SPRR Yuma District - The East Line

SEGMENT 3: INDIO to NILAND, MP 611.0 - 665.5





  The Southern Pacific Railroad proceeds on its route southeast through the Salton Sink, skirting the eastern edge of the Salton Sea at elevations more than 200 feet below sea level.  The upcoming 54 miles pass through the heart of the Coachella Valley and skirt the eastern edge of the Imperial Valley; these valleys include some of the most productive agricultural lands in the world, with citrus fruit, grapes, lettuce and other vegetables and, of course, date palm plantations covering the countryside.  But without imported water, these fertile valleys would revert to dry, dusty, wind-swept desert.



  Water has also played a critical role in the shape and history of the Espee in the Imperial Valley.  This route was first laid by the railroad over the winter of 1876-77; in 1904 the Salton Sea was born, forcing several realignments of the right-of-way from about MP630 to around MP660; the rails were moved many times, retreating from the encroaching water, to their present position.

  Regular summer flashfloods can wipe out whole sections of the high-bermed track.  Rainwater from intermittent storms can combine with the parched soil and track ballast to create a highly conductive material which plays havoc with the signaling system, causing headache to dispatcher and trainman alike.

  The weather thoughout the Coachella and Imperial Valleys in summer is hot and generally dry; however, closer to the Salton Sea the humidity can skyrocket while the temperature remains the same, making the heat positively oppressive.

  The Mecca Hills and the Orocopia and Chocolate Mountains rise along the east side of the rails while the Santa Rosa Mountains form the distant, western boundary of the Valley; at sunset, the eastern mountains form terrific backdrops for well-placed photography.  The colors of the late afternoon desert can be stunning.


611.0 West End INDIO Yard (RIV215F1)

      Block Signal: WB 6111

      Speed Limit: EB 50 MPH; WB 50 MPH

      Speed Limit ACOT: EB 50-49 MPH; WB 50-49 MPH

      -20' AMSL; -0.3% EB

  Welcome to the Indio Yard.  A long time ago this was a hopping place, what with eastbound and westbound steamers rolling through, getting water and fuel, perhaps crew changes and helpers tagged on.  The comfortable date palm grove just to the south of the tracks here lended a refreshing coolness to the blazing summer sun.  Nowadays the yard is empty, many of the tracks torn up, bad-ordered or abandoned.  Vagrants (the gainfully unemployed) live in trash piles in the once pleasant palm grove.

  Traffic over this section of double-track main line that begins at MP609.7 and ends at MP618.5 is left-handed; opposing trains are almost always encountered on the left side.  This means that the south track (the one nearest Route 111/86) is generally constrained to eastbound traffic while the north track carries the westward-moving traffic.  In fact, almost all the signals in this stretch are visible only if a train is moving in this prescribed manner.  All trains moving in the preferred direction are considered to be "with the current of traffic".

  A westbound train on the south track or an eastbound train on the north track runs "against the current of traffic" (ACOT).  Since there is a greater risk in this mode of operation, the maximum speed limit is often substantially less.

  The only action here now is the Amtrak thrice-weekly passenger train and the occasional helper movements that use the crossover right at the signal.

  The yard extends about 1.7 miles east.  The access to the eastern half of the yard is possible but not advisable from the west end here.  Speed limit on the yard tracks (not the double-track main) is 5 MPH.


611.3 Old INDIO YARD Station

  That 1954 timetable calls out a station point about 200 yards west of the Auto Center overpass.



611.4 Auto Center Drive Overpass (RIV216A1)

      Southern Pacific Indio Communications Facility

      Indio MCI Facility

  Auto Center Drive is an offramp from Interstate 10 about a mile north.  The Thomas Bros. maps show it listed as Indio Center Drive.

  The SP communications facility shares space with the MCI Fiber Optic relay station north of the tracks, west of the overpass.  The MCI site is identical in purpose to the ones at Cherry Valley (MP561.7), Niland (MP662.4) and Gold Rock (MP716.8).  The SP site augments local 161.550MHz road channel coverage and also supports the main microwave trunk line running from Whitewater Hill, north of MP584.0 to Salton, northeast of MP638.0.



612.0 -40' AMSL; -0.3% EB


612.3 Old EAST INDIO Station

  As noted in the 1954 timetable.


612.5 East End INDIO Yard (RIV216B3)

      Block Signal: EB 6126

  Along the north side the east yard lead connects to the north main track.  A crossover allows eastbound traffic along the south track to move to the north track and vice-versa.  I suspect that this crossover allows the industries along the south track around MP614 to be serviced without tying up the railroad.


612.7 Signpost EB 70-65 MPH

      Speed Limit: EB 70-65 MPH; WB 50 MPH

      Speed Limit ACOT: EB 59-49 MPH; WB 50-49 MPH


612.9 Block Signal: WB 6129


      Dillon Road Grade Crossing

  I've heard this crossing acknowledged by train crews as "BLYTHE CROSSING".  A highway sign on State Route 86/111 at about MP613.1 indicates that by turning northeast on Dillon Road the intrepid traveller will head toward Desert Center and Blythe; Dillon leads to Interstate 10, a mile and a half northeast.  Blythe lies just 90 or so miles east on I10.


613.0 Leave Indio: Enter Coachella city limits

      -55' AMSL; -0.3% EB


613.9 Block Signals: EB 6140 - WB 6139 (RIV216C5)

      Junction of State Routes 111 and 86

  Proceed south on SR111 (left turn from SR86).  From this junction to at least Mecca (MP624), SR111 is also called Grapefruit Boulevard.  Continuing east, the railroad is often hidden behind stands of trees, buildings and other structures.  SR111 will parallel the right-of-way all the way to Niland.


