Have you ever heard of the Tehachapi Loop? Levi told me all about it when I was sleeping on the train from Los Angeles to Bakersfield (Heartbreak Trail). He was pretty impressed. I wrote about it in my journal after I got home:
"I didn't think I would care that Levi watched the train go up and around the famous Tehachapi Loop while I slept. That's all he talked about from Bakersfield to Fresno, and I got mighty tired of it. But when Mitch agreed and called it one of the wonders of the railroad world, I began to think I might have missed something special."
So, what is this famous “wonder of the railroad world” Levi couldn’t stop talking about all the way back to the ranch? It is a 3/4 mile-long spiral of railroad track halfway upgrade to the Tehachapi Pass. It connects the city of Mojave in the Mojave Desert with Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. It is one of the busiest single tracks in the entire world.
One of the engineering feats of its day, the Southern Pacific Railroad built the Loop to ease the steep grade going over the Tehachapi Mountains. Three thousand Chinese workers cut through solid granite with picks, shovels, horse-drawn carts, and blasting powder. The railroad line, of which the Loop is a part, had eighteen tunnels, ten bridges, and a number of water towers to refill the locomotives as they steamed over the Tehachapi Mountains. Work began in 1874 and took two years to complete. This track line was the final piece in the railroad linking San Francisco to Los Angeles.
When my brothers, Levi, and I rode over the Loop, it had been in operation for eight years. This same track line has remained virtually unchanged since it was first constructed. It is indeed an amazing display of engineering genius.
Note from Mrs. M: To watch a YouTube video showing a modern train tackling the Loop go here: VIDEO of a train going around the LOOP. Seven engines pull 111 cars. Start at 1:00 and watch at least until 5:30. The train goes over itself in the tunnel and comes close to the screen as it makes its way to Mojave.