert. These remnants are mostly in the area along Caminito Mar Villa, a private roadway. Use caution if you choose to explore this area.

Roadbed of the California Southern Railroad, bypassed in the 1930's.
Roadbed of the California Southern Railroad, bypassed in the 1930’s.
Original railroad culvert used by the current roadway.
Original railroad culvert used by the current roadway.

Victoria Bridge in Riverside, CA

Built in 1928, the Victoria Bridge crosses the Tequesquite Arroyo in style. This bridge was built to carry streetcars on Victoria Avenue across the arroyo as well as auto and horse carriage traffic. It is a rare example in Southern California of an arch bridge of this magnitude crossing a generally dry location. The deck and railing were restored in the early 2000’s to their original 1920’s appearance.

Victoria Avenue in the Riverside area itself is a rather beautiful roadway to travel. It was constructed in the early 1900’s as such a roadway and retains most of the original features today, south of this bridge. Quite a few miles of the roadway are comprised of a two-lane divided roadway surrounded by orange groves. These orange groves comprise some of the last remaining groves in Southern California. It is significant as the Riverside area was home to the original orange groves that were planted in the late 1800’s in Southern California.

Side view showing the multiple arch span.
Side view showing the multiple arch span.
Deck view with the restored railing and lighting.
Deck view with the restored railing and lighting.
New dedication plaque.
New dedication plaque.