El Centro to Holtville

The Holton Interurban Railway

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Bridge over the Holtville Canal, just north of Holtville at Sandia. Photo by Paul McGuffin, April 2009.

This abandoned railway was first built in 1910 as the Holton Interurban Railway. It branched from a Southern Pacific line at El Centro and ran 11 miles eastward to the town of Holtville. Both Holtville and the Holton Interurban derive their name from W. F. Holt, an entrepreneur who developed the surrounding area of Imperial County in order to tap into the natural resources.

The line was subsequently purchased by the Southern Pacific, who continued to operate the Holton Interurban to Holtville; indeed, SP also built a line that connected with the Holton Interurban at Holtville from the north (Calipatria to Holtville).

It is not known when the Holton Interurban last saw revenue service as an interurban proper; freight-wise, the line saw significant amounts of sugar beet trains, as well as Pacific Fruit Express business. During this time, it was known as Southern Pacific's "Imperial Valley Branch".

It is not known when the line was abandoned, but tracks have been removed in various sections over the years; none of the tracks remain today.

Thanks to William Wilsford for contributing information about this route.

I want to say that this is a really good site for both information and photos. I lived in the town of Brawley in the late 1970's not far from where all of this was located. I have many fond memories of when The Southern Pacific used to operate a lot over these rails. I was only a young kid then and now wished that I could of taken some photos of these areas when they were still in use! I would love to see some photos of trains operating in The Imperial Valley of California, if possible. Keep up the good work.

Keith Johns
Formerly San Diego, now Marshalltown, IA
12/23/2008

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I remember this SP line very well growing up in the Valley. Originally this line kept going North from the feed lot at Orita Land & Cattle crossing thru the farmlands and then making a westward turn at a spot called "TURN". the line continued west until it met up with the current mainline at Calipatria just to the south of the Feed Lot. This second mainline was abandoned in 1962. And then another wye was installed near the same spot and this line also went west and then headed south to the town of Westmoreland. This line was used for sugar beets, and other perishable loadings. The line was abandonded in 1971 and the tracks were torn up in the mid 1980's. I never did see any trains go to Westmoreland but saw plenty of them go to Holtville and then on to Orita Feed Lot. Lots of grain, perishables, and some paper cars as well as LPG cars were the norm on the Holtville Branch. The Orita Branch ran its last train in 1989 and the line was torn up in 2000. The last train that ran to Holtville was in 1994 and the line was torn up in 2006.

Skeeter Rose
El Centro, CA
5/29/2009

[A map of the line up to Calipatria that Skeeter describes can be seen here.  —Greg Harrison]

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I worked as a reporter in the Imperial Valley in the mid 90s and I believe the SP officially abandoned the El Centro to Holtville line in mid 1995. Not sure if it was being used at the time or if it had been dormant for sometime before the official request to abandon the track. I recall covering a county council meeting that summer where this was on the agenda.

I believe the line that runs north from Holtville to Calipatria had already been abandoned at that point.

Paul Baltes
El Centro, CA
6/15/2010

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I, too remember the line. As kid in Tucson, Arizona, we made many trips to San Diego. Old U.S. 80 ran right alongside the line. Sadly, the western end of U.S. (West of Dallas, TX) is also history now

Fred M Cain
Topeka, AZ
1/12/2012

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I would also add that in the 1960s, everytime I saw the line the rails were always shiny and it also had a large, multi-arm open-wire telecom line running along it giving it a main line appearance. I never actually saw a train on it, though.

Fred M. Cain
Topeka, IN
1/18/2012

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Despite the name, Holton Interurban was never electrified. Some mischievous railfans painted "Holton Interurban" on an unrestored ex-PE Birney car at Orange Empire, took photos and wrote a totally bogus "history" of the HI and had it published in "Traction & Models" magazine.

Bob Davis
San Gabriel , CA
1/10/2013

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My father managed the holton-interurban line until it was shutdown.

I will add what I wrote to the owner of this website:

It turns out my father (Hal Hauskins) ran that line for many years and my mother (Margaret Hauskins) also worked with him for some time.

It main cargo was produce. Carrots, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, lettuce, etc.

I think the time period was approximately from 1962 to 1972. I am sort of guessing.

We lived in a railroad provided house for a while that was right next to the tracks in

Holtville.

Also, the main train station for holton and interurban was bought and relocated to Imperial Valley College

Mrs. Lowe was IVC's first art instructor, and was instrumental to launching the college's first art gallery, housed in the relocated Holtville train depot. An historic building, IVC's original gallery was built in 1905 as the terminus of the Holton Interurban Railway. IVC bought the building from the City of Holtville for $1 on June 28, 1970, and it opened as an art gallery on Friday, December 3, 1971.

Sadly, after 34 years of service, the IVC Holtville Depot art gallery burned down in an electrical fire on September 12, 2005.

http://www.imperial.edu/about/art-gallery/about-the-gallery/

Stephen Hauskins
Los Angeles, CA
2/21/2014

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great info, any photos exist of the Holtville station? or area with trains or of the time period? We are working on design and building a model railroad of teh region and this area is of significant interest.

Lee

Lee
Yuma, AZ
12/28/2015

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I have some photos and old newspaper stories about the HI.

Basically my father ran it from 1958-1978. The office was closed in Holtville after April 1978 but I believe the produce train still ran and was handled out of El Centro for several more years. Closure was due to a number of things- trucking, economy and modernization of the railroad.

I have some images of the depot and some news paper clippings at

http://stephenhauskins.com

Should be available later today 12/28/2015

Stephen Hauskins
Santa Cruz, CA
12/28/2015

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