22 April 2013

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Spur Line to Olinda

As has been detailed in this blog previously, the discovery of oil by Edward Doheny in the late 1890s in partnership with the railroad giant, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, on what became known as the Olinda field, inaugurated the oil industry in Orange County.

In 1896, just before Doheny's first Olinda well came in, he signed a five-year agreement with the Santa Fe, through its subsidiary the Southern California Railway Company, which completed a line from the east through Santa Ana Canyon and to Los Angeles in 1887, to provide the railroad fuel from his oil endeavors, including that in Olinda, which was usually known as the Fullerton Oil Field.  Light crude oil, such as that extracted from Olinda, proved to be a new way to fuel locomotives, and, just as importantly, it could do so without refining.  Consequently, when producing wells started to come in after 1897, efforts to ship the crude were quickly engaged in. 

The July 17, 1898 issue of the Los Angeles Times, for example, reported on new wells put down on the Olinda Ranch and that, "if expectations are realized, plans made for an extensive pipe-line system will be put in effect at once."  This line was to "extend from the ranch to Richfield station on the Santa Fe, which will be the shipping point" to Los Angeles and, strangely, south to Los Alamitos, "where, it is said, the sugar factory will be supplied with oil for fuel," a contract with the sugar firm having been nearly completed.  Richfield, by the way, was an area now in the city of Placentia named by the Richfield Oil Company, later Atlantic Richfield or ARCO, and which became a major oil producing area a little later than Olinda.

This mention of sugar, in fact, has an interesting sidelight, as the expansion of sugar beet farming, introduced in southern California by Richard Gird, owner of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, the western boundary of which was just slightly east of Sleepy Hollow within Carbon Canyon, and developer of the town of Chino.  Gird enticed the Oxnard brothers to come out from the midwest to work at Chino before they went on their own in Ventura County, where the city that bears their name is today.  Meantime, sugar beet production also developed in other regional locales, such as southeastern Los Angeles County, including at Hynes, now Paramount, and southwestern Orange County, including the aforementioned Los Alamitos, where Montana copper mining magnate William Andrews Clark opened, in 1897, his factory, which continued to operate until 1926.

Returning to Olinda, the Times reported on 13 August 1898, that the Santa Fe's chief engineer Fred T. Perris, for whom the city in Riverside County is named, and chief clerk F. B. Henderson from the railroad's Santa Ana office, visited Olinda to check on the progress of the wells in which the company had its interests.

By August 1899, the paper sent a reporter out to Olinda to describe the scene.  This person stated that "the Santa Fe group of wells . . . are named from the fact that the Santa Fe Railroad Company controls the major part of them, E. L. Doheny being a partner in their ownership."  With respect to what was done with the crude once it was extracted, the reporter stated that, "the entire output is hauled to Richfield Station, four miles distant, where the company takes it for fuel for their locomotives."  The piece went on to note that Santa Fe had ten operating wells and four more were drilling.  Also noted was the fact that there were several competitors, including Columbia Oil Company, Graham-Loftus Company, Charles Victor Hall, Easton-Eldridge and Company [who were involved also in Chino, as noted in this blog elsewhere], and the Olinda Oil Company. 

In its 8 November 1899 issue, the Times reported that
The Southern California Railway Company has petitioned the Board of Supervisors of this county [Orange] for a right-of-way across certain public highways running from Richfield in a northerly direction—a distance of about four and one-half miles.  It is the intention of the railroad ro construct a branch from the Santa Ana Cañon to the location of the company's oil wells in the vicinity of Olinda.
It might be of interest to observe here that during the famed boom of the late 1880s that spawned William H. Bailey's Olinda Ranch and the failed townsite of Carlton nearby,  there was also a proposed railroad, that never got past the idea stage, called the Anaheim, Olinda and Pomona Railway, that would have gone from the first-named city to the last through, presumably Brea Canyon or, perhaps, Tonner Canyon.