614.0 -65' AMSL; -0.4% EB


614.1 Coachella Crossover

      West-facing 6730 Spur

  The Coachella crossover allows eastbound traffic on the #1 (north) main to move over to the #2 (south) main track or vice-versa.  A west-facing spur 6730 along the south mainline services the businesses along Grapefruit Blvd.  This crossover allows westbound through traffic to avoid the industry spurs along the north track around MP617.7 in case of local switching movements.


614.2 Speed Limit ACOT: WB 59-49 MPH


614.3 Avenue 50 Grade Crossing

  The grade crossing employs no crossing gates, only flashing lights.  Imagine what it must be like for the engineer of the eastbound hotshot LAMFF as he comes flying east out of Indio at 65 miles per, with that big warehouse blocking his view of the unprotected crossing.  It should give him the creeping willies, I think.

  Note the stop signs for trains using the south side 6730 spur; any rail traffic using that track must come to a full stop before entering the grade crossing.


614.4 COACHELLA Station

  Nuthin' here, far as I can see...


614.7 5th Street Grade Crossing (RIV216D6)

      Signpost WB 50 MPH

  This grade crossing, like the one 0.4 miles west, has the flashing lights but no crossing gates.


614.8 East-facing 6778 Spur

  The spur along the north side of the right-of-way provides service to a shipping facility along the north side of the main.

  Just a bit east there was a spur that separated from the right-of-way, crossed Grapefruit Boulevard and terminated in the pole yard at 9th and the treeless Shady Lane, a block southwest of the tracks.  The remains of the spur are still somewhat visible.


614.9 Speed Limit ACOT: WB 30 MPH

      Coachella Power Division Building

  Along the west side of Grapefruit Blvd. there are the offices of the Coachella Power Division, a part of the Imperial Irrigation District.  The building is pretty neat looking; Arabic architecture in the petite style, transplanted to the California Desert.


615.0 No Milepost Visible

      -85' AMSL; -0.3% EB


615.4 Avenue 52 Grade Crossing (RIV226E1)


615.5 Block Signals: EB 6154 - WB 6155

      West-facing 6785 Spur

  The spur along the north main track provides service to Sun World Packing on Industrial Way, about 0.3 miles compass-east.  The spur used to extend further but the right-of-way is now unused and overgrown.  The switch 6788 serving Sun World has been spiked to keep traffic rolling their way.


616.0 -100' AMSL; -0.3% EB


616.7 Signpost EB 50 MPH (RIV226F2)

      Private Grade Crossing

  The grade crossing serves the newly-created (as of 1990) Rancho Coachella Business Park located under the newly-placed palm trees along the north side of the railroad and across from Desert Cotton Seed Company on Grapefruit Blvd.


616.9 Block Signals: EB 6170 - WB 6171 (RIV226F3)


617.0 Remains of Spur

      -115' AMSL; -0.3% EB

  Along the north side of the tracks there was once a spur; all that is left is the subroadbed.  According to the October 1987 SP Timetable, the siding extended about 0.3 miles west to MP616.7.


617.3 Leave Coachella: Enter County Lands

  A spur separated from the south side of the tracks and crossed SR111 immediately south of the "Thermal" Community Limits sign.  Along the mainline right-of-way there is still some evidence of grading and subroadbed from about MP617.2 and continuing east.  Across the highway from the mainline, the tracks still exist and continue due south eventually paralleling Polk Avenue.  The tracks end just south and a hundred yards west of the intersection of Polk and Church Street.


617.8 West Switch 6860 Lead

  The 6860 spur separates from the north main and provides rail access to the Dole and Sun World Packing plants along the north side of the right-of-way.  The 6860 spur rejoins the north track at MP618.1.

  This is one of the few industry tracks remaining in this area; even the 1987 Timetable shows more industry service than is now present.


617.9 Airport Boulevard Grade Crossing (RIV227A4)

      Community of Thermal

  The community of Thermal dates back to at least 1891 as a station on the railroad.


618.0 Old THERMAL Station

      -135' AMSL; -0.2% EB

  This is the original site of the Thermal station, long before the flood and subsequent rebuilding of the Thermal siding at its present location.  The station length was 128 cars for an approximate length of 5600'.


618.1 East Switch 6860 Lead

  The west end of this spur rejoins the railroad at MP617.8.  Industry track 6862 serves the Dole Thermal Packing Plant; spur 6866 provides service for the Sun World Facility.  Both of these plants are located just west of Airport Boulevard and immediately north of the right-of-way.


618.4 Speed Limit: EB 50 MPH; WB 70 MPH

      Speed Limit ACOT: WB 49 MPH


618.5 End Double Track Automatic Block Signal (ABS) (RIV227B5)

      Begin Single Track Centralized Traffic Control (CTC)

      EB Absolute Signals with "P" Plates

      Signpost EB "BEGIN CTC"

      Signpost EB "END OF DOUBLE TRACK"

      Signpost WB "END CTC"

      Signpost WB 70 MPH

  This ends the double track mainline that began at MP609.4 and begins the single track main that will continue all the way to ARAZ Switch at MP725.8.  West of here the railroad is under Automatic Block Signal Control while to the east Centralized Traffic Control takes over.

  The Protection plates on the eastbound signal staffs indicate that the signals will also display the status of the high-water detector on the bridge at MP618.6.

  These absolute signals control the west switch of Thermal siding, across the river at MP618.7.


