My first visit to Tehachapi was in
1991, while on a trip to California to visit my
sister. I rode up at night, and found a place
to pull off the road near the loop, and tried
getting some sleep. Only problem was, every
time a freight went by, I just had to wake up :-)
Once the sun decided to join me, I was really glad I
made the trip here, it's an outstanding place to
railfan. It's the west coast's equivalent to
Horseshoe Curve. On my next visit to L.A., I
dragged along the wife, and even she was
The railroad was built over
Tehachapi Pass from Caliente to Mojave in 1876 and
is considered an outstanding engineering feat.
The track climbs 3,600 feet in 50 track miles from
Bakersfield to Tehachapi using "S" curves back and
forth up the Tehachapi Creek watershed. At one
point just above Keene, the engineer, William Hood,
built a large continuous curve which brought the
track back over itself and has become known as the
Tehachapi Loop. This engineering feat has been
named one of the railroad wonders of the world.
In 1955 a monument celebrated its
designation as a California Historical Landmark, and
in 1998 it was honored by the American Society of
Civil Engineers as a National Civil Engineering
The best viewing locations are
along Woodford-Tehachapi Road either southeast from
Keene or northwest of Old Towne Tehachapi.
The Tehachapi Loop is a 0.73-mile (1.17 km)
long 'spiral', or helix, on the Union Pacific Railroad line
through Tehachapi Pass, of the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern
County, south-central California. The line connects
Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley to Mojave in the Mojave
Seeing a daily average of almost 40 trains,
the line is one of the busiest single-track mainlines in the
With its frequent trains and spectacular
scenery, the Loop is one of the prime railfan areas in the
country. In 1998, the Loop was named a National Historic
Civil Engineering Landmark and is now California Historical
One of the engineering feats of
its day, the Loop was built by Southern Pacific
Railroad beginning in 1874, and opened in 1876.
Contributors to the project's construction include
Arthur De Wint Foote and the project's chief
engineer, William Hood.
On the loop, the track passes over
itself, lessening the grade. The loop gains 77
feet (23 m) in elevation as the track climbs at a
steady 2% grade. A train more than 4,000 feet
(1,200 m) long thus passes over itself going around
the loop. At the bottom of the loop, the track
passes through Tunnel 9, the ninth tunnel built as
the railroad works its way from Bakersfield.
The siding on the loop is known
as Walong after Southern Pacific District Roadmaster
W. A. Long.
A large white cross, "The Cross
at the Loop", stands atop the hill in the center of
the loop in memory of two Espee employees killed on
May 12, 1989, in a train derailment in San
The Loop became the property of the Union
Pacific in 1996, when it absorbed the Southern Pacific.
Trains of the BNSF Railway also use the loop under trackage
Union Pacific bars passenger trains from
the line, which prevents Amtrak's San
Joaquin train from serving Los Angeles. This
has been the case since the creation of Amtrak in 1971. An
exception is made for the Coast
Starlight, which uses the line as a detour if its
normal route is closed
above is from Wikipedia.
in Tehachapi, there is a
railroad museum, the
Tehachapi Depot Museum.
Thanks to Denver Todd for his help with my railfan
guides and suggesting welcome changes to help all ya'll.
Aerial shots were taken from
either Google Maps or
www.bing.com/maps as noted, once
in a great while maybe MapQuest. The screen captures are made with Snagit, a
Techsmith product... a great
tool if you have never used it!
PLEASE NOTE: This page is picture intensive
which will take a while to download if you are not on a high speed
From LA, take I-5 north to the
Antelope Valley Freeway (CA 14), exit 162.
Take that north ~ 65 miles thru Palmdale to Mojave and hang a left.
In Mojave, you have a choice of whether you want to
continue on 14, which bears to the right, or go straight on CA 58.
Both will take you to the Barstow-Bakersfield
Highway. Head west to Tehachapi. It will take you a
couple of 2 or 3 hours to get to Tehachapi from LA.
While in Mojave, you may want to check things out, for
there is a small yard and a wye there.
The railroad parallels you on 58 for a good portion of
the run between Mojave and Tehachapi.
From other destinations, please use your GPS. The
Picture by Sean Lamb, from Wikipedia, ~1987.
An eastbound ATSF freight crossing over itself at tunnel #9.
Signals guard the entrance of the tunnel where the two tracks go into one,
but the signal bridge is now gone.
Photo by Dicklyon from Wikipedia ~2001 or so.
Trains will often use mid-train helpers.
The following pictures were found on EBay.
The last three even have signals in them!
The Tehachapi Depot Museum is located at
101 W. Tehachapi Blvd.
The museum is open Thursday through Monday 11:00 a.m. to 4:00
For additional information visit
www.tehachapidepot.com or call 661-823-1100
The Depot Museum houses several large
collections of historic railroad artifacts, including antique
railroad maintenance equipment and tools, dinnerware, signs and
other railroadiana, plus stories and photographs of the men and
women who built the railroad and whose lives were affected by
The museum also has an impressive number of
signals, including B&O CPL and
Pennsy PL dwarves.
And, quite surprisingly, the museum has a creditable number of representative western railroad signal types.
The first set of four pictures are from Richard Gamble, and he recently took these on a visit with his son. They both enjoyed the museum. Many thanks for sending them in!
The other pictures with a green outline are from Google streetview.
The museum is located at 310 S. Green
Street. Admission is free.
Hours are Friday through Sunday, Noon - 4
pm. For more information call (661) 822-3937 or visit
A brochure is available at the Chamber of
The museum houses items of historical
significance from the area.
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an
expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.
This is something I have fun with while trying to help others. My
webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in
one convenient place. There are plenty of other good websites to help
me in this effort, and they are listed in my links section on my indexa
page, or as needed on individual pages. Please do not write to me
about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if
I do not respond to you in the manner you would like. I operate on the
"Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please
acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among
others, the principle exists in almost every religion). If you contact
me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start
with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)
Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides
are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. For those
of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a list of
almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to
help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has
been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this
railfan guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in,
especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.
Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these
locations. I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words",
and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the
railfan over a simple text description of the area. Since the main focus
of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the
signal fan being able to locate them. Since most of us railheads don't have just
trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites
of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other
significant historical or geographical feature. While some may feel they
shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more
interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to
realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a
thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only
get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented. Take
along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still
better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts
out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their
state maps do not have the railroads on them. If you can find em,
I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and
concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where
tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.
Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels
inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have
something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as
being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.