California’s famed Tehachapi “Loop,” where the rails of the Southern Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroads crest Tehachapi Pass between Bakersfield and Mojave, is one of the seven wonders of the railroad world.
The rails over the Tehachapi Range were laid during 1875-76, a time during Southern Pacific’s days of expansion. The celebrated “Loop” made possible th elifting of the grade 2,734 feet from the base of the range to the summit of the pass itself 3,969 feet above sea level. The construction of the line involved miles of track laid through abysmal gorges and along narrow shelves cut int he mountainside and by way of many tunnels, climaxed by the “Loop” where long trains pass over themselves as they circle a cone-shaped hill en route to Tehachapi Summit.
Tehachapi by John R. Signor differs from many histories of the railroad, in that it features two main line railroads operating over a single mountain grade. This volume does not stop at an early date or deal mainly with construction or the locomotives that worked the hill, but is a stirring pageant of freight and passenger trains, about dispatching trains on the hill, the signal systems, the use of helper power, proposed line changes, electrification proposals, the disastrous floods, earthquakes and wrecks, and about the men that run the trains, all wrapped up in a single cover from the first trains to the current date.
Superb photographs are expertly integrated into a sparkling text and is sure to fire the imagination of historian and rail enthusiast alike, those who remember the Southern Pacific’s powerful cab-forward steam locomotives or Santa Fe’s first blue and yellow-painted diesel units as they made their way around the “Loop” with a reefer block of San Joaquin Valley produce.
Here is Tehachapi — a huge, generous slice of it — served up in an easy-to-read style with a matchless picture gallery of big-time mountain railroading.
Images from Tehachapi