618.6 Steel Bridge over the Coachella Storm Drain (Whitewater River)

  Back in 1930, the SP built a bridge over the Whitewater River that replaced an older bridge, the remains of which are long gone.  This bridge was probably a steel deck or through-girder bridge resting on the concrete piers that still are in the bottom of the riverbed.

  In 1956, the concrete piers were widened and a new, second span was added, probably to provide a bridge for the lengthened siding track at Thermal. In 1968, a flood came along and knocked out one of the concrete piers, the second one from the east end of the bridge.

  The railroad had to bridge this accidental gap quickly to maintain service.  Through freight had to detour at Colton onto the Santa Fe Railway, go up over the Cajon Pass, through Barstow and then onto the Santa Fe's Cadiz and Parker lines into Phoenix, where Espee trains could regain their own right-of-way.  It took about two weeks to put the shoo-fly in service.

  What was to be a temporary bypass ended up becoming the Southern Pacific mainline's permanent bridge.  This 250' through-plate girder bridge was built quickly, but was only of single-track width, so the once-longer Thermal siding was chopped down to its present length of about 7200 feet. The once-tangent alignment of the rails crossing over the river was also lost by this construction.

  Note that the signal box that displays the Thermal sign is at the west side of the bridge, back at 618.5, while the beginning of Thermal siding is on the east side of the river at MP618.7.  Thermal is the shortest siding, by nearly 1300', in this section of the railroad from Indio to Yuma; the distance between the current west switch of Thermal and the Thermal sign is around that distance, also.

  The trackwork right here is very graceful: the high-speed alignment of the tracks at the approach to the switch at MP618.5 provide a smooth transition to the single-track bridge while another gentle curve eases the track through the west switch of present Thermal, MP618.7.

  As for the Coachella Storm Drain, it is really the Whitewater River in disguise.   Drainage is from the north to the south side of the tracks and this is the third and last time that the railroad will cross it.

  This bridge is equipped with a high-water detector.  If tripped by a sizable runoff on the Whitewater River, the westbound signals at MP618.7 and the eastbound signals at 618.5 will display a stop indication.


618.7 West Switch THERMAL Siding

      WB Absolute Signals with "P" Plates

      Signpost EB 79-65 MPH

      Siding Length 7088'

  The signals that control eastbound movement into THERMAL are located at MP618.5, the end of double track.  The westbound signals at this location control movement out of THERMAL and onto the double track west.

  The triangular Protection plates indicate that the signals also protect trains against movement if the high-water detector under the bridge at MP618.6 trips due to floodwater.


618.8 Speed Limit: EB 79-65 MPH; WB 50 MPH


618.9 West-facing 6880 Spur (RIV227B6)

      -145' AMSL; -0.2% EB

  This industry spur provides service to the citrus packers east of the tracks.  Access to the commercial area is via the grade crossing at Avenue 58.


619.1 Avenue 58 Grade Crossing

  There are no crossing gates, only flashing lights.  The area is wide open, though, so that the approaching train might have some chance of seeing and being seen...


619.5 THERMAL Station


620.0 -150' AMSL; -0.1% EB


620.2 East Switch THERMAL Siding (RIV227AC1)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals


620.7 Signpost WB 50 MPH (RIV227AD2)

      Community of Arabia

  The name "Arabia" first appears in a "Wagon Road" map of 1914, depicting the automobile routes of California.  The Thomas Bros. mapbook also maintains this name for the area.  Very exotic.


621.0 -155' AMSL; -0.1% EB



621.4 Dragging Equipment DETECTOR (RIV227AD3)

      Block Signals: EB 6214 - WB 6213


621.6 Avenue 62 Grade Crossing


622.0 -160' AMSL; -0.3% EB


623.0 -175' AMSL; -0.2% EB


623.1 Block Signals: EB 6232 - WB 6231 (RIV227AF6)


623.9 Avenue 66 Grade Crossing (RIV238A1)

      Community of Mecca

  The serene, idyllic community of Mecca is just across the railroad tracks.  If you are looking for a scenic side trip, or are just tired of chasing trains (blasphemy!), go into Mecca, go south on Hammond Road to Avenue 66 and continue east on Avenue 66.  In a few miles the road crosses the Coachella Canal and begins the climb up Box Canyon, an extraordinarily well-eroded arroyo that has cut down through the Mecca Hills over the last half-eon or so.  The road will wind up about 1500 feet above sea level at Interstate 10, about 20 miles along.  On a road map of 1920 this was the main highway east to Blythe from the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles.

  Back to the railroad: from here east to approximately MP 631 the north side of the right-of-way is available from Hammond Road (paralleling the tracks along the north side) via numerous dirt paths.  Beware the soft, flour-like consistency of the soil; this dirt is prevalent between Indio and Niland and it is quite possible to get deeply stuck.  I haven't yet but I can't say that I haven't tried.


624.0 -185' AMSL; -0.1% EB


624.1 Old MECCA Station

      Black Water Tank

      Small Grove of Date Palms

      Remains of old Buildings

  According to the USGS map of 1956, this was the original Mecca station; there is a lot of physical evidence here to support that.  There is the big water tank, the date palms, the concrete foundations of several buildings that were all clustered along the south side of the tracks.  This map also shows that back in 1956, the Mecca siding began around MP623.2 and ended at MP624.9, which would center it around this point.

  The siding was moved to its present location a mile or so south in order to reduce the interference to the cross traffic coming and going from Mecca on Avenue 66.

  As early as an 1891 map shows a station on the railroad called "Walters" somewhere nearby.  By 1910 the name "Walters" has vanished and the station of "Mecca" appears.


