When the Southwest Pacific Railroad Company came up for sale by the Missouri State Assembly, John C. Fremont, hero of
Western Lore, representing a group of investors acquired the company. This adventure would cap Fremont’s career that included pathfinder,
mapmaker, politician, and soldier.
Interestingly, a few months into the year of 1866, the U.S. Congress
passed a national railroad bill that had in it authorization of the Atlantic
and Pacific Railroad (A&P) which assigned to Fremont and his associates a right-of-way
from Springfield, Missouri to the Pacific Coast.
The assigned right-of-way would
generally follow the 1852 route surveyed by Lt. Amiel Whipple from Arkansas to California. A survey that crossed Indian Territory through
New Mexico and what later became Arizona. The Colorado River
would be bridged at its narrowest point near The Needles.
The bill also authorized
government bonds to help cover the cost of construction and to encourage the settlement
of long barren Indian infested stretches.
A year later, even with benefits bestowed by the government, Fremont was unable to
meet interest on the bonds and was forced to find a receiver for both
By 1880, through stock manipulations and mergers, the Atlantic& Pacific
Railroad reemerged as a subsidiary of the Atchison
Topeka and Santa
Fe. -- a company that boasted sound financial backing.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, the insightful and often ruthless Collis
P. Huntington conducted the affairs of a few wealthy and powerful men referred
to as the Big Four -- Huntington, Stanford, Crocker and Hopkins. These four gentlemen dominated railroading in California during the 1870s. In that regard, Huntington claimed boastfully that he had not
yet met a politician he couldn’t bribe.
The approaching Atlantic and Pacific
line posed a major problem. The
population of California
wasn’t large enough to support a third transcontinental railroad. Huntington,
a man who enjoyed a good fight, decided to extend the Southern Pacific Railroad
from Mojave Station across the Mojave Desert to confront the A&P before it
reached the Colorado River. His action supported a policy of the Big Four
to thwart any other railroad attempting to enter California
The Southern Pacific (SP), secretly owned by the Big Four, had completed
construction of a road down California’s
Central Valley and across the Tehachapi Mountains to the town of Mojave. From the Mojave Station, service extended south
through Cajon Pass
to Los Angles and to San Diego.
The idea of building a 242 mile railroad through barren waterless
desert presented a frightening prospect to
those who invest to make money. Only
those men who laid and secured the rails could see the possibility of gold locked
in the unmapped mountain ranges that seemed to string endlessly on both sided
of line. Ranges that prospector’s pick
and shovel had not yet touched.
By fall of 1882, seventy miles of track from the Mojave Station had
been laid to Waterman Camp. Another 131
miles of track reached Amboy Station five months later. From Amboy watering stations spaced 10 to 15
miles apart were named alphabetically: Bristol, Cadiz, Danby, Edison,
Fenner, Goffs, Homer, Ibex and Java.
Huntington won the race to the Colorado River arriving
well ahead of the A&P still 40 miles to the east and faced with bridging
the unpredictable Colorado River with its
seasonal ups and downs.
With the Southern Pacific Railroad in its path, Atlantic & Pacific management
faced two possibilities: continue to build a parallel line across the Mojave and
on to San Francisco
or workout an agreement for joint use of
the completed SP system.
Huntington initially rejected joint use. But, when A&P surveyors began setting
surveyor’s stakes west of the river he realized that the competition would make
his Mojave line worthless.
Negotiations took time as they always do with such matters. The agreement that was hammered out
stipulated that the A&P would purchase the SP railroad division from The
Needles to Mojave for $30,000 a mile (242 miles) and rent use of SP’ trackage
from Mojave to Oakland and San Francisco.
Through the 1890s, prospectors arrived at A&P watering stations. Water was made available for a small fee by
the company. A few popular stations attracted
settlers who served the surroundings and typically included a hotel, café, and
Waterman Station became Barstow
– a major rail center for the west end of the line. It included repair yards
and a Harvey House that provided accommodations for travelers.
Daggett –became the shipping point for mines in the Calico Hills, and
the point from where mountain ranges to the south could be prospected.
Newberry Springs – provided water for all of the stations at the west
end of the line. Tanker cars attached to
scheduled trains did the transporting.
Lavic – a service center for railroad employees provided barracks and
kitchen facilities. Wagon roads extended
from here north and south to small mines and prospects.
Ludlow -- transfer junction for the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad that
served the borax mines in Death Valley [see my
Race For The Gold 3/1/13]. Also terminal for the Ludlow
& Southern Railroad that provided service to the Rochester and the
Bagdad Chase silver mine located to the south.
Bagdad Station – became a popular passenger stopover and a supply point for
prospectors. In the 1920s and 30s it
served travelers arriving by automobile on the Old Trails Highway.
Amboy Station – served distant mines in the Dale Mining District by
wagon road. Accommodations took form here
in the 30s to serve highway travelers on Highway 66.
Essex – a center of commercial activity for mines in the Providence Mountains
to the north and mines in the Old
to the south.
Goffs – transfer junction for the Nevada Southern Railroad servicing Barnwell
and Vanderbilt mines. This line
connected with another short-line to Searchlight, Nevada.
The name Atlantic & Pacific Railroad was removed from company signs
and letterhead in 1902
. In 1911, the company became a full blown division
of the Atchison
Topeka & Santa Fe.
During the 1880s, thanks to competition between the two railroads, thousands
of visitors and investors rushed to Los
Angeles to enjoy the warm climate and buy land. In the ten year period between 1880 and 1890,
the population of Los Angeles
increased by 360 percent.
By now, Huntington
had outlived his partners and most of his enemies. He controlled a vast fortune including oil,
shipping and timber. He continued to
make big deals and increase his wealth until his death in 1900.
With a few exceptions, the rails are located where they were in the
1890s. Unfortunately, the depots and stations are gone. Frequent watering places were no longer needed
by modern locomotives.