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Presidents’ Day (the third Monday of February) is the celebration of the birth of our first President, George Washington (born on 22 Feb) and our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln (born on 12 Feb). During Washington’s administration, railroads were still in the future. During Lincoln’s administration railroads were well established East of the Mississippi River, but not to the West. However, in July of 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act which launched the building of the first transcontinental railroad with the Union Pacific building from the East and the Central Pacific from the West. The Western terminus of that railroad was Sacramento, California. Once the transcontinental railroad was completed in May of 1869. The Central Pacific was merged with the Southern Pacific (SP) railroad in the 1870s and a second transcontinental rail line was begun by the SP going South out of Northern California through the San Joaquin Valley. As the line reached the Southern end of the San Joaquin Valley the Tehachapi Mountain range posed a challenge. However, Chief Engineer for the SP, overcame that challenge by designing the Tehachapi Loop. It is estimated that 3,000 Chinese workers equipped with little more than hand tools, picks, shovels, horse-drawn carts and blasting powder cut through solid and decomposed granite to create the helix-shaped 0.72-mile loop with grades averaging about 2.2 percent and an elevation gain of 77 feet. The loop was completed in two years from 1874 to 1876. With the challenge conquered the SP gained access to Southern California and eventually was able to establish a rail connection with Los Angeles, California and even on to New Orleans, Louisiana. So, it is more than appropriate that the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot (FOTD) place the flag of our country on the Tehachapi Loop Overlook. While you are celebrating Presidents Day, why not stop by and watch today’s trains utilize this almost century and a half old engineering marvel. And after you have checked out the Loop, makes plans to stop by the Tehachapi Depot Museum that will be open on Presidents Day from 11 AM to 4 PM. Details and directions may found on our website:
                                                                       By Marlan Woodside, Board Member
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