624.4 West Switch MECCA Siding (RIV238A1)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals

      Siding Length 8388'

  An industry spur leads west, parallel to the mainline, for 0.2 miles toward Mecca.  Note the signpost at the entrance to the spur indicating the end of CTC.  This spur may be the remains of the old Mecca siding that extended west beyond the Avenue 66 grade crossing.


625.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB (RIV238B2)

  The railroad begins a gentle curve to the east. 


625.2 MECCA Station (RIV238B3)

  When the siding was moved from its original position to the present location, the original Mecca Station was no longer along the siding.  So this being about the middle of the new siding, this is where the current Mecca Station has been moved.  Actually, I'm sure that the folks who wanted to regularly use the Avenue 66 grade crossing back at MP623.9 appreciated the siding being moved east the mile it was.


625.5 Electrical Substation

  An electrical distribution station lies just north of the railroad right-of-way.  The tracks end the gentle curve and begin a two-mile tangent.


625.9 20' Wooden Bridge over wash (RIV238C3)


626.0 -195' AMSL; +0.1% EB


626.1 East Switch MECCA Siding (RIV238C3)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals


626.6 25' Wooden Bridge over wash (RIV238D4)


626.9 Hammond Road Grade Crossing

      Community of Flowing Wells

  This is the only grade crossing for the next 4 miles east; access to the railroad is best along the north side of SR111 and continuing east.

  On the north side of the tracks Hammond Road intersects with Avenue 70 which continues compass east to Cleveland Street, about 3.5 miles.  Cleveland Street crosses the railroad at MP630.8.

  The Thomas Bros. guides show the name Flowing Wells here; "Flowing Well(s)" is also the name of a near-100-year-old community down about MP671, just east of Niland.


627.0 20' Wooden Bridge over wash (RIV238E4)

      -190' AMSL; +0.0% EB


627.3 Block Signals: EB 6274 - WB 6273

  The rails begin another gentle, sweeping turn toward the east.


628.0 -190' AMSL; +0.0% EB (RIV238F5)


628.1 30' Wooden Bridge over wash

  Because of the intense terraforming that has taken place for the last hundred years, and especially because of the Coachella Canal project, many of the washes that drain the rumpled and eroded, dusty, tan Mecca Hills due north no longer flow out to the Salton Sink in separate washes.  Some of the more picturesque names are Painted Canyon Wash, Skeleton Canyon Wash and Suprise Valley Wash.


628.4 40' Wooden Bridge over wash

  The railroad completes the gentle, sweeping turn and continues for the next three miles on a long straightaway.


628.5 Dragging Equipment DETECTOR (RIV239A5)


628.8 Old CALEB Station

      40' Wooden Bridge over Box Canyon Wash

  Box Canyon forms the boundary between the Mecca Hills and Orocopia range, visible in the near distance to the north.  Box Canyon wash carries the runoff from the north side of the Orocopias, the Mecca Hills and portions of the Cottonwood and Eagle Mountains, an area of approximately 100 square miles.

  Although the total drainage area is impressive, the wash is blocked by dikes and banks of the Coachella Canal a little more than two miles north.  Because of this, the water that normally flows in this wash is more the result of agricultural runoff and leakage from the canal than direct drainage from those yonder mountains.

  Caleb station commanded a siding approximately 5800' long.


629.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB (RIV239B5)


629.4 Block Signals: EB 6294 - WB 6295


630.0 Signpost EB 70-65 MPH (RIV239C5)

      Community of Desert Camp

      -196' AMSL; -0.1% EB

  The name "Desert Camp" shows up on several different maps of the area.


630.8 Cleveland Street Grade Crossing (RIV239E5)

      40' Steel Bridge over Wasteway #1

  The bridge over Wasteway #1 is a single span, steel though-plate girder structure about 100 feet east of the Cleveland Street crossing.  Wasteway #1 is a drain for excess flows and backflow off the Coachella Canal, about 2 miles north.

  Cleveland Street provides access to a bypass route for northbound travel on SR111.  If traffic is backed up badly, or if there is an accident up ahead in Desert Camp, turn north on Cleveland and continue to Avenue 70, about a quarter-mile north.  Make the left on Ave. 70 and go west until Ave. 70 joins Hammond Avenue.  Hammond Avenue will lead you northwest along the north side of the right-of-way all the way to Mecca, back at MP623.9.


631.0 -200' AMSL; +0.0% EB


631.1 20' Wood Bridge over wash

  This wash at one time carried runoff from Hidden Spring Canyon draining the southwest side of the Orocopia Mountains.  The name "Hidden Spring" happens to apply to a hidden spring (strangely enough), buried deep in the portion of the eastern Mecca Hills called "The Grotto".  If you decide to look for the hidden spring, watch out for the off-road motorbikes and beer-drinking gun enthusiasts.  And dogs.


631.3 30' Wood Bridge over wash

  Historically, this was also an alternate drainage for Hidden Spring Canyon before the Coachella Canal was constructed, blocking the natural drainage paths.  Most of the water that is now found in this wash will be runoff from the agriculture just north of the right-of-way.


631.5 Block Signals: EB 6316 - WB 6315 (RIV239F5)


631.6 25' Concrete Bridge over wash


632.0 Signpost WB 79-70 MPH

      Speed Limit: EB 70-65 MPH; WB 79-70 MPH

      -200' AMSL; -0.1% EB

  The railroad begins a long, gradual curve south to follow the -200 foot contour line, keeping about 1/2 mile from the shore of the Salton Sea.


