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Picture Gallery of Southern Pacific Railroad
Trains on the Sunset Route
from Los Angeles to Yuma

Southern Pacific freight train under signal bridge on the Sunset Route between Los Angeles and Yuma

The Southern Pacific built east from Los Angeles in 1875 and went over Beaumont Hill, a gap between the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto mountains east of Colton. The tracks rise from 950 feet at the east end of Colton to 2,600 feet at Beaumont, then drops to 650 feet at Garnet. The maximum grade on the west side of the pass is 1.9 percent and is 2.0 percent on the east side. The railroad reached Indio in May 1876 and reached Yuma in September 1877. A unique feature of this line is that it is the only main line in the country to operate at 200 feet below sea level.

Here is an idea of what traffic was like in the 1919. The January 1920 Southern Pacific Bulletin reported that during a one week period in November, the SP ran 42 passenger trains, 68 freight trains, 51 light engines eastbound with 43 passenger trains, 39 freight trains, 102 light engines running westbound over Beaumont Hill. This averaged 49 movements a day.

To handle all this traffic, the SP installed block signals during the 1920s. There were train order stations at Colton, Bryn Mawr, El Casco, Beaumont, Banning, Palm Springs, Garnet, Edom, Indio, Mecca, Niland, Araz, and Yuma. CTC was completed over Beaumont Hill from Colton to Indio in April 1944. In 1948, CTC was installed between end of DT in Alhambra to Colton. The US&S CTC machine had 52 levers controlling 25 switches. During 1955 and 1956, the SP made major improvements to Beaumont Hill. It lengthened and connected 14 sidings into six sidings. More specifically connecting Ordway and El Casco, connecting Hinda, Nicklin, and Beaumont, connecting Owl and Cabazon north siding, connecting Cabazon south siding, Mons and Fingal, and connecting Hugo and Garnet sidings. At the time, the line had eight passenger and better than 20 freight trains a day plus returning helpers. It began installing CTC Indio to Yuma 114 miles in 1955. It added a second track from Indio to Thermal, added a new siding at Ferrum, removed short sidings at Durmid, Pope, and Mundo, then lengthened other sidings to at least 9,000 feet, installed 45 power switches and 232 signals. The work was completed in June 1956. During the sugar beet harvest the SP moved 11,000 cars out of the Imperial Valley. By 1960, CTC was in service on all of the single track sections from Los Angeles to El Paso.

Taylor Yard was constructed in 1925 and could process 1,500 cars a day in the late 1940s. In 1949, the SP decided to replace the rider operated hump at Taylor Yard with retarders. The old hump yard had a capacity of 958 cars, the new hump 1,237 cars. At the time the SP was handling about 600 cars a day to and from local industries. It also interchanged around 500 cars a day with other railroads in Los Angeles.

With the increase in freight traffic on the Sunset Route, the SP decided to lengthen sidings on Beaumont Hill in the 50s. The result was double track from Ordway to Beaumont on the west side of the hill and overlapping sidings on the east side. The double track was lengthened from Ordway down to Loma Linda in 1973 when the new classification yard at West Colton was under construction. With the increase in container traffic, the Union Pacific has continued to add double track to the Sunset Route. The two segments of double track between Beaumont and Cabazon (the western most long siding) had a second track added in 2000. The double track was extended down the hill to Garnet in 2007, reached Indio in 2008 and completed to the west side of the Colorado Bridge in 2009. Another project was building a bridge over the BNSF mainline at Colton. The bridge over the BNSF was completed in August 2013.

All pictures in this series are on disks 53, 54, and 55. You can purchase a disk and printout any of the pictures for your own use to dress up your train room or add color to a house that just cries out for more train pictures.

Taylor Yard
City of Industry
El Monte
Whittier Jct
Bloomington Yard
Colton Tower
Loma Linda
El Casco
West Palm Springs
Salt Creek Trestle