Wigwags in Southern California – Part 1

A Wigwag is an older form of railroad grade crossing protection. It was also known as a Magnetic Flagman. Think of it as a mechanical version of a person waving a railroad lantern to help “protect” a train crossing a roadway. These are now extremely rare to see as they don’t have gates in addition to the flashing lights.

I’ve either found or learned of only a few in Southern California. In the Los Angeles area, there is only one left – on 49th St between Pacific Blvd and Santa Fe Ave in Vernon along the BNSF Railway.

Full assembly with crossbucks on a separate pole.
Full assembly with crossbucks on a separate pole.
Built by the Magnetic Signal Company of Los Angeles, California.
Built by the Magnetic Signal Company of Los Angeles, California.
Control box with milepost information.
Control box with milepost information.

Addtional Wig-Wag Locations:

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New Twitter Account

I have recently created a new Twitter account to help expand the reach of this website. Website updates and other important information such as Caltrans releases will be posted. Come subscribe at @SocalRegionWeb!


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North Burbank UP to close on May 20, 2014

Looking southbound toward the overhead.
Looking southbound toward the overhead.

After serving the traveling public faithfully since 1941, the North Burbank Underpass on San Fernando Blvd in Burbank will close permanently on May 20, 2014. It is one of the more significant structures on old US 99 in the San Fernando Valley. Somewhat ironically, the structure will be replaced with a new interchange at Empire Ave. San Fernando Blvd will be rerouted back to its pre-1941 alignment, this time without a grade crossing. So, get out there and take your pictures while you can. Do the same for any other sections of old highway. You never really know how long they will last.

For more information:

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Streetcar tracks in Bankers Hill

While riding home today from downtown San Diego, I passed some construction on 5th Ave between Olive St and Palm St. It seems that the tracks from the #1 San Diego Electric Railway line are still in place. I had thought most of these tracks were long since torn up. Instead, as seen on Park Blvd, the tracks are merely buried under a few inches of asphalt.

Southbound and one northbound track at Olive St
Southbound and one northbound track at Olive St
Southbound rails in place.
Southbound rails in place.
Side view showing three rails within the trench.
Side view showing three rails within the trench.
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Los Angeles And Salt Lake Railroad – Santa Ana River Bridge

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.

View of the west side of the span.
View of the west side of the span.
Deck view showing the single-track and architectural features
Deck view showing the single-track and architectural features
Santa Ana River above the bridge. This section of the river is open and not channelized.
Santa Ana River above the bridge. This section of the river is open and not channelized.
Detail of the architectural features.
Detail of the architectural features.
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Unusual Street in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills

In the Hollywood Hills off of Coldwater Canyon Road, there is an unusual street. First turning off of Coldwater Canyon as Cherokee Lane in Los Angeles, it looks like a pretty standard road. However, reaching further up, the road passes the Beverly Hills City Limits. Well, only half of it does. So, now the left half is in Los Angeles and the right half is in Beverly Hills. The blocks are also now slightly different, with the LA side in the 9400 block and the Beverly Hills side in the 9300 block.

First sign at the Beverly Hills City Limits. So far, same road name.
First sign at the Beverly Hills City Limits. So far, same road name.

The road follows the city limits until it reaches Bowmont Drive. Bearing to the right at the intersection, things get very unusual. Instead of just different cities, now the same roadway has different names. The left side is now the 9300 block of Cherokee Ln in Los Angeles. The right side is now the 2000 block of Loma Vista Dr in Beverly Hills. This oddity continues until the entire roadway crosses into Beverly Hills a short ways up the canyon. Sometimes cities work together, sometimes they work apart. This is the most unusual mix I’ve ever seen.