This 1920s map detail shows the spur rail line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad coming up through the failed townsite of Carlton, passing the Pacific Electric Railroad streetcar line moving from La Habra off to the left down to Yorba Linda at center right and then turning slightly before entering the Olinda Oil Field where Carbon Canyon Dam and Carbon Canyon Regional Park are now located.  The short spur to the right led to the tank car  loading area and the one to the left went to the depot and freight facility.  From a map in the collection of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California.  Click on the map to see an enlarged view in a separate window.

As detailed in an information-packed article by Dennis White (with assistance from Bryan Hunnell and Donald Cole) in the Hot Rail! Newsletter's Fall 2004 issue, the 4.2 mile spur line ran up a grade from Richfield to Olinda, where several spur tracks branched out from the main spur (this is shown in the image provided here from an early map.)

White explinaed that, "at Olinda, a 10x20 wooden depot with platform was ready for business when the line opened, but the volume of freight required an expansion to 20 x 20 within the first year.  The first freight agent at Olinda was Mr. F. S. Weber."

He also pointed out that, while the elevation change seemed minor, going from about 250 feet above sea level at Richfield, which was renamed Atwood in 1920, to 440 at Olinda, the terrain was somewhat rugged and the grade not insignificant.

In early 1906, the Santa Fe decided to retire the Southern California Railway Company and the line through northern Orange County and the Olinda spur were officially known as Santa Fe ones.  White's article included some interesting technical information concerning the operation of the line, especially at the crossing with the Pacific Electric Railway Company's streetcar line that came from La Habra to Yorba Linda and ran from 1911 to 1938 (portions of the old PE line are now a multi-use trail in Yorba Linda, while the portion in Brea exists as a right-of-way with the tracks removed in recent years.)

This detail from a ca. 1920s Auto Club of Southern California road map also shows the Santa Fe spur line, noted as A.T. & S.F. R. R., just east of Rose Avenue (now Rose Drive), but note that the spur and Rose Avenue went together into Olinda through what is now Carbon Canyon Dam and Carbon Canyon Regional Park.  The entirety of the spur is also shown from the main line of the Santa Fe at Atwood in Placentia to its Olinda terminus.  From a map in the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum collection.  Click on the map to see an enlarged view in a separate window.

As noted by White, the Olinda field began to decline in the 1940s, so the Santa Fe shuttered its spur line in 1945 as piplines replaced rail service for the shipment of oil (recall above that a pipeline had been discussed in 1898.)  Then, the construction of the Carobn Canyon Dam in the late 1950s and early 1960s took place on some of the old spur line and some of the rail material remaining was used as fill for the dam.  In 1975, Carbon Canyon Regional Park opened on the canyon (or north) side of the dam and further park development altered the landscape where the line once ran.

The path of the rail spur south of the dam also disappeared over time as suburban development took hold in the post-World War II years.  As noted by White, the wye at Atwood that marked the junction of the spur and the mainline was gone by the late 1980s.

Still, White identified in his piece seven areas where the track once ran using modern GPS coordinates, streets, and other landmarks.  For example, he noted that the Olinda spur and the PR line met between Prospect and Rose Drive at Imperial Highway, the PE running along the south side of that latter thoroughfare.  He even specifies a Mobil Oil pipeline sign, stating that the pipeline ran just to the east, but parallel to the spur.  From Imperial, the sput moved northwest for a half mile or so before turning north toward the center of Carbon Canyon Dam.

Finally, he observed that the Olinda depot and freight dock were located at where the East Gate ranger office for the regional park sits and that the tank car loading area was a half-mile east and south of Carbon Canyon Road.

Notably, directly across from the newer entrance to the regional park, installed several years ago, is a signalized main artery, intersecting with Carbon Canyon Road, in the Olinda Ranch subdivision called Santa Fe Drive.  Take that road north from Carbon Canyon and take a right turn after curving to the west and you come to the Olinda Oil Museum and the still-operating well #1 drilled by Edward Doheny in 1897.

Much has changed and the physical evidence of the Santa Fe's Olinda spur rail line are all but disappeared, but there are still some tangible pieces of the history that made Olinda a famed place name for its oil industry for decades.

No comments: