Construction of Southern Pacific’s
 Colton-Palmdale Cutoff

1966-1967

The line in use at Sullivan’s Curve. Santa Fe’s Super C is overtaking helpers on an SP freight as both head toward the summit of Cajon Pass. Super C is eastbound by timetable direction, while the SP freight is westbound (heading toward San Francisco).

In 1966 and 1967, Southern Pacific provided a rare spectacle for me – construction of a brand-new main line.

In 1876, the railroad completed its San Joaquin Line from Central California over the Tehachapi Mountains to Los Angeles, then it proceeded to build the Sunset Route east toward El Paso and New Orleans. However, by the middle of the Twentieth Century, the Los Angeles area had become a bottleneck for traffic to the southeast, so SP planned a bypass. Read more

Trackside People

Can I Have Your Hat?
Conductor David Howell collects the tickets of a family riding the Fort Collins Municipal Railway on August 21st, 2016. One of the youngest guests seems to take an interest in his hat during the process!

At its very core, railroading is and always has been about connecting people. Whether it’s the conveyance of travelers from point A to point B or commercial goods from seller to buyer, serving people is the common link in all of railroading. It’s easy to spend time trackside and witness the locomotives, rolling stock, tracks, signals, buildings, etc., but  when distilled down to its very essence, railroading is a very human subject to photograph.

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Editor’s Notebook

South portal of the Paw Paw Tunnel on December 27th, 2016. The walk through the tunnel on the old towpath is a little over one-half mile. A flashlight is required.
Across the Potomac river from Paw Paw, West Virginia, a landmark canal tunnel stands which is also associated with the early years of railroading. The largest structure on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the 3,118 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel was built at the height of the race between the C&O canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to reach the Ohio River. Construction of the tunnel began in 1836, but labor disputes, unexpected construction difficulties and lack of funds delayed completion until 1848. The C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad were both born on July 4th, 1828. In Georgetown (Washington, DC) the C&O Canal held an elaborate ceremony with President John Quincy Adams in attendance. In Baltimore the groundbreaking for the B&O railroad was more modest. Charles Carroll, the last remaining signer of the Declaration of Independence dug the first shovel-full of dirt to begin the construction of the railway. As the two companies made their way westward disputes over property were inevitable. At Point of Rocks, Maryland, competing claims to the narrow right of way resulted in a four year delay in construction until the courts ruled in the canal's favor. In the end, of course, the railroad won out. The Baltimore and Ohio reached Cumberland, Maryland in 1842, eight years ahead of the canal. After a disastrous flood in 1889 bankrupted the C&O, the canal came under the control of the Consolidation Coal Company, which was principally owned by the B&O. The canal closed in 1924.
The Center for Railroad Photography & Art recently published The Railroad and the Art of Place, by David Kahler, who is a contributor to The Trackside Photographer. It is an evocative look at how railroads shape the visual and cultural landscape. We will have an in-depth article about the book in March. In the meantime you may learn more and order here. 

The New River Gorge

Part One

Far below the Hawk’s Nest overlook, a stack train moves east through the New River Gorge.

In 1872 Collis P. Huntington took an overnight float trip down the New River from Hinton to Hawk’s Nest to see where his railroad was going. By 1873 the line was finished. By 1874 the first branch line (Laurel Creek, Quinnemont) was open as was the first mine (Laurel Creek, Joseph Beury).  Cutting ever deeper through the mountains, the New River exposed four coal seams world famous for high quality, high BTU coal.
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