Tag Archives: atchison topeka and santa fe railroad

Trains—A short history of the Colton Crossing

Halls of History

If you look back at the rich people in history, they pretty much were land barons, newspaper publishers, or railroad tycoons. In some cases, they were all three because many state and federal governments gave free land to people who were willing to build railroads on that land. The only people who could afford to build a railroad were newspaper publishers, so they became land barons and railroad tycoons.

Many of the railroad tycoons, like Leland Stanford (Stanford University) and Cornelius Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt University), are considered now to have been robber barons, a derogatory metaphor of social criticism originally applied to certain late 19th-century American businessmen who used unscrupulous methods to get rich. The robber baron list is long and includes many names familiar to us today from many industries, such as Andrew Carnegie of Carnegie Library fame, Marshall Field of Marshall Field’s, J.P. Morgan of J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil, Charles M. Schwab of Bethlehem Steel.

In San Diego history we have our own personality who made the robber baron list:
John D. Spreckels, making his claim via the water transport, sugar, and railroad businesses. He built the San Diego & Arizona Railway (SD&A) from San Diego to Yuma. It was during my early research into the SD&A for a railroad book that I’m writing that I discovered the Colton Crossing.Union Pacific on the flyover at Colton (CA) Crossing

The SD&A’s construction costs were said to be underwritten by Spreckels but in actuality were underwritten by the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). After the transcontinental railroad was completed with the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory UT in 1869 by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, focus shifted to a southern transcontinental route, either from Los Angeles or San Diego to points east. SP was first to market and pretty much dominated Southern California railroad interests until 1883 when the Colton Crossing was built.

Colton Crossing is a railway crossing in Colton CA and the site of one of the most intense frog wars in railroad construction history. A frog is where two railroad lines cross each other, and a frog war often occurred when those two railroad lines belonged to different railroads. In the case of Colton Crossing, the two lines belonged to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF), trying to gain a foothold in Southern California, and the California Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of the SP.

California Southern’s construction crew was ready to install the frog tracks when an SP locomotive arrived pulling a single freight car, and stopped. The SP engineer drove the train back and forth slowly at the crossing point in order to prevent the California Southern crew from installing the crossing. SP had hired Virgil Earp to guard its tracks in Colton, and he rode in the cab of the SP locomotive.

Colton Crossing mapThe citizens of Colton supported SP, but SP had bypassed nearby San Bernardino, leaving its residents upset. Railroads at that time could make or break a community. San Bernardino hoped that the California Southern line would put their city back on the map.

Ultimately, California Southern obtained a court order on August 11, 1883, in its favor but it still took California Governor Robert Waterman’s involvement in ordering the county sheriff to enforce the court order.

On the morning of September 13, events reached a head in a confrontation known as the “Battle of the Crossing.” Citizens from Colton and San Bernardino gathered on either side of the tracks with the SP locomotive between them. Men on both sides carried picks and shovels, as well as revolvers and shotguns. Virgil Earp stood in the gangway between cab and tender facing the San Bernardino citizens, revolver in hand. It was believed that the freight car, a gondola, held SP men with rifles and other weapons, crouching below the walls of the car so as not to be seen.

The Colton Crossing in today’s world is very busy with trains from Union Pacific (east-west), BNSF (north-south), Amtrak (Southwest Chief on BNSF tracks and Sunset Limited on UP tracks), and Metrolink (BNSF tracks). In the 2000’s, Colton Crossing got so busy that Union Pacific decided to build a flyover, a bridge over BNSF’s tracks, to alleviate delays for both railroad.

Colton Crossing and the West Colton railroad yard, within a mile of each other, are great places to watch railroad action, and that’s what I did on February 5. Here are some videos of the action I saw just in the three hours I was hanging out.

BNSF southbound on the lower tracks
There are two “helper” engines on the rear,
one of which is a Norfolk Southern engine.

Union Pacific westbound on the upper flyover tracks

Metrolink southbound on the lower tracks

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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How come trains get to do 90 mph?

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fifty years ago I wanted to be a history teacher. Then I found out how much teachers got paid in Texas. So much for that want. I still love history, though, and when I find history that has been saved, even if it means re-purposing, I get excited.

Recently I found a book titled “The Railroad Stations of San Diego County” by James N. Price. So I used it to go exploring.

I found the historic Encinitas CA depot built by AT&SF in 1887. The book has two pictures of it, one from 1910 and one from 1988, so you get to see three pictures of this beautiful structure that has been saved for others to enjoy.

1910 photo
Credited in the book to the San Diego Historical Society, Ticor Collection)1910 picture of the Encinitas railroad depot built by AT&SF in 1887

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ca. 1988 photo
No photo credit so photo probably is that of the author, James N. Price.
Ca. 1988 picture of the Encinitas railroad depot built by AT&SF in 1887

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

January 2017 photo by Russel RayJanuary 2017 picture of the Encinitas railroad depot built by AT&SF in 1887

This depot served rail passengers into the 1950s, closing completely in January 1969. Plans were proposed in 1971 to move it to the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Instead, it was bought by an entrepreneur in 1972 and moved to Leucadia (annexed by Encinitas several years ago) where it was turned into a crafts/hobby center called, appropriately, The Station.

It sits at the corner of Atheena Street and North Coast Highway 101 where it currently is the extremely popular restaurant Pannikin Coffee & Tea. And while it no longer sits trackside, it is just across the street from the busy Amtrak tracks so one can watch Amtrak and Coaster trains zoom by at 90 miles per hour.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Union Station in Los Angeles

Leave the parking to them!

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Not that it would ever happen to me, but if you live in San Diego and get bored after a few years, we’re fortunate to have Los Angeles just ninety miles up the road. Put San Diego, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs together — all within 100 miles of each other — and you couldn’t possibly be bored in Southern California!

I didn’t have a great appreciation for Los Angeles until recently, mainly because if I’m driving, I want to be driving! Not stuck on a freeway doing 10 mph, something that’s quite common on freeways like Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101 going through the heart of Los Angeles. Both freeways need a serious case of widening or, as San Antonio did, building an upper deck.

Last month, though, on National Train Day (May 11), I took Amtrak to Los Angeles and then hopped on the Los Angeles Metro subway to go over to Hollywood. Until then I had not realized that Los Angeles, in 1994, had started building a subway system. And it’s a nice one! In some future posts, I’ll show you just how nice. I might go to Los Angeles more often now that I know I can use the Metro to go to 90% of the places in Los Angeles that interest me.

My first stop on National Train Day was, of course, the historic Union Station:

Los Angeles Union Station

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Los Angeles Union Station

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station opened on May 3, 1939, to serve passenger trains from Union Pacific Railroad; Southern Pacific Railroad; and Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad; and commuter trains of the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it currently serves 60,000 passengers a day.

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Along with passenger trains from Amtrak and Metrolink, Union Station has a separate platform for the Los Angeles Metro subway, and another area for buses, taxis, and bicyclists.

A day pass on the Metro is only $5. That allows you to ride Metro trains all day long, get on and off as you like, and really have some fun. I can highly recommend it as a way to get around the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Sightseeing is so much more fun when you don’t have to try to find a parking place!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos