Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum

Aug 30 2013

How the Railroad Came to Tehachapi

The following story was written by Mrs. Mary Kessing of Tehachapi (1920), and shared today by FOTD volunteer, Del Troy.

My husband and I joined the Southern Pacific construction forces at Caliente to keep a boarding house for the men who were on the big work. Mr. Hood was in charge of the work and he was very kind to us, and gave us a big tent to live in until a house could be built. He used to drop in for a visit quite often, and I wonder if he remembers teaching me how to make eggnogs in that old tent?

The work was rather monotonous, nothing but hard work day after day. The laborers were Chinamen who hauled the dirt in little two wheeled carts. We used to have a lot of fun watching them; they gambled most all one night and then didn't want to go to work the next morning, but the camp boss changed their minds by riding his horse through their tents.

While we were camped where the loop is now my daughter Jennie was born. From there we moved on up the canyon to about where tunnel No. 14 is now. There was a big storm the night we moved and our house was blown down, so we had to hunt the shelter of a tent. We had a goat that must have gone under the house to get out of the cold and she was buried under there three days. I guess she lived on the boards for it didn't hurt her any.

From there we went on up to where Tehachapi is now. There were no houses there then, only a stage depot and post office called Greenwich. The valley was range land for the cattle owned by the cattlemen whose ranches were out in the foothills.

We built the first house in Tehachapi, and started a store and restaurant, and later moved the post office up to the store. The old town of Tehachapi was several miles down at the foot of the mountains, and it gradually moved up around where the present town of Tehachapi was started and the stage depot of Greenwich forgotten.

The town has gone through several changes. First, the cattlemen were gradually driven out of the valley by the sheep men; then in their turn, they too, were driven out by the grain men, and now the grain fields are gone and in their place are the apple and pear orchards where the best apples and pears of the state are grown. Now Tehachapi is such a quiet little town with its electric lights and automobiles, so different from the old stage depot and cowboy town of the past.

Feb 22 2013

Truth is Stranger


From Aviationhumor.net.....(Compiled by Nick Smirnoff-FOTD Library)
(This has been floating around the internet lately and is reprinted for your contemplation!)

The US standard railroad gauge is 4 feet 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did they use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So, Who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe and England for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The US standard railroad gauge of 4 feet 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a spec and are told "we have always done it that way," and wonder what horse's ass came up with that, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now, the twist to the story!...

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid booster rockets, SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit "Fatter", but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from their factory to the launch site.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track as you know, is 4feet 8.5 inches OR, about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature on what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horses' ass.

And you thought being a horses' ass wasn't important!

Feb 14 2013

Laying The Last Rail

Submitted by Del Troy

The last rail, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, the connecting link between San Francisco and Los Angeles, was laid Wednesday afternoon, <September 5th, 1876>. Wednesday morning at five o'clock a special train of cars passed Sumner, bearing a party of the citizens of San Francisco who were bound for the front to witness the ceremony. The night previous at eleven o'clock we received a kind invitation from Mr. Charles Crocker, by telegraph to make one of the party, but we were so seriously indisposed that we were compelled to forego the great pleasure and to see the train depart without us. The train arrived at the place of junction near Lang's station about one o'clock where a large crowd had assembled from Los Angeles, and these with the railroad employees present made a crowd of about four thousand people. One thousand and fifty feet of track were to be laid to close the gap, and the work was commenced as soon as the railroad officials and invited guests could take their places, the whole being superintended by Mr. Charles Crocker in person. At a signal given a San Francisco gang took one side and a Los Angeles gang the other side, both anxious to reach the spot where the golden spike was to be driven first. The contest was very lively, but owing to an accident the Los Angeles gang reached the junction only one rail ahead of the San Franciscans. Mr. Crocker then stepped to the front with a silver maul and golden spike, the latter valued at $180, and inscribed on its four sides as follows: "Last spike connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco by rail," and on the head, "September 5th, 1876." Taking the hammer in the right hand and the spike in his left, Mr. Crocker said:

Mr. Crocker's Speech

Gentlemen of Los Angeles and San Francisco: It has been deemed best on this auspicious occasion that the last spike to be driven should be of gold, the most precious of metals, and indicative of the wealth that will flow to the coffers of Los Angeles and San Francisco when this connection is made. It is no mean token of the importance of this grand artery of commerce which we are about to unite with this last spike. This wedding of San Francisco to the city of the Angels is not a wedding consecrated by the bonds of matrimony, but by bonds of steel. The north and the south are to-day by this means united, and I hope to live to see the time when these beautiful valleys through which we have passed will be filled with a happy and prosperous people, enjoying every facility for comfort, happiness and education. Gentlemen, I am no public speaker, but I can drive a spike. (Cheers)

Driving theSpike

Suiting the action to the word, Mr. Crocker put the spike in its place, and with six well-directed blows drove it home amid the shouts of the crowd and the throwing up of hats. Rev. Mr. Platt of San Francisco then offered up a brief and fervent prayer, asking the blessing of the Almighty on the new-born project, and requesting that the managers might be forever directed in the paths of honesty and a desire to serve the people.

General D. D. Colton was then introduced and made an appropriate address, in the course of which he said that the Company confidently expected to see the construction engineers standing on the banks of the Colorado river by the close of the centennial year. Ex-Governor Downey, Mayor Beaudry of Los Angeles and Mayor Bryant of San Francisco, made addresses, and were followed by Governor Stanford who said:

“So much has been said that I cannot see what more I can say, or how I can improve what has been said. One thing, however, I will state. This ceremony of today means not only a connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it means a connection, ultimately, of the great Mississippi valley with the State of California by a Southern route. (Cheers) And not only that, but it means a connection with the city of Mexico, and the bringing to this coast of the rich and valuable trade of that section.”

At the conclusion of Stanford's remarks the guests took the cars and started for Los Angeles, passing through the San Fernando tunnel in twelve minutes and reaching Los Angeles at five in the afternoon. Here they partook of a grand banquet worthy of the occasion. At one o'clock next morning the excursion train started on its return, and passed Sumner, without stopping, the same day about one in the afternoon.

Feb 14 2013

Southern Pacific RR Station at Cameron

By Del Troy

Betty Hiffner Burgeis's father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1930's and the family lived in the railroad station at Cameron which was a pump station. At first it only had one bedroom, no electricity or indoor plumbing. Later, another bedroom and a bathroom were added. The house is all redwood as all railroad buildings were.

Pete Vukich of Tehachapi acquired the building from the Railroad and in the spring of 1957 had the house moved to Old Town Road just off Woodford Tehachapi Road between the Kern County Sheriff's substation and Mourning Cloak Ranch. Pete made some additions to the house and rented it out until he later sold it.

Pete's son, Gerald Vukich was a teenager when the house was moved and remembers that they started at 5:30 in the morning and it took all day to move the house to its present location. A man sat on the roof of the house and with a long pole moved any overhead wires that they encountered on the way.

For many years a circus family owned the house and one would see a huge rocking chair in the front yard. The house is still being lived in today.

Reference: Form 70 Southern Pacific Company List of Officers, Agencies, Stations, Etc. No. 36 July 1, 1909, under San Joaquin Division Betty Burgeis and Gerald Vukich.

Aug 08 2012

History of the Tehachapi Depot

Information from the Website: railpictures.net and the Tehachapi News Article from the Winter Visitors Guide of 2005.

Depot changes hands at last

A typical cargo train runs at approximately 55 miles per hour. The Union Pacific Corporation moves much, much slower.

For the past 32 years, citizens of Tehachapi, California have been concerned with the preservation of the railroad depot building at the corner of Green Street and Tehachapi Boulevard. Finally, on October 24, 2005 Union Pacific gave the keys to the depot to Tehachapi city officials.

Timeline of depot events

1876 - Original depot built; in fact, that was really a telegraph station.

1904 - Depot burns down and the current depot is built in its place. The new depot is a Southern Pacific Model No. 23, even though the depot burned to the ground in 2006, it was rebuilt on its original site.

1973 - The Heritage League is formed for the purpose of acquiring the depot and creating a railroad museum. Efforts to gain control of the depot from the Southern Pacific Railroad Company fail.

1997- Union Pacific Corporation buys out the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.

1997 - David James (City of Tehachapi) receives a grant for $250,000 to restore the depot to its original condition.

1997 - A flurry of activity by then mayor John Rombouts and Tehachapi citizens takes place. Groups write letters and phone the Union Pacific Corporation.

1997 - Union Pacific officials visit Tehachapi and are given a guided tour, but they do not have the authority to make any changes regarding the depot. Frustrated citizens are unable to locate the officials within Union Pacific who have the authority required to turn the depot over to the city of Tehachapi.

1999 - The Tehachapi Depot is officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2004 - City of Tehachapi builds a new depot for use by Union Pacific Railroad, hoping to secure the old depot building. The city spends more than $150,000 on the new building.

2005 - Finally, Union Pacific Corporation agrees to lease the original depot to the City of Tehachapi and moves its own operations to the new depot.

2007 - Cleanup begins, new signage and railroad clock reminiscent of the times installed in front of the depot.

2007 - April/May a new roof is added and painting of the depot has begun.

Restoration and renovation

City Manager Caudle said that, in general, plans for the depot include a railroad museum. The exterior design is done; the landscaping around the building will feature railroad memorabilia from the collection once owned by Tehachapi citizen William Stokoe.

The Tehachapi News article states that the plans include rest rooms, a clock tower, interactive fountain and placement of some of the city's collection of historic train signals.

The City of Tehachapi would like to create a park that people will return to. They want to tie into downtown, something visitors and the community will go to and come back to. The deck will be preserved as a train-watching location, a clock reminiscent of the times and an interactive fountain that dances to music or to a preprogrammed pattern.  Note: Any donations to this loving restoration endeavor will be greatly appreciated by the "Friends of the Tehachapi Depot", a non-profit group that has long been involved in the depot's preservation. 

Work has begun, people are very excited. The estimated completion date will be June 2008.

Sad news -- At 3:08 AM on June 13, 2008, the fire department was called to the scene of the depot fully engulfed in flames. It was within a few weeks of the renovation being completed. We have been told that the City will rebuild, but it is too early for the details. All trains that are going by today are slowing down and blowing there horn out of respect for the depot.

Ground breaking of the new depot was on June 13, 2009.

Museum Hours

11 to 4 Thursday–Monday
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday