Not much remains of the Southern Pacific's rail empire that once spanned most of the Inland Empire; the San Bernardino Branch is but a remnant of that past.

  This branch began its life as the Riverside Line of the Pacific Electric Railway, the suburban rail transportation system built beginning in the late 1880s and by default designing the modern-day Southland.  The Riverside Line began at San Bernardino Station, on Rialto Avenue between E and F Streets in San Bernardino, and led south and west to Riverside, about ten mileposts away.  It crossed the SP mainline at Colton.

  In 1908 the Southern Pacific gained control of the Pacific Electric, but continued to run the PE as a separate entity up into the 1940s, when most of the PE routes in the area were discontinued due to competition from busses and automobiles.

  Today, the Espee's San Bernardino Branch is the portion of the PE's Riverside Line from Colton to San Bernardino.  The branch is just under three miles long, and sure to vanish in the upcoming few years.

  The branchline separates from the Yuma Line at MP539.0.  Eastbound is toward San Bernardino from Colton.  According to conflicting information in the October 1987 Southern Pacific Timetable, the branchline ends either at MP541.8 or around MP542.3.  According to actual measurement, the tracks end six feet before reaching the Redlands Branch of the Santa Fe Railway in San Bernardino; this would be about MP542.0.


539.0  West End COLTON Yard (SBD27B2)

YUMA LINE Junction

Speed Limit: EB 10 MPH

965' AMSL; +0.8% EB

  There is a discrepancy regarding the mileposts used on this branch.  For the first 0.6 miles of this branch the mileposts seem to be in progress in proper order.  The signal control box at Valley Blvd., just north of the freeway, is marked as MP539.4; measuring the distance from the 539 milepost east of 9th Street, up the north yard lead, then through the tunnel under the freeway and to the grade crossing is about 0.4 miles.

  From there to the Colton Avenue grade crossing everything seems hunky-dory.  The Colton Avenue / F Street grade crossings should be about MP539.6; the signal control box at this intersection has the indication "539.37" stenciled outside.  So, somewhere along the way the counting system changes.  I suspect that the 539.37 milepost counts up from the old route down 9th Street in Colton to the Espee mainline.

  Originally, the Pacific Electric right-of-way that was to become the Espee's San Bernardino and Riverside Branches intersected the SP mainline at 9th Street, immediately east of the Old Colton station.  That PE right-of-way was laid down the middle of 9th Street.  It is still in evidence today south of the SP main, where the Riverside Branch uses the center of 9th Street as its right-of-way for a few blocks.

  Sometime in the Forties or early Fifties, the crossing was removed and the through-track coupling of the two branches was severed.  For the San Bernardino Branch, this meant a new connection to the SP main; this routing is the one that survives.

  Today, access to the San Bernardino Branch is from the team track that is all that remains of the north side of Old Colton yard.  Actual entrance to the spur is through the 5000 switch, about 0.2 miles east of the 539 Milepost.

  Four-wheeled vehicles can motor along the south side of the Freeway from 9th Street all the way to Mount Vernon Avenue.


(539.2) Begin SAN BERNARDINO Branch

5000 Switch

  The 5000 switch marks the entry to the spur that is the San Bernardino Branch.  The points on the switch face either east or west, depending on the reading of the Timetable.

  The branchline turns northwest in a tight curve toward the tunnel under the San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10).  The tracks cross a small creek that cuts a little wrinkle through the west end of the Colton yard, then the rails vanish into the tunnel ahead.


(539.3) Interstate 10 Overpass

  A curved, 230'-long tunnel leads the branch under the elevated San Bernardino Freeway.  Vagrants sometimes sleep in the tunnel, sheltered from the sun, the wind or other vagrants.  There is not enough room to safely navigate a four-wheeled vehicle through the tunnel (unless, of course, it has flanged wheels on standard-gauge axles).  Head west along the Yuma Line to 9th Street at MP539.0 or east to Mount Vernon Drive at MP539.5, then cross the freeway and come back along Valley Boulevard to the right-of-way.  It is certainly possible to walk through the tunnel; odds are good a train isn't coming.  Note, however, the "Trespassing, Loitering Forbidden By Law - SPTC" signs that tile the portals.


