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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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:
GeoMAC – Detailed fire perimeter map
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.
In the Jurupa area of Riverside, there is a really neat old railroad bridge. Built in 1904, it was a part of the former San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad. This bridge is fairly unique in Southern California in that it is a concrete arch design instead of the usual steel truss type. As it is also a single-track bridge, additional traffic may warrant an additional span.