632.5 Community of North Shore

  This trailer park community is up in the high-rent district, north and east of the tracks.


632.8 Bay Drive Grade Crossing

  Bay Drive provides access to North Shore Estates, immediately beyond the railroad tracks.  Crossing gates and lights, installed in June of 1990, protect the crossing.


632.9 West Switch MORTMAR Siding (RIV240A6)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals

      Siding Length 8483'

  Mortmar Siding started out its existence on a 1903 Railway Map as "Mortmere", which is close to meaning "Dead Sea" in French (actually "mer mort").  The same maps made it look like the siding was about five miles west of the present location; when the Salton Sink flooded in 1905, Mortmere was moved here.  By 1928 it is shown on maps as "Mortmar", which is its present day spelling and an adjustment of the original French to a combination of French and Spanish.


633.0 -205' AMSL; +0.1% EB (RIV240B6)


633.3 MORTMAR Station (RIV240AB1)

  There is still the foundation to a section house along the south side of the tracks, along with the ubiquitous tamarisks and scrap.


633.7 35' Concrete Box Culvert

      East-facing 6985 Spur

  The 6985 track is about 100 yards long, drooping down and to the north of the siding track.


634.0 -200' AMSL; -0.1% EB (RIV240AC1)


634.4 80' Wood Bridge over wash (RIV240AC2)

  There is flowing water in this wash, probably seepage from the Coachella Canal about 1 mile northeast.  The water supports the marshy plants like reeds and a bit of tamarisk, along with some frogs and dragonflies.


634.7 East Switch MORTMAR Siding (RIV240AD2)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals


634.8 Parkside Drive Grade Crossing

  This crossing utilizes flashing red lights with no gates to protect the intersection.

  Along the south side of the right-of-way, across SR111, begins the Salton Sea State Recreational Area (SSSRA).


635.0 -205' AMSL; +0.1% EB


635.8 Block Signals: EB 6358 - WB 6357 (RIV240AD3)


636.0 -200' AMSL; +0.1% EB (RIV240AE4)

  Between the Salton Sea and the highway begins the Mecca Beach Campground of the SSSRA.

  Imagine being camped here, the early evening breeze off the Salton Sea lending a refreshing bit of coolness while you are relaxed in your lawn chair, favorite cool beverage in hand, listening to and watching highballing Espee freights a mere quarter-mile away.  Ahhh - It makes me long to be away from this word processor...


636.6 Dragging Equipment DETECTOR


637.0 -195' AMSL; -0.2% EB (RIV240AF5)


637.4 Block Signals: EB 6376 - WB 6375 (RIV240AF6)

  Between the highway and the sea begins the Corvina Beach unit of the SSSRA.


637.8 Old SALTON Station

  The siding, mentioned in the 1954 timetable, had a capacity of 98 cars, plus the engine and caboose.  Now its name lives on as the communications facility, as described under the listing at MP638.0.


638.0 Southern Pacific Salton Communications Facility

      -205' AMSL; +0.0% EB (RIV241AA6)

  Look about due compass east and you will see two high communications towers, one of which supports the Espee's radio communications system.  The Salton facility relays microwave radio communications from Indio to Superstition Mountain, west of Brawley.


638.8 West Switch FERRUM Siding (CAL116A3)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals with "P" Plates

      Siding Length 8269'

  Two switches branch off the mainline; the westernmost separates to the south and is the entry to Ferrum siding; the second switch provides access to the lead track to the interchange yard for the Kaiser Industries Railroad.

  There is a switch at the west end of the interchange lead, just before the switch that connects the mining railroad to the Espee.  That switch leads to a derail to prevent runaway cars in the yard from fouling the mainline.  Note the sensor that detects the runaway equipment as it rolls off the end of the derail spur; another giant "soldering gun" tip, just like the one back at MP539.6 at the east end of old Colton Yard.  The Timetable describes this as the detector for indicating "movements over end of derailing spur".

  Both the east- and westbound signals at this location are also controlled by the status of this detector; if tripped, all the signals at this location will be forced to a "Stop" indication.

  This ends the medium resolution coverage of the Thomas Bros. Riverside County mapbook; to the east the map coordinates called out will reference the Delorme "Southern California Atlas and Gazetteer".


639.0 -200' AMSL; +0.0% EB


639.6 FERRUM Station

  The currently shut-down Kaiser Industries Railroad "Eagle Mountain Line" joins the Southern Pacific mainline at the interchange yard along the north side of Ferrum.  The KIR serviced the Kaiser Corporations' Eagle Mountain Open Pit Iron Mine, located about 40 miles northeast in the Eagle Mountains, north of Interstate 10.

  The Espee uses the yard tracks for storage right now, with several strings of empty auto-racks or reefers usually taking up space here.  A wye is located just east of the tracks with the tail track buried in the hillside.

  There are 60'-long drainage culverts that pass under the tracks at MP639.6 and MP639.8.  These are large enough inside to allow passage to the other side of the yard.  But be careful and duck low.  And don't use them if there's much water in them, either.


640.0 -200' AMSL; +0.1% EB


640.1 Several 25' Concrete Culverts

  This and the next two culverts at MP640.2 and MP640.4 handle drainage from the slope above the Ferrum siding and interchange yard.  The runoff from that slope has been diverted with earthen dikes just north of the tracks to prevent damage to the railroad during stormy weather.


640.6 East Switch FERRUM Siding (CAL116A3)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals (EB signals display "P" Plate)

  The Eagle Mountain line has begun the long climb up out of the Sink; it is visible about 0.5 miles northeast, before the mining tracks vanish beyond a ridge.