(539.4) Valley Boulevard Grade Crossing

H Street Grade Crossing

  The tracks cross Valley Blvd. and continue northward, paralleling 10th and 12th Streets.  Vehicular passage alongside the tracks is not advisable either to the north or south at Valley; from H Street to G Street there are wide dirt paths on either side of the rails, with a paved pedestrian crossing midway between the streets and a dirt crossing for alley traffic.

  Valley Boulevard employs crossboards and flashing lights for crossing protection.  H Street has only crossbucks, with "Pacific Electric" still barely visible on one, a reminder of the original owner of this right-of-way.


(539.5) G Street Grade Crossing (SBD27B1)

  The tracks continue just slightly east of due north, parallel to the slightly off-kilter streets of Colton.  From G Street to Colton Avenue, there is adequate room along the west side of the right-of-way for 4-wheeled access.

  While the G Street crossing doesn't have any kind of automated signal, the crossing is indicated with crossbucks.


539.3 Colton Avenue Grade Crossing

F Street Grade Crossing

East-facing 5005 Switch

  The branch crosses Colton Avenue and begins to curve to the east, crossing F Street in the process before aligning itself along the north side of Colton Avenue.  Continuing to the northeast, the tracks parallel Colton Avenue all the way to San Bernardino.

  The tracks pass through the diverging rails of the 5005 switch, once used to direct traffic either directly down to Colton Yard, or allowing trains to travel through the middle of 9th Street to the Espee crossing at MP539.0.  The switch has been abandoned and bolted for many, many years now.

  At this point, you can notice the discrepancy in Milepost numbering: the branch from this point on to San Bernardino follows the original route; that route carried the tracks through the 5005 switch, continuing southwest along Colton Avenue, through the lumber yard at 9th and H Street, across the northwest corner of the parking lot of the hotel at Valley and 9th, thence down the middle of 9th to the SP crossing a thousand feet south.  This path adds up to just about 0.37 miles, which corresponds with the "539.37" number on the plate affixed to the control case at the F Street grade crossing.

  The newer route, which has been in service for at least 40 years, leaves the mainline at MP539.0, goes up the north lead in old Colton yard, then west through the 5000 switch and under the freeway.  Using this path the distance from the 539 Milepost to the Valley Boulevard crossing is about 2100', or 0.4 miles; hence the "539.4" plate on the control box at that crossing.

  The crossing at F Street is protected with a wigwag alarm that looks to have seen better days.

  A short hedge of oleander bushes along the south side of the tracks hides from view the railroad for the next mile.  A lightly-used adjunct of Colton Avenue lies immediately north of the right-of-way and provides better visibility along the tracks all the way up to Fairview Avenue.

  The branch used to continue along the private right-of-way to the west on the north side of Colton Avenue, crossing 8th Street then G Street, then turning south to travel down the middle of 9th Street to the crossing at MP539.0 on the Yuma Line.  That right-of-way has been long-since abandoned, ripped-up, and repaved to carry rubber-tired traffic.


539.4  E Street Grade Crossing

  A single wig-wag guards the grade crossing.


539.6  C Street Grade Crossing (SBD27C1)

  A lone wig-wag, mounted on a pole at the west side of the intersection, directs traffic.


539.8  TANNER Station

      Mount Vernon Avenue Grade Crossing

  Back when this was a Pacific Electric Line, this was the site of the Mount Vernon Station.

  Interstate 10 is about 0.6 miles south on Mount Vernon Avenue and the Santa Fe Railway San Bernardino Station is just over 2 miles north on Mount Vernon.


540.0  No Milepost Visible (SBD16C6)

Fairview Avenue Grade Crossing

1005' AMSL; +0.6% EB


540.1  Tracks curve to the north

Private Grade Crossing

  The private grade crossing is a driveway to a home off Orangewood Street, immediately east of the school playground.


540.3  Coburn Street Grade Crossing

  A single wig-wag protects the grade crossing.


540.4  Bridge over Lytle Creek Flood Control Channel

Leave Colton: Enter San Bernardino city limits

End Colton Avenue: Begin Inland Center Drive

  The deep drain that passes well under the right-of-way carries overflow from the Lytle Creek Flood Control Basin about three miles northwest, north of Foothill Boulevard and west of the Santa Fe B-Yard.  This water drains into Warm Creek and finally flows under the Yuma Line at MP539.7.