Reaching Bowmont, the street changes names.
Reaching Bowmont, the street changes names.
Just in case you missed the city limits, there is another.
Just in case you missed the city limits, there is another.
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Old Wabash Freeway Ramp

In the 1950’s, a section of what is now the 15 in San Diego was built. Known then as the Wabash Freeway, it ran from Harbor Blvd to 40th St in the City Heights area. Today, it is known as the 15 freeway and has been upgraded significantly. Access to the old freeway was a bit different than today. Nile Street in North Park used to have a direct connection with the freeway. Today, Nile Street ends in a park. A section of the old ramp still exists, however, as an access to the park.

Base of the Nile Street Ramp.
Base of the Nile Street Ramp.
1950's railing still intact.
1950’s railing still intact.
Raised median and railing on the Nile Street Ramp.
Raised median and railing on the Nile Street Ramp.
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Brea Canyon – Old Highway 57

Even in heavily built up Orange County, there can still be places where old highways can be seen. One of the best examples is located in Brea Canyon, where the Orange Freeway winds its way through open and undeveloped lands between Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Before the freeway, State 57 followed Brea Canyon Road. This two-lane roadway has changed little through here and has a few interesting features.

Old pipe railing and current 1936 alignment.
Old pipe railing and current 1936 alignment.
Section of original concrete, bypassed in 1936.
Section of original concrete, bypassed in 1936.
Former weigh station platform.
Former weigh station platform.
1936 bridge over Brea Creek.
1936 bridge over Brea Creek.
Detail of the railing from the 1936 bridge.
Detail of the railing from the 1936 bridge.
Old concrete just past the lower 1936 bridge.
Old concrete just past the lower 1936 bridge.
Last section of old concrete just north of State College Blvd.
Last section of old concrete just north of State College Blvd.

Northbound video from Lambert Road to Diamond Bar:

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April 2010 Baja Quake – Part 2

In July 2010, I was able to go to Baja California with a friend. Part of our route traversed Federal Highway 2 (Mexico), which suffered some damage from the April 2010 quake. Hwy 2 had been repaired but the adjacent old alignment had not been. I was rather amazed at the amount of offset from this earthquake. I observed about 2′ of horizontal and about 5′ of vertical offset at the highway crossing.

East of the fault, bridge embankments on the Hwy 2 Mexicali Bypass show signs of settling.
East of the fault, bridge embankments on the Hwy 2 Mexicali Bypass show signs of settling.
Offset right of way fence next to Hwy 2.
Offset right of way fence next to Hwy 2.
Old alignment of Hwy 2, now offset by about 2 feet horizontally and 5 feet vertically.
Old alignment of Hwy 2, now offset by about 2 feet horizontally and 5 feet vertically.
Side view of the old alignment showing the vertical offset.
Side view of the old alignment showing the vertical offset.
Breaks in the soil to the north. Two distinct scarps can be noted here.
Breaks in the soil to the north. Two distinct scarps can be noted here.
At the break, the old alignment now has a steep ramp and crack.
At the break, the old alignment now has a steep ramp and crack.
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Fixing problems in San Diego – And how you can help

In the City of San Diego, there are many roadways with problems. Some are badly cracked, crumbling, filled with potholes, and worse. The City has been working toward repaving a lot of roads over the past couple years, which has helped greatly. However, more is needed. In the case of smaller problems, you can contact the City online and report issues. I’ve done this for many locations and have had good results. The latest was to help correct a striping problem on Park Blvd. Bike lanes were added on Park Blvd between Morley Field Drive and Cypress Ave. To do so, the median of the roadway had to be reduced. This left older, albeit somewhat faded, striping left behind. This striping tended to confuse motorists who would then either drive in the bike lane or really close to it, when they had a lot more lane left. Having had some problems here myself with this issue, I contacted the City and they fixed it. I strongly encourage anyone to make these requests and help make our city a better place to live.

Before the striping was fixed. You can still see the old setup.
Before the striping was fixed. You can still see the old setup.
Southbound from Cypress Ave. Note how the old striping is far to the right from the new stripe.
Southbound from Cypress Ave. Note how the old striping is far to the right from the new stripe.
Northbound toward Cypress Ave. The old striping was painted over in black.
Northbound toward Cypress Ave. The old striping was painted over in black.
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