SP Soledad Canyon Line

The Soledad Canyon line is the original Southern Pacific main line into Los Angeles, completed on September 5, 1876 when Charles Crocker, President of SP, hammered home the golden spike in a ceremony at Lang in the southern entrance to Soledad Canyon. This is the “B Line” of the SP (the overland is the “A” line and the coast line is the “E” line) and all milepost records for this line carry the prefix “B”.  This was not only the first SP route into Los Angeles, but the first main line to enter the city. The SP has continually operated the line for freight service, SP passenger service ended in 1971 when the San Joaquin Daylight was discontinued upon the formation of Amtrak.

This route covers the following subdivisions:

Mileposts are from San Francisco. The line north of Burbank Junction is single track with passing sidings, operated by Direct Traffic Control, Automatic Block Signals, maximum speed 50 mph.

From Burbank Junction (MP 471.3, el. 584 ft.), start of the Burbank Block, Victory Place runs alongside the line to the west, with I-5 alongside to the east. San Fernando Road then passes under both freeway and railroad to emerge in the center of Victory Place, whose lanes then merge onto San Fernando Road. The latter follows along the west side of the railroad for many miles of northwestward heading. CP Brighton is immediately southeast of the Buena Vista Street road crossing, after which San Fernando Place runs alongside the tracks to the east. The line and both streets pass over Hollywood Way on separate bridges. There is a grade crossing at Arvilla Street, and another grade crossing at Sunland Boulevard, a detector at MP 469.2, the line passes the north end of the Burbank (Bob Hope) Airport runway and MP 468.0, end of the Burbank Block and start of the San fernando Block and reaches the Sun Valley (MP 467.9).

There is a grade crossing at Penrose Street, I-5 passes overhead on bridges, the line passes over Tuxford Street on a bridge, and there is a grade crossing at Sheldon Street. Just west of Sheldon is a set of spur tracks into the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power generating station. These tracks are usually idle, but are important for occasional movements of large and/or heavy generating equipment. The line crosses Tujunga Wash on a through girder bridge. Branford Street and Osborne Street have grade crossings, and the Pierce Street road crossing adjacent to Whiteman Airpark, and the line crosses Van Nuys Boulevard at grade. There is a detector at MP 464.8. The line then crosses Paxton Street at grade, runs beneath the Route 118 bridges, crosses over Pacoima Creek on another through girder bridge, and crosses Wolfskill Street, San Fernando, at grade. There is a 3,070 ft. siding at Pacoima (MP 463.4), and grade crossings at Brand Boulevard, Maclay Avenue and Hubbard Avenue (the latter back in Los Angeles) before the remnants of the old SP San Fernando passenger station platform near MP 461.8, el. 1,070 ft.; this is also the location of the long-abandoned interchange with the Pacific Electric San Fernando line (which survived as an isolated branch until the 1960s, using unique motive power including GE 44-ton and Whitcomb 6-axle units.) 

There is a pedestrian crossing at Astoria Street and road crossings at Polk Street, Bledsoe Street and Roxford Street, a 6,050 ft. siding at Sylmar (MP 459.2), where the San Fernando Block ends and the Sylmar Block begins there are detectors on both tracks at MP 458.1, I-5 and connectors to I-210 pass overhead as does Balboa Boulevard. To the south of the tracks are large Los Angeles Department of Water and Power electric switching yards and water treatment plants.  Northeast of the tracks the Los Angeles Aqueduct is visible on the mountainside. The line passes under I-5 again, with the main freeway lanes now on the west and the northbound truck lanes on the east.

There are more signals and a short spur at the old SP station point of “Tunnel”, just south of the Sierra Highway bridge, there is a bridge over a creek, the line curves north northeast under the Route 14 junction with I-5 and enters the south portal of 6,976 ft. tunnel 25, maximum speed 30 mph at MP 456.5. The original tunnel here was considered by Chief Engineer William Hood to be the most difficult section of railroad he built (including even the Sierra Nevada crossing) because of the soft rock and water contained in the sandstone formations. The tunnels on this line (Nos. 18, 19, and 25) carry the old SP B Line numbers, starting with Tunnel 1 near Caliente on the Tehachapi grade. The “missing” numbers are tunnels that were by-passed or “daylighted” in subsequent improvement projects.

The line emerges from the tunnel at MP 455.0 in a wooded valley in Newhall, with no road nearby, maximum speed 40 mph. There is a detector at MP 453.1 and signals at Newhall (MP 453.0). A couple of easy curves later, Pine Street is alongside to the east, there is a private grade crossing for Calex Engineering Company and a short side track on the east side of the line. The Saugus station, a classic CS-22 two story depot painted in Colonial Yellow and Depot Brown, is at the 5,040 ft. Saugus siding (MP 450.6), at the end of which (MP 450.4), the Sylmar Block ends and the Saugus Block begins.  The line crosses San Fernando Road, after which Railroad Street is alongside the line to the west, and Market Street at grade. There is a pedestrian crossing at 11th Street, where Railroad Street merges into San Fernando Road which then follows the west side of the track.. There is a bridge over Newhall Creek, a grade crossing at 13th Street and a bridge over Placerita Creek.

The maximum speed fals to 25 mph, Valley Canyon Road passes over both San Fernando Road and rail line on a bridge, the lines turns almost due north and there is a grade crossing at Oak Ridge drive. The railroad line makes a sweeping turn from north to southeast at the intersection of Bouquet Canyon Road (as San Fernando Road has become) and Soledad Canyon Road on the south side of the Santa Clara River across from Saugus. The Santa Paula line (from Montalvo on the Coast Line) once joined from the west at this location. There are a lumberyard and a chemical plant.