  As the tracks pass from the city of Colton into San Bernardino the name of the paved road that parallels changes from Colton Avenue to Inland Center Drive.


540.5  Private Grade Crossing (SBD16D6)

  This paved crossing provides access to the AM radio facility along the north side of the right-of-way.  There are only railroad crossing signs at this intersection.


540.7  I Street Grade Crossing (SBD16D5)

  The grade crossing employs a pair of crossbucks as crossing protection.

  Hillcrest Avenue is the paved road that runs west along the north side of the tracks from the I Street Crossing.


540.8  Interstate 215 Offramp Grade Crossing

Interstate 215 Underpass

  This is one of the few freeway offramps I have ever seen that has such positive egress control, using gates, lights and bells in an attempt to slow traffic off-loading from the freeway.  Fortunately, there are no hundred-car freights creeping along to delay freeway traffic.

  A steel through-plate girder single-track bridge carries the branchline over the freeway.


540.9  H Street Grade Crossing

  The railroad, at H Street, uses a full complement of gates, lights and bells to guard the crossing.


541.0  No Milepost Visible

Adell Street Grade Crossing

1020' AMSL; -0.7% EB

  The crossing at Adell Street uses gates, lights and bells in an attempt to control traffic.


541.2  West-facing 5025 Spur

G Street Grade Crossing

East-facing 5030 Spur

East-facing 5050 Spur

  The complex trackwork that provides service to these warehouses and businesses indicates that at least at one time there was quite a lot of traffic moving in and out, providing a few dollars of revenue.  Note especially the curved diamond that allows the east-facing spurs to cross the west-facing spur, all because of the limited space available to play railroad.

  G Street grade crossing employs all the modern conveniences of grade crossing protection: lights, bells and gates.


541.3  Bridge over Lytle Creek

Private Grade Crossing

Tracks begin curve to north

  The tracks cross over Lytle Creek on a through-plate-girder single-track steel bridge, climbing uphill away from the creek.

  This is the traditional path for Lytle Creek to take, at least the one that the water would prefer based upon natural drainage in the area; the deep drain back at MP540.4 is deep for the very reason that the water must be coaxed to take that route.  Access to the tracks is available along the south side from Inland Center Drive to Mill Street.  The private grade crossing is well-controlled with gates; it provides alternate access to the parking lots for the department stores that front on Mill Street.


541.4  Mill Street Grade Crossing (SBD16D4)

  The Mill Street crossing is protected only with bells, crossbucks and flashing lights; there really isn't much rail traffic to worry about, though.

  Access to the right-of-way is available north of Mill Street on either side of the tracks; to the south, it's best done on foot.


541.7  Old Interchange Yard

  The interchange yard allowed traffic from the Santa Fe Redlands Branch to cross over to the Espee and vice-versa. The yard extended from Mill Street on the south to the Santa Fe tracks south of Rialto Avenue.  A west-facing switch around MP541.5 is the west end of the "yard".

  Most of the yard structures were along the west side of the tracks, as was the yard itself.  Note a group of loading ramps along an east-facing spur at the west side of the old yard; this track is still in service, often with some lumber cars spotted.

  A west-facing unnumbered spur provides a most-important function: the beer distributor on the east side of G Street gets regular boxcars of freight.


542.0  No Milepost Visible

Santa Fe Redlands Branch Junction

End Of Branch

1025' AMSL; +0.6% EB

  The Redlands Branch is a still-active subdivision of the Santa Fe Railway, separating from the Santa Fe mainline at that railroad's own San Bernardino Station, about one mile northwest.  In 1989, the Redlands Branch continues east all the way to the little community of Mentone, a distance of about eleven miles.

  A wye allowed traffic from either direction on the Santa Fe to go south onto the Espee branch.  Today, however, the Espee tracks end about six feet before the point where the crossing was.  The old Santa Fe siding track at the crossing location still has a crossing frog spiked in place, a lasting memory of those halcyon days when steel crisscrossed Southern California.


(542.3) SAN BERNARDINO Station

Shown on the grade chart in the 1987 Timetable, but no rails make it this far.  The station sat along the west side of the tracks at Rialto Avenue.  This is currently a vacant lot.