An excerpt of From San Francisco to Yuma City by “G.D.F.”; June 6, 1878, published in the July 1878 issue of the Monthly Journal of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
Here we begin the ascent of the Sierras via the Tehachapi Pass, “over the Loop,” which is acknowledged to be the greatest feat of railroad engineering in the world— where a railroad is made to cross itself, and where, at one point, the passenger can look across the main track three times. Much has been said and written of the “Horse Shoe Curve” on the Pennsylvania Central, but it is mere child’s play as compared with what is before us.
Leaving Caliente, we run for a short distance south, round a ten-degree curve, the road doubling back upon itself; again passing Caliente, we enter a deep cut and begin to climb up the side of cliffs, pass through tunnels No. 1 and 2, curving around high bluffs, the next moment crossing a high embankment or winding around the head of a ravine. The huge “McQueen,” 18×24, is laboring hard to drag our train of four cars up the steady grade of 110 feet to the mile. Following our serpentine course, the mountain gorges become deeper and more abrupt, passing through tunnels Nos. 3, 4, 5 and C, the scene constantly changing, new wonders follow each other in rapid succession, passing around several mountain spurs where the side of the train overhangs the edge of the precipice into which we gaze, hundreds of feet below, where winds, the Tehachapi Creek, appearing like a ribbon of silver through the bottom of the gorge and becomes lost to view; while upon the opposite side a sea of rocky peaks, crags and defiles are seen, dotted over with liveoaks and spruce trees where sufficient soil is left to sustain them. After climbing for seven miles we round a bluff, and by looking down the cañon Caliente can be seen, which, as the bird flies, is only one and a quarter miles distant, and seven hundred and seventy feet below, and far beneath are seen in several places, the cuts and tunnels through which we have passed. Winding, curving and twisting for two miles more, we arrive at Keene. Continuing our ascent we pass through deep cuts and tunnel No. 8, and are fast nearing the “Loop.” Upon emerging from tunnel No. 9, we start to curve around the “Loop:” its length is 3,705 feet—crossing the tunnel at right angles, with a difference between the tracks of seventy-nine feet. Soon after leaving the “Loop” we rattle through tunnels Nos. 10 and 11 and arrive at Gerard. Leaving this station the road curves to the right, then to the left, repeatedly doubling back upon itself, crossing high embankments and trestle bridges, around lofty bluffs, through deep cuts and tunnels Nop. 12, 13, 14, 15, 10 and 17, after which the grade becomes lighter, the mountains gradually recede, and we soon reach Tehachapi Summit, with an elevation of 3,904 feet, and twenty-six miles from Caliente.
Leaving the summit we begin the descent toward the Mojava [sic] Desert. The mountains again gradually approach each other, and we enter a narrow gorge; upon either side is a huge wall several hundred feet high. Passing through this canon, we soon enter the desert, where immense numbers of Yucca Palm trees (a species of cactus) are seen. They are peculiar to this desert, are from twenty to fifty feet in height, many of them attaining a diameter of three feet, and are scaly looking monsters. A run of twenty miles from the summit brings us to Mojava, the terminus of the Second Division of the S.P.R.R. It is a dreary, dismal place, of one hundred inhabitants, with repair shop and round-house. Here are seen large numbers of heavy freight wagons, used for carrying freight from this point to the mines in Inyo County; returning, the wagons are loaded with silver bullion.
Leaving Mojava (pronounced Mo-ha-vey) our route for forty-five miles is through the desolate, barren desert; the only vegetation to be seen is the numerous palms. Arriving at Acton (flag station), we enter the Soledad cañon and begin our ascent of the mountain of the same name. This is a fearful and gloomy defile with perpendicular cliffs towering from 1,000 to 1,500 feet above our heads. After a ride of twenty-seven miles through this cañon and terrible mountain scenery, we arrive at Newhall, situated in a narrow valley surrounded by large hills, where great numbers of cattle and sheep are seen grazing.
Soon after leaving Newhall and directly in front of us, the San Fernando mountain is seen, lifting its summit far in the heavens. We approach the mountain by a heavy grade, passing around high bluffs, through huge cuts, and enter the San Fernando tunnel—6907 feet in length; upon emerging from the other end we plunge down a heavy grade for several miles and enter the San Fernando Valley and reach the station of the same name. This valley is hemmed in on three sides by ranges of lofty mountains; as we glide along it gradually presents an improved appearance; we pass groves of planted trees, and herds of cattle and flocks of sheep are seen; continuing down the valley, highly cultivated farms are left behind, vineyards appear on either hand, they in turn giving way to beautiful groves of orange trees and lovely gardens, surrounding many fine residences, half concealed in the verdure of semi-tropical foliage, and we stop at Los Angelos [sic], 470 miles from San Francisco.
Los Angelos is located eighteen miles from the sea, in one of Nature’s most favored valleys, and boasts of 18,000 inhabitants. The city contains very few fine public buildings or handsome business blocks, but Yankee enterprise will make up the deficiency in the near future. As I have said, it is beautifully situated, and as it quietly nestles amidst the wilderness of glossy, dark green foliage of the orange, lemon, lime, fig, pomegranate, pepper, cypress and liveoak trees, it is certainly a very pleasant and handsome little city. Its suburbs are one continuous garden of verdure, and nearly every habitation is encircled by a beautiful lawn, dotted with many different species of fruit and shade trees, holly bushes and choice plants, while beds of clematis and fragrant jessamine, and circuitous walks bordered with rose bushes covered with countless blossoms are to be seen upon all sides.