The line now runs up the hillside on the south side of Soledad Canyon Road. The original (1876) SP line here was along the shore of the Santa Clara River, it was abandoned in the 1890s in favor of the present location, above danger from flooding. This pattern of relocation is repeated throughout the route to Vincent, with the rail line being periodically relocated to reduce exposure to flooding and/or to increase track speed and reduce curvature. The original alignment closely followed the river, crossing it 17 times. By the time the SP repaired flood damage from the March, 1938, storms, the alignment had been refined to the point that there was (and is) only one bridge across the river (near Tunnel 19). It is a challenging section of railroad to maintain because there are practically no flood control measures in this watershed. 

Up against the hillside adjacent to the Saugus Raceway (now a swap meet site, once an auto race track), the line curves around to come directly alongside the south side of Soledad Canyon Road as both head directly east. There are grade crossings at Golden Oak Road, Ruether Avenue, and Rainbow Glen Road, after which both line and road turn southeast to follow the course of the river. The road then turns east and crosses the river while the line stays on the south side. Whites Canyon Road crosses the river and then the railroad line on a steeply graded bridge. There is a Weyerhaeuser warehouse with a spur to the south side of the track.

Sierra Highway crosses overhead on a bridge. Canyon Park Boulevard crosses at grade at the same place as Honby, MP 446.9, el. 1,284 ft.), and passes under Route 14. The line turns northeast and then roughly east again, up on the hillside on the south side of the river valley, passes signals at Humphreys (MP 443.1) and crosses over Lost Canyon Road, Sand Canyon Road, and Oak Springs Canyon Road on bridges. There is a detector at MP 440.9. Lang siding extends 4990 feet, beginning at MP 439.2, where the Saugus Block ends and the Lang Block begins.  Lang (MP 438.8, el. 1,683 ft.), is the site of the 1876 golden spike ceremony, with a state historical marker placed in 1957 commemorating the event. The line crosses Lang Station Road, which today leads to a Gillibrand Industries facility on the south side of the track.

Beyond the rock facility, the line crosses over a culvert on a bridge, as it follows the south side of the Santa Clara River. The canyon geographically east (railroad west) of Lang is quite narrow, and twists and turns along the course of the river. Almost a mile to the railroad west (geographic east)  of the end of Lang siding, the line crosses the river on a girder bridge and immediately enters 328 ft. Tunnel 19 (MP 437.3). Half a mile further on, the line passes through 266 ft. Tunnel 18 (MP 436.8). Along this entire stretch, Soledad Canyon Road is on the north side of the track, on the north side of the canyon. Between the tunnels the river is flanked by a concrete levee. At Agua Dulce Canyon Road, Soledad Canyon Road turns south momentarily and crosses over the tracks on a concrete arch bridge, after which the track is on the north side of the canyon and the road on the south, with many trees on what little valley floor exists between them. There are signals not far to the north of the road bridge. At various locations in the canyon bridge abutments and remnants of the earlier track alignments are visible from the trains. For the next six miles the railroad follows the twists and turns of the canyon.

Near milepost 434.6, the subgrade of the old Russ siding (el. 2,016 ft.) is visible to the south of the tracks; Further east (railroad west), the Shimbala game preserve is visible south of the river.  This is a “retirement home” for movie animals; it is not unusual to see lions, tigers, or elephants from the train. There is a detector at MP 431.7. Soledad Canyon Road again crosses the canyon and crosses over the track on a bridge and comes alongside the line, but further up the hillside. The Lang Block ends and the Ravenna Block begins at MP 429.8, start of the 6,090 ft. Ravenna (MP 429.0, el. 2,458 ft.) siding, which includes Bootlegger Canyon Road grade crossing. North of the siding, the maximum speed rises to 30 mph.

Crown Valley Road splits off from Soledad Canyon Road and runs nearer to the track, remaining on the north side. There is a grade crossing at Thousand Trails Campground, after which the line bridges over Crown Valley Road and runs along its north side. There are intermediate signals along the line, after which Crown Valley Road crosses the line at grade near the community of Acton. This is the site of the old siding of Paris (MP 425.0, el. 2,767 ft.), once known as Berlin (the old SP Right of Way maps show “Berlin” crossed out, probably in one of the World Wars). After a road intersection, Soledad Canyon Road resumes following the north side of the line. There are more intermediate signals and a detector at MP 422.7, Aliso Canyon Road crosses at grade from the south, and there are yet more intermediate signals.

A stretch of Double Track, DTC, with spring switches at each end, begins at Vincent (MP 420.5), the summit (3,222 feet) of this route. During steam operations the SP maintained a wye track and train order office here, the wye crossed the old highway about ¼ mile east of the present station. This is also the place where the line leaves the Santa Clara River Valley and enters the Mojave Desert, dropping steeply (2.4%) downgrade towards Palmdale, albeit still heading geographically east. The line passes under the Angeles Forest Highway bridge, and a little further east makes a sweeping curve to the north and passes under the Pearblossom Highway bridge. As the line straightens out to the north, it crosses over an inverted siphon for the California Aqueduct and comes parallel to Sierra Highway. A little further north, the line crosses the road at grade, and they run alongside one another in the reverse order.

Barrel Springs Road crosses the line on the west side of Sierra Highway; there are more intermediate signals. This is the San Andreas Fault Zone; the topography along the tracks is eroded and plain, however the road cuts for the Antelope Valley Freeway just up the hill expose radical folding of strata deflected by the fault. This is also the site of old Harold siding (MP 416.3, el. 2,824 ft), and Lake Una, filling a local depression caused by the fault, where the maximum speed rises to 50 mph. Entering Palmdale, Avenue S crosses the line at grade. At Palmdale Junction (MP 414.4, el. 2,657 ft.), the Colton-Palmdale Cutoff line comes across Sierra Highway on a bridge and the Saugus Line trails into its west side.