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The First Railroads

Southern Pacific

Soon after its organization the Southern Pacific began building southward through California, and by 1872 had constructed a line as far south as Tehachapi. From this point its course was undecided. It might cross the Mojave desert direct to the Colorado river, or it might follow the San Gorgonio route. Los Angeles determined to secure the road at any cost, and after a long and bitter fight voted something over $600,000 subsidy, if the main line should be put through that city. In pursuance of their agreement to secure the subsidy the railroad at once built twenty-five miles of road to the north of Los Angeles to San Fernando and twenty-five miles east to Spadra, completing the work to that point in April, 1874. There for a time the work paused and uncertainty ruled. There were doubts whether the nai! would ever go any further—and some believed that San Bernardino was the ultimate terminus.

In November, 1873, when it was known that the road would certainly reach Spadra, or Ruebottom's as it was more familiarly known, a meeting of the citizens of San Bernardino was held and the matter of offering inducements for the immediate completion of the line as far as San Bernardino was warmly discussed.

Judge Boren moved that a committee be appointed and steps be taken to find out what would induce the company to come into the valley before removing their force from the field. Colonel Kelting favored the committee, but did not believe the company could possibly avoid running their line through the town. Mr. Katz opposed the appointment, because it looked like truckling to the railroad people. The majority were in favor of a committee, at least, yet some citizens were opposed to the railroad on general principles, and didn't want one, anyway. The meeting finally appointed a committee of prominent citizens, with instructions to meet every Wednesday until fur- ther orders. Judge Boren was appointed chairman, W. H. Gould secietary and E. A. Nisbet corresponding secretary.

Despite the efforts of this committee no definite results followed. The Guardian and Argus and the people who write letters to the newspapers dis- cussed the situation warmly and grew enthusiastic over the future prospects of their city. The Guardian declared: "With the railway terminus in this town the business would quadruple in one year. And if we only display the energy dictated by common sense we will have the terminus within nrie shot of the town."

In October. 1874, Gen. D. D. Colton, Gen. S. T. Gage, Col. C. F. Crocker and Judge Underhill, Southern Pacific magnates, after going over the pro- posed route through San Gorgonio pass, returned to San Bernardino and met the citizens in a largely attended mass meeting. The meeting was alled to order by the chairman, Hon. W. A. Conn, who introduced the railroad men and outlined the object for which the meeting was held. He pointed out the vital necessity of the railroad to the county and the necessity of the citizens doing all possible to co-operate with the railroad people. Mr. Crocker acted as spokesman for the visitors, and made a lengthy speech, in which he set forth the benefits which San Bernardino would derive from the building of the road, and stated that they did not ask for a subsidv from the town, but would like to have the business men of the place subscribe for at least $100,000 worth of their bonds. This was their proposition. Judge A. D. Boren, at that time one of the heaviest property owners, and one of the most enterprising citizens, said :

"Mr. Crocker, if we subscribe for $100,000 worth of your bonds will you build your road through this place or anywhere near it?" There was then some talk of putting the depot at the foot of "E" street.

Mr. Crocker, in reply, said that the Southern Pacific was building a great transcontinental line to be run for all time ; that their through business was of vastly more importance than the local traffic ever could be, and that they could not afford to swerve their line to the right or to the left to accommodate any little town ; that it was not alone the cost of building the additional few miles of track that a curve reaching and passing through San Bernardino would entail, but the cost of operating it for all time, and this additional mileage on all through trains would be so great that the company could not afford it; yet, to accommodate the people, they would build the line through the valley, and as near as they could to San Bernardino.

A later meeting of citizens discussed the bond matter, and decided, almost unanimously, with Senator Conn, "that if the railway company comes through the town, we, the committee, will propose to the county to buy the bonds; if it does not come through the town we will not raise one cent." Inasmuch as no definite promise of anything, not even a depot at the foot of E street, could be obtained from the railroad, no bonds were subscribed for.

In 1873 some wide-awake business men had organized the Slover Mountain Association, and purchased a tract of 2,000 acres of land southwest of San Bernardino. It afterwards developed that at the time of the first rail- road meeting in San Bernardino, arrangements had been practically completed to locate the depot on this tract, which was directly in line between Spadra and the San Gorgonio pass and the owners of which had agreed to donate 640 acres of land to the railroad company, upon certain conditions.

At first the people of San Bernardino refused to believe that they were to be passed by. The Argus, in a warm editorial, declared : "God made San Bernardino a site for the central town of the valley, and the railroad, if inclined, and we have no reason to believe it to be. cannot change his fiat. The new town talk is simply nauseating; it is possible a village may grow up around the depot; if so let it and welcome."

The railroad reached Colton July 30, 1875. A depot, roundhouse, etc., were constructed, a hotel put up and other improvements made. The failure of San Bernardino to purchase bonds was not conducive to good feeling on the part of the railroad people to that town, and the Southern Pacific Company threw its entire weight to the building up of Colton and diverting busi- ness to the new town. For a time this influence was keenly felt ; Colton grew rapidly, while San Bernardino was almost at a standstill.

September 6, 1876, the northern and southern ends of the road were united and San Bernardino and Colton thus put into direct communication with San Francisco. There being no competition, and not enough local business to pay the expenses of keeping the local lines in operation, freight rates were very high. So high, indeed, that the merchants of San Bernardino entered into an arrangement with McFadden Bros., of Newport, Los Angeles county, who were the owners of a steamboat, to run their boat in competition with the railroad in carrying freight for San Bernardino. They put on a mule train between Newport and San Bernardino, and it is a fact that freight from San Francisco, by this line, was more expeditiously delivered, and at lower rates than the railroad had laid it down at Colton.

When the Southern Pacific people saw that the merchants were in earnest and were succeeding in their opposition, they sent an agent and called a meeting of the San Bernardino merchants and shippers at Starke's Hotel. The company proposed a compromise, offering lower rates and better service. The rates were accordingly put down and a strong effort made to regain San Bernardino business. Many of the business men accepted the terms offered and the mule line was finally done away with. Although there was a marked improvement in service and in rates the freight was still all the "traffic would bear," and there were continual complaints of the business men as to the treatment received from the company.

In March, 1881, the connection between the Southern Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, at Deming, New Mexico, was made and the first through passenger train between San Francisco and Kansas City, by the southern route, went over the road. Thus at last San Bernardino county was connected with the east by direct railway route.

In 1886 the Motor line be tween Colton and San Bernardino was put into operation, having been built by R. W. Button. In November, 1888, this motor line was extended to Riverside. The same year a motor line between San Bernardino and Redlands was completed. In 1892, the Southern Pacific Company purchased these motor lines, thus gaining direct entrance to Redlands, San Bernardino and Riverside. The same year a branch line was put in between Chino and Ontario.

The motor service between Riverside, Colton, San Bernardino and Red- lands has been maintained and a broad gauge system added.

During the last year the Southern Pacific Company has purchased land in the center of San Bernardino city, and a new and adequate railway depot and service is now promised that town--after 30 years of waiting.


The First Railroads

L.A. & Independence

The Southern Pacific

Southern Routes

Southern Pacific

The Santa Fe System

Turning Point

The Proposal

Railroad Building

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