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Cajon Pass Group - Cajon Pass History Page
Cajon Pass Group - History of Cajon Pass

A Brief History

The first railroad to operate over Cajon Pass was the California Southern Railroad, completed in 1885 with Santa Fe backing. From 1897 until 1902, the railroad was known as the Santa Fe Pacific. Starting in 1905, trains of the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad (now the Union Pacific) began operating over Santa Fe rails through the Pass via a trackage rights agreement which is still in effect.

The original single-track line was built on a 2.2% grade from San Bernardino to Cajon Station. The final six mile climb to Summit was a 3% grade. When the line was double-tracked before WWI, the new track was built on a 2.2% grade the whole way. This resulted in a track that was two miles longer than the original route. This longer, yet gentler grade was used for eastbound, uphill trains, while downhill trains headed westbound on the original route. It was therefore necessary for trains to run left-handed, opposite of the usual practice.

In 1967 the Southern Pacific Railroad built a new, single-track line from West Colton to Palmdale. This line runs fairly close to the Santa Fe alignment between Devore and Summit.

In an attempt to revive passenger rail service, Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act in 1970. That Act created Amtrak, which on May 1, 1971 began a nation-wide passenger rail system, including routes through Cajon Pass.

In 1996, Union Pacific merged with Southern Pacific, and the Palmdale Cutoff was now part of the UP and AT&SF trackage agreement.

In 1997, Burlington Northern and AT&SF merged into the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The railroad has over 33,000 route miles covering 28 states and two Canadian provinces. The UP has over 38,000 route miles covering 23 states.

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