  The protection plates attached to the EB signal masts indicate that the signals are also under the control of the high-water detector on the Salt Creek Bridge at MP640.8.

  This ends the medium resolution coverage of the Thomas Bros. Riverside County mapbook; to the east the map coordinates called out will reference the Delorme "Southern California Atlas and Gazetteer".


640.7 Remote Seismic Sensor on Eastern Bluff

  A California Institute of Technology Seismometer and Strain gauge station is located just east of the tracks.  This solar-powered transmitter monitors lateral movement across the Mission Creek Fault which parallels the railroad.  The information thus collected is relayed to a satellite four times a day for analysis back at Cal Tech in Pasadena.  There are many of these instruments stationed around the desert.  You can look, but don't touch or otherwise fool with it.

  The Mission Creek Fault is the major member of the San Andreas Fault System along the eastern edge of the Salton Sink.  It extends from Mission Creek, near Mount San Gorgonio, most of the way to the Mexican Border, mainly remaining hidden under the shifting sands at the eastern end of the Imperial Valley.


640.8 240' Steel Deck Girder Bridge over Salt Creek

  This bridge is the highest, second most-bridgelike bridge in the Yuma Subdivision (the first most-bridgelike bridge is, of course, the arch span over the Colorado River at Yuma, constructed in 1923).

  The steel girders that make up the underdeck, beneath the ties, are held in place with three spindly box bents that rise perhaps 40' from the floor of the creek.

  There is an access road that separates from SR111 at about MP640.7 and drops down onto a dirt path that crosses under the Salt Creek Bridge adjacent to the west bank of the creek.  The road allows vehicular access to the north side of the railroad at Ferrum and some access to the Kaiser Industries Railroad.

  NOTE: the last time I checked this road it was very overgrown.  Without a big four-wheel drive and/or a machete, it would be difficult to make it through the narrows directly under the bridge.  Also, the path on the north of the railroad climbing west out of the creekbed is very sandy and loose.  I might try it but I can't recommend it to you.  (Of course, some folks would just say "Go for it!!"; not I.)

  Salt Creek channels the bulk of the drainage from the south slopes of the Orocopia Range and the northwest end of the Chocolate Mountains.  The wash is wide and deep, both indications that flood flow can be high and fast; there is always flow in the creek, and the choked, thickly-grown foliage in the creekbed extends back at least a mile up the canyon.

  At its northwest end the bridge is outfitted with a high-water detector that also controls the EB absolutes at the east end of Ferrum (MP640.6) and the westbound 6417 block signal.

  The Eagle Mountain tracks follow Salt Creek Wash for about twenty miles as the railroad skirts the south edge of the Orocopia Mountains.


640.9 Signpost EB 79-65 MPH

      Speed Limit: EB 79-65 MPH; WB 70 MPH


641.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB


641.7 Block Signals: EB 6418 - WB 6417P

  The westbound signal 6417 carries a protection (P) plate; the high-water detector on the bridge at MP640.8 can also control the aspect of this signal.


641.8 Old DURMID Station

  Sidings come and go in the desert; Durmid siding was around for probably fifty years, but vanished sometime in the late Fifties or early Sixties, most likely because the siding length of about 2700 feet was just a wee bit too short for modern trains.  However, the name and the siding live on as shown in the local maps: the USGS topo map for this area is called Durmid; the Delorme and the Thomas Bros. books both still erroneously show the Durmid Siding.

  Durmid may have been once called "Dos Palmas" (Two Palms); according to David Myrick in his book, Railroads of Arizona, Volume 1, Dos Palmas was originally the lowest station of the Yuma District, at an elevation of 278 feet below sea level.  Then sea level rose with the great flood of '05, perhaps allowing us to pronounce Dos Palmas/Durmid as the most mobile siding on the railroad.


642.0 -195' AMSL; -0.1% EB

  Due east are the Bat Cave Buttes; this desolate, craggy formation lies about 0.5 miles from the tracks and has a maximum height of about 45 feet, making it the highest point locally.


642.4 Riverside County / Imperial County Boundary

  The Thomas Bros. guides show a path called Hot Springs Road that runs east along the county line.  This road doesn't exist except in someone's parched, heat-struck imagination.


642.8 Signpost WB 70 MPH

  There's not too much out here to recommend.  Across the highway from the railroad lies the Al & Chris RV Park and Midway Bait concession, a fine place to pick up some cool drinks (or some bait; mmmm, love those anchovies!) if you're so inclined.


643.0 -200' AMSL; +0.2% EB


643.2 Block Signals: EB 6434 - WB 6433


643.8 Dragging Equipment / Hot Box DETECTOR - Speedometer


644.0 -190' AMSL; -0.1% EB


644.7 Block Signals: EB 6448 - WB 6447


645.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB


645.5 Bridge over wash

  The wash is wide enough and the clearance under the bridge is high enough that a reasonably-sized vehicle can drive under the right-of-way.  Unfortunately, the path leads nowhere in particluar on the other side.  But the walls of this narrow wash are studded with magnificent crystals of gypsum.


645.8 Bridge over Wash

  A dirt road passes underneath the trestle bridge with scant headroom.  Immediately on the east side of the tracks, the road climbs up out of the wash and proceeds generally due east to the "residential" area about a half-mile east of the railroad.  Wandering around on the unpaved, rarely-graded roads in this subdivision will eventually get the intrepid traveller to Range Road.  Following Range Road south will lead to a grade crossing at MP647.9.


