El Cerrito to Temecula

The Lake Elsinore Branch

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This is the former Santa Fe station in Lake Elsinore. Note the freight access door facing the tree. Photo by Mike Palmer, March 2003.

This branch left the Santa Fe mainline at Corona (between Fullerton and San Bernardino), and headed generally southeast to the town of Lake Elsinore. At one point the line continued further southeast to Elsinore Junction, where it connected to the remnants of Santa Fe's original through route to San Diego. (These remnants were built in the 1880s and abandoned around the 1930s.) Most of the customers along the route were rock and sand quarries.

The Lake Elsinore branch was cut back in stages, first to Alberhill in the 1970s and then back to its current end point in the 1980s. (There is a 2- to 3-mile segment still in operation that serves a quarry near Corona.) The right-of-way roughly parallels Temescal Canyon Road, although in some areas it went through small canyons accessible only to 4WD vehicles. There are a few small bridges still in place, but the most interesting girder bridge was removed for highway widening.

The branch passed through the settlements of South Corona, El Cerrito, Weisel, Arcilla, Alberhill, North Elsinore and the town of Lake Elsinore.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILWAY
Docket Number: 10370 Date: 2/23/1934 Section: 1
Application of Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway for certificate to abandon its line from Elsinore to Temecula, Riverside County, California, a distance of 16.46 miles.
Length: 16.46 miles Citation: 202 ICC 652  

I believe you map showing the end of the line is incorrect. When I visited the station in the 1950's the track ran down the middle of the street and a block north of the main drag. There were several backing plants on the street. This puts the station on the North West of town near highway 74. In earlier times, the track would go from the station around the downtown area near the lake and then out to Rail Road Canyon to connect with the line from Perris, CA. The track could not follow the freeway and displayed on the map because of the topgraphy would not permit such construction.

Kenneth Scott
San Diego
8/12/2009

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The map down to Alberhill looks dead on. My wife and I have followed it down from Corona many times. The grad is still visible in most places, and there are still at least a half dozen wooden bridges in place, including one over Temescal Creek which was a spur to the Glass factory. In Alberhill there are still tracks in the ashphalt as you enter one of the factories down there. Too bad the county did not have better visibility 25 years ago as this would have made an excellent route for Metro Link to use down to Elsinore.

M R Hodgee
Corona, CA
9/2/2009

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Much of the route south of Elsinore Jct. was part of Santa Fe's original "inland" route connecting San Bernardino and San Diego, which I believe was opened in the 1880s.

At one time, the line continued further south from Temecula, along the Temecula River, to Fallbrook. That section was abandoned before the 1920s however (it is not shown on a 1922 map in Derek Hayes' "Historical Atlas of California").

Mike Palmer
Torrance, CA
2/13/2010

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Your idea evidently was held by people at SCRRA, too. The Lake Elsinore Branch is now being considered for addition to the Metrolink system. There is another study that is trying to justify reclaiming the entire California Southern mainline from Corona to San Diego for a HSR route, but the odds of that are pretty long. However, the section to Alberhill is currently being considered for conventional train service with possible extension over much of the original right-of-way to Lake Elsinore. Since SCRRA is a government entity, the power of eminent domain could get all the cast off real estate in short order.

DeserTBoB
Lancaster, CA
4/13/2010

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You need to consolidate all these into the California Southern Railroad which was incorporated as a sub. of ATSF to complete their Trans-con from Barstow to San Diego. It traveled thru Perris which is where OERM is not located.

Dan
Las Vegas, NV
8/2/2010

[Thanks for the heads up, Dan. I have added the California Southern Railroad to this and other pages as necessary.  —Greg Harrison]

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As you proceed down Temescal Canyon by dirt road there are other remnants of the line including a lot of poles/pillars where the line once crossed the Temescal River wash area before crossing over Temescal Canyon road again (where the old picture of the interesting steel girder bridge use to be).

I intend to go to that area with my digital camera next time.

M R Hodgee
Corona, CA
2/18/2011

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The lumber yard tracks at picture 2 still exists.

Jonathan
Cupertino, CA
5/12/2012

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Thank you for this information. I remember the line that use to come down Spring Street and behind the park down town. I drive the 15 north to work every day but have been enjoying the back road home while exploring the old train route and trestles along the way. Great stuff!! Thanks again!

Frank Janse
Lake Elsinore, CA
9/10/2013

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Thanks for this information. A buddy and I retraced the tracks from Elsinore station up to south corona. At the Elsinore station there's still tracks in the lumber yard across the street. Also behind the station there's still remains of tracks in the ground in the empty lot. We saw the bridge next to the clay factory entrance, which there's tracks in the concrete leading to the bridge. Just a 1/4mile up Temescal Canyon rd. from there, there is a larger bridge in decent shape still standing. If you keep following Temescal canyon rd north go under the 15fwy and a couple miles on the left between two construction equipment sites, there's a much larger bridge which is still standing. A few miles north there's still foundations from once two large bridges that went across some wash areas. Seems at one time the river got high enough to wash everything away accept the foundations. Pretty cool stuff!

Hope to retrace further north into Corona. On Google maps you can see a fully intact bridge that is larger than any other bridge on this branch off Cajlaco rd. still standing. Great history!

Matt
Temecula, CA
9/23/2013

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In the 50's when the Santa Fe came in did it have to back out. A camera group came in for the day from LA. Did they have to back out.

Debbie byrum
Elsinore, CA
7/23/2016

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