California Southern

The importance of our railroad

The Southern Pacific had a monopoly on Southern California’s Transcontinental Railroads. Nothing came in or went out on any other rails than Southern Pacific rails.


However, the Southern Pacific at Needles needed to connect with the bridge at the Colorado River to the Atlantic and Pacific. In order to do this, they worked out an agreement wherein the Atlantic & Pacific could use their rails to ship to and from San Francisco. Southern California still remained in a monopoly.

San Diego wanted a share in the rapid growth of the state. With the high cost of getting there, most tourists simply stopped in Los Angeles.

The California Southern, backed by investors from Boston, built from San Diego to Colton, but the Southern Pacific delayed their progress further north for over a year in what became known as the ‘Frog War.’ ‘Frog’ is the term for a rail crossing rail assembly so that either track can cross the other.

Formidable, but not impossible, building through the Cajon Pass to the Mojave River, through the upper and lower narrows, and then along in the same direction to Waterman, now known as Barstow. San Diego now had the benefit of a link to a transcontinental railroad and Southern California had a competitive transportation network.

W.feller.

Historic Victor Valley Wagon Roads

Primary regional road network — USGS 1901

Not all-inclusive, this 1901 map shows basic transportation routes between the Cajon Summit on the west and east from there through either the San Bernardino Mountains or Lucerne Valley to where the two roads meet in the Big Bear Valley.

This map below was made in 1883 and shows an earlier and geographically expanded version of the routes.

1883 map of route network in the upper Mojave River region (note; no railroad)

The 1883 map is more inclusive and contains a couple of items I want to keep track of. There are differences but the road segments look about the same.

I made a copy of the 1883 roads layer and made it red to stand out better.

There are some nuances between the two maps, and right now the Oro Grande Wash area seems considerably off, fiddling with it some I can get a better fit–but not at these rates. The 1901 would be the more accurate depiction of what went on out there even if it were 35 years or so after the fact.

Williams USGS survey map 1853

Note that in the above map the variations of trails from across the valley leading to the Cajon Summit seem not to have been developed at this time and instead the trail along the Mojave River is shown.

1901 trail routes transposed over modern street map through Hesperia

Cajon Pass Trails — Notes

Originally, possibly a footpath for trade and society. There is no written record of that. After explorers, and then trade caravans wore in mule trails and braided paths as travelers do, to find the path of least resistance. Following the Mojave River, and to get to the hills and valleys of southern California this route was the most direct way, and indeed it was the only way for miles and miles in either direction where wagons could pass through the mountains.

Road over the divide at the summit.

All the frayed trails come together at essentially one point. Within a few yards either way, most all travelers would pass through this trail bottleneck. If there were remnants or traces of old wagon roads where pioneers and freighters passed through and they could still be seen, it would be here where this faint suggestion of an old trail can be observed.

Lowering the grade on the old road
Another cut into the hillside.
Cut in the road to lessen the grade.
Cut in road near the summit
At the southern end of the toll road was Martin’s Ranch. The northern end was just beyond the Cajon Summit.
Footpaths are as wide as a man’s gait. Mule trails are wider with their broad stance and cargo.

I have heard that Captain Jefferson Hunt brought the first wagon through the pass. Since he succeeded at that, Captain Hunt became instrumental in bringing the early pioneer wagon trains across the Mojave Desert.

The bottom of the canyon, about the last half mile, was strewn with boulders and impassible by any wheeled vehicle.

Steep at the top and rocky at the bottom, the solution was to disassemble wagons at the bottom and use mules to pack everything through the rocks on the mule trail, then put it all back together.

This map, dated 1859, shows the beginnings of the Cajon road network.
There were two ways of coming down or going up the stretch of canyon at the summit; either the low spots between the hills or the one of the long ridges, which ever provided a less steep grade to work with.
The best thing about coming up or going down the 2500 ft between the summit and foot of the pass is that it isn’t done all at once. I suppose it is like one would eat an elephant; one bite at a time.

Floods were common and so was the erosion which would cause damage to the already rugged trails. One time this way would be good, the next time another.

An earthquake in 1899 caused serious damage to the roadway. A bypass was graded in order to avoid the narrows entirely.
A generalized map of the upper narrows and toll road through Coyote Canyon in the Cajon Pass.

This road is the great thoroughfare from Los Angeles and San Bernardino to the great gold and silver fields now known to exist and which at present are being worked, east of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Range Mountains. And not only this but over it, all the travel from the north, not passing over the San Fernando Mountain, going southward, must pass. At the head of the cañon is one of the steepest mountains in the State, over which a road passes, and teamsters have always complained of the great difficulties encountered in the ascent. So severely has this been felt, that many of them have offered $5 a load toll to any parties who would cut down the mountain and make a turnpike road of it. As the travel on this road has been greatly increased of late by the trade to the mines, it has become absolutely necessary to take steps to improve the mountain pass road. For this purpose subscription lists have been circulated this week here and in San Bernardino, to raise money to cut down the road across the mountain, and thus facilitate transit to the mines.
– Los Angeles Star – April 6, 1861

Martin’s Ranch — The southern and of the toll road.
Brown significantly improved the old pack trail through the upper narrows.
Upper toll gate

The road which I followed in 1865 crosses from left to right bank of the river a few miles above the Grapevine place said, continues past Cottonwood to Point of Rocks, 22 miles from Grapevine, on a southwest course; at Point of Rocks it turns due south to what was called Lane’s, or the Upper crossing, and there leaves the river entirely to strike straight south by west for Cajon pass in the mountains, reached in 19 miles from Lane’s. This is the way I went, as my itinerary shows: ” Nov. 9. To Martin’s ranch, 29 miles S. from Lane’s crossing; more than half the distance in open country, and then we entered the Cajon pass in the mountains, where there is a tollgate. The pass is a narrow, deep, and tortuous canon, the roughest I have ever traversed on wheels; there was 10 miles of this from the tollgate to Martin’s ranch.” Now Garces has been sent through Cajon pass, with a query, as by Bancroft, Hist. Cala., i, p. 275; but I do not think he went that way. Taking his courses on their face, he continued up the Mojave.

Elliot Coues – On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer
In 1882 John Brown wanted out of the toll road business–the day of the sale the Bear Flat Ranch became Cozy Dell.
Bear Flat Ranch – Cozy Dell – Lower toll gate

Cajon Pass Wagon Road Divide

Road traces just below the Cajon Summit

Just east of the Cajon Summit is where the historic traffic corridor in and out of the Mojave Desert narrows and the various alignments come within hollering distance of each other as they cross over the divide between the high desert and Cajon Canyon.

Traces and fragments of footpaths, trails, wagon roads and early highways can be found next to our modern freeway and here they become interwoven, laced and worn or grown over. None of all of this, by any means, obscures the vision of countless travelers of past ages passing this point.

https://digital-desert.com/cajon-pass/

Macadam

In 1873 Scottish inventor John Loudon McAdam created an inexpensive type of paving that used rocks and gravel, was put down while it was soft and cured as it was driven on.

Stretch of macadam pavement on old road to and from the summit

John Loudon McAdam and Macadam

Merriam-Webster: In 1783, inventor John Loudon McAdam returned to his native Scotland after amassing a fortune in New York City. He became the road trustee for his district and quickly set his inventiveness to remedying the terrible condition of local roads. After numerous experiments, he created a new road surfacing material made of bits of stone that became compressed into a solid mass as traffic passed over them. His invention revolutionized road construction and transportation, and engineers and the public alike honored him by using his name (respelled macadam) as a generic term for the material or pavement made from it. He is further immortalized in the verb macadamize, which names the process of installing macadam on a road.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/macadam