646.0 West Switch BERTRAM Siding (CAL116A3)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals

      Siding Length 8372'

      -195' AMSL;  0.0% EB


646.5 West-facing 7135 Spur

  This lonely 100-yard-long spur lays along the south side of the siding; occasionally a piece of maintenance equipment finds its way onto this track.


646.8 BERTRAM Station (CAL116B3)

      Signpost WB "BERTRAM"

  One of the few places left along the line where the station site is still indicated with a signpost.  It is, however, a very small sign.  All the others have been stolen and or lost over time; don't make this one fall to the same fate!


647.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB


647.2 Signpost EB 70-65 MPH


647.8 East Switch BERTRAM Siding

      EB/WB Absolute Signals



647.9 Range Road Grade Crossing

  Several maps show an unpaved path going due north about four miles, leading past a few ranchos along the way to the high-tension power lines that run in a more-or-less parallel path with the railroad.  The road is well-graded and the railroad grade crossing is in good condition.

  This crossing has no lights or crossing gates, but visibility is very good with no obstacles near the intersection.


648.0 No Mileboard Visible

      -195' AMSL; -0.1% EB

  The railroad has begun a gradual, sweeping curve to the east and north; the right-of-way ends up pointing toward compass northeast.


649.0 -200' AMSL; +0.1% EB (CAL116B4)


649.2 Block Signals: EB 6492 - WB 6491


649.3 Speed Limit: EB 70-65 MPH; WB 79-70 MPH

      Signpost WB 79-70 MPH


650.0 -195' AMSL; -0.2% EB


650.1 Dragging Equipment DETECTOR

      Bombay Beach Road

      Friendly Community of Bombay Beach

  Thirsty?  Make the turn onto the paved road leading due south from SR111 into Bombay Beach.  There's a grocery store here, boat launching ramps and a marina, along with the other necessities of a civilized existence.


650.7 Dikes along North Side of Tracks


651.0 Block Signals: EB 6510P - WB 6511

      -205' AMSL; +0.0% EB

  The eastbound block signal 6510 wears a protection plate, indicating that it also is controlled by the disposition of the high-water detector on the bridge at MP651.9.

  An access road parallels the railroad right-of-way immediately north of the tracks and continues east.  The road provides a path for wheeled vehicles to get to the water treatment plant at MP650.7.


651.1 Old POPE Station

  Pope was about 4200' (96 cars) long.


651.9 70' Bridge over major wash

  Alas, one of these washes with no name but one that plays an important part in the drainage of several dozen square miles of desert floor, from the eastern slopes of the Bat Cave Buttes to the southwest portion of the Chocolate Mountains, or at least for what little water that makes it across the siphons on the Coachella Canal.

  The Espee Timetable indicates that this bridge is at MP652.0, and the bridge abutment has "651.99" stenciled upon it.

  The wash also is infiltrated with outflow from the Hot Mineral Spa, a natural hot spring and now commercial establishment about three miles up the Hot Mineral Spa Road at MP652.9.  There is also a tropical fish farm near the spa, presumably since tropical fish love warm water.  I wonder, do the fish come there for their health?

  On its northeast end the bridge is equipped with a high-water detector that, if tripped, causes the signals 6510 and 6531 to display red aspects.  At the west end a dirt raod passes under the bridge, with sufficient headroom for a moderate truck; this path leads to Honey Wagon Road, described under MP652.9.


652.0 -205' AMSL; +0.1% EB


652.2 15' Bridge over flowing creek

This wash drains a few square miles of desert floor immediately northeast of the tracks.  Water dropped on the Chocolate Mountains, about four miles northeast, crosses the Coachella Canal at Siphon #19 and adds to this stream.


652.4 Dragging Equipment DETECTOR


652.5 25' Bridge over wash


652.9 Hot Mineral Spa Road Grade Crossing

      Southern Pacific Pipeline Station

      Honey Wagon Road Access

  The paved road provides access to the north; there are several Hot Mineral Springs and commercial spas just a few miles up the road, just the thing to soothe those aching muscles at the end of a long, hot day of railfanning.

  This road also leads up to the Coachella Canal.  The access road along the Canal continues north to the Bradshaw Trail, the old road that follows the strike of the Salt Creek Wash and parallels the Kaiser Industries' Eagle Mountain Railroad (see MP639.6), ending up at Interstate 10, about 10 miles west of Desert Center.

  Honey Wagon Road intersects Hot Mineral Spa Road just north of the tracks; this road continues west along the north side of the right-of-way to about MP650.7.  Note the clever name "Honey Wagon".  Note that this road goes to the Liquid Waste Disposal Facility back north of the railroad around MP652.2.  Those tanker trucks that pump out septic tanks are called "Honey Wagons".  Ok, ok, so I thought it was cute...


653.0 -200' AMSL; +0.0% EB


653.1 Block Signals: EB 6530 - WB 6531P

  The Protection plate on the staff of the westward signal 6531 indicates that the signal is also under the control of the high-water detector on the bridge at MP651.9.  If this detector is tripped, the signal here will display a red aspect.


653.5 50' Bridge over unnamed creek


653.6 Pacific Wash Culvert


654.0 -200' AMSL; +0.1% EB


654.3 West Switch FRINK Siding (CAL116B4)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals

      Siding Length 8387'


654.7 60' Bridge over Oten Wash

  A road from the south intersects SR111.


655.0 35' Bridge over Luento Wash

      -195' AMSL; +0.3% EB


655.3 35' Bridge over Frink Wash

  Frink Wash flows out from Frink Spring, situated about 1 mile northeast.  Frink Road at MP656.2 provides local access to the opposite side of the tracks and to the spring area.


655.4 50' Bridge over Frink Wash Overflow

  Frink Wash Overflow is just that; beginning more or less at the same place, this creek handles water also from the Frink Spring area, but with a little more gusto.


655.6 FRINK Station

  Who Frink is I don't know; the name first appears as "Frink's" on an 1891 map.


655.7 East-facing 7165 Spur

  This is a 150-yard long spur along the north side of the siding, which itself lies along the north side of the mainline.


655.8 Niland Marina Road

  Niland Marina Road cuts south from the State Highway and leads to the shore of the Salton Sea little more than a mile away where there are boat launching ramps and the like.  The intersection of Niland Marina and SR111 is called "The Corner" by the locals, whoever, whatever and wherever they are.


656.0 -180' AMSL; -0.3% EB


656.1 East Switch FRINK Siding (CAL116B4)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals


656.2 Frink Road Grade Crossing

  Frink Road leads across the tracks and generally north past Frink Spring, a few commercial hot spring spas, winding up at the Coachella Canal Access road 2.3 miles distant.  A loop can be made from there west over to Hot Mineral Spa Road which leads back out to SR111.


657.0 -195' AMSL; -0.1% EB


657.1 35' Bridge over Clay Creek


657.2 Block Signals: EB 6572 - WB 6573

      Dragging Equipment DETECTOR


657.3 30' Bridge over Ray Wash (CAL117B5)


657.7 30' Bridge over Shlitz Wash


658.0 -200' AMSL; +0.0% EB


658.1 Clam Wash Culvert


658.4 30' Bridge over Bee Wash


658.5 Block Signals: EB 6586 - WB 6587


658.6 Sy Wash Culvert


658.7 20' Bridge over Ed Wash

  Yep, I know; it's real lonely out here, the soil is gray, the sky is hazy, and it's probably blazing hot.  But that's why I came out here and wrote down what I saw, just so you don't have to.


658.9 Cedar Wash Culvert


659.0 -200' AMSL; +0.0% EB



659.3 Fly Wash Culvert


659.4 40' Bridge over Butter Wash


659.5 20' Bridge over Level Wash


659.6 West Switch WISTER Siding (CAL117B5)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals

      Siding Length 8333'


659.8 40' Bridge over Wister Wash


660.0 West-facing 7185 Spur

      -202' AMSL; +0.0% EB

  The equipment spur lies to the north of the siding and is, as always, around one hundred yards long and in fairly poor repair.


660.1 WISTER Station

      Border Patrol Facility on SR111

  The Border Patrol generally only stops vehicles headed northbound along SR111.  Sometimes, however, they also stop northbound trains and check them for illegals (undocumented workers).  I've seen them stopping trains as far north as Bertram and as far south as Niland.  You can almost always recognize them by their pale green full-sized Jimmy/Bronco/Blazer/Ramcharger vehicles.  And they don't particularly seem to have much of a sense of humor.


660.4 Two Bridges over Sand Wash


660.6 Howell Road Grade Crossing

  The grade crossing is marked as "Private".

  There is a flashing "arrow" sign that the Border Patrol sets out on the highway to slow northbound traffic and let everyone know that something's up just ahead.


660.7 Imperial Valley State Warmwater Fish Hatchery

The Hatchery buildings are located along the west side of SR111 on Howell Road.


660.8 80' Bridge over Signal Wash


661.0 -200' AMSL; +0.0% EB


661.1 30' Bridge over Polo Wash


661.4 East Switch WISTER Siding (CAL117B5)

      EB/WB Absolute Signals


661.9 15' Bridge over Skee Wash


662.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB


662.1 15' Bridge over Salt Wash


662.3 Powerlines Cross Railroad


662.4 90' Bridge over Niland Creek

      Davis Road Grade Crossing

      Niland MCI Facility

  Niland Creek lies immediately west of the MCI facility.  Davis Road is a private grade crossing just east of the telecommunications shelter.

  The Niland MCI Facility resides in the fenced compound just west of the grade crossing along the north side of the line.  MCI leases a portion of the Espee right-of-way and runs buried fiber-optic cable carrying telephone communications across the country along this line.  Similar MCI facilities are located at Cherry Valley (MP561.7), Indio (MP611.4) and Gold Rock (MP716.8).


662.6 40' Bridge over Gravel Wash


662.7 Block Signals: EB 6628 - WB 6627


662.9 40' Bridge over Bug Wash


663.0 -195' AMSL; +0.0% EB


663.1 40' Bridge over Z Drain


663.3 25' Bridge over Cat Tail Wash


663.5 Old MUNDO Station

  Mundo was another terrifically short siding that last appeared on the maps back in the late Fifties.  The total length was about 2700 feet, just over a half-mile.  Barely enough room to fit the locomotive set from a modern SP train, pert near...


663.6 Dragging Equipment DETECTOR

  The railroad begins a steady curve to the east.


664.0 -195' AMSL; +0.3% EB


664.4 Block Signals: EB 6644 - WB 6645

  After leaving the curve, the rails now continue southeast on a tangent for the next fifteen miles, all the way to MP680 at Mammoth Wash.


664.5 40' Bridge over Phil Wash


664.7 20' Bridge over Brawley Wash


665.0 -180' AMSL; +0.3% EB


665.2 English Road Grade Crossing

  English Road was originally called Old Niland Road.


665.4 35' Bridge over Chico Wash


665.5 West Switch NILAND Siding (CAL117B5)

  See the next section for details.