Stanton to Los Alamitos

The Los Alamitos Branch

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GOOGLE MAPS no longer available: With apologies, I am unable to continue showing Google Maps. Google has forced my hand by increasing their map usage fee from nothing/free to OVER $300 A MONTH for the Abandoned Rails website! This is an expense that I simply cannot afford. Rest assured I am looking at available open source alternatives, so maps should be back online soon!

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AbandonedRails.com

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This is 515 miles from San Fransisco, the headquarters of the Southern Pacific. This view faces east from the former Knott Avenue grade crossing in Stanton. These gondolas are at the "end of track" and they might be reserved for the former Santa Ana branch salvage effort, which was underway in the summer of 2003. This location is about a mile west of Los Alamitos Junction, and about two miles east of the original end of the branch. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2003.

This branch originally extended a few miles from Los Alamitos Junction (in Stanton), through Cypress to Los Alamitos. Customers included the Los Alamitos (horse) Race Track, and more recently several industries near the end of the branch including Ganahl Lumber. The branch was abandoned in the 1990s. The eastern portion of the abandoned branch is easily located, although some of it is fenced off. The extreme western "end of branch" industrial area near Ganahl Lumber has added new buildings and it is difficult to locate the route of the branch and its spurs in that area.

Re Los Alamitos Branch, I regret to say, afters years of researching history of O.C. railroads, there is no evidence that theailroad ever served the racetrack, or that it was a customer in an way. All reports of horses delivered there, or any supplies, was by truck. Despite that fact, there are a few nice photos in existence of diesel era freight trains traversing the railroad that passed directly in front of the racing facility. No spurs nor loading/unloading facilities tho.

Steve Donaldson
S.F. Bay Area, formerly O.C, CA
1/15/2010

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As Steve notes, the Los Al branch did not service the race track in any way, shape or form. The line was built in 1896 to service a sugar beet refinery in Los Alamitos. The refinery closed during the early twentieth century. Agriculture, however, appears to have kept the line going. During the 1960s and 70s, a total of three lumber yards opened up near Bloomfield Street at the western end of the line. An industrial park developed on the west side of Bloomfield and at least one industry utilized the old sugar beet refinery spur, which veered north of the main at Bloomfield. By the late 1980s, Ganahl Lumber remained as the only customer on the line. Following heavy rains ca. 1995, the local switch crew laid a long section of rail over just east of Bloomfield. The condition of the track was so bad that it wasn't worth rehabing for just one customer. SP abandoned the line ca. 1996. They pulled the rails a year or so later.

Owing to the demand for building materials in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this branch saw a fair amount of activity. As I recall, the crew out of Anaheim serviced customers on this line at least three times a week. I flattened a lot of pennies on those tracks as a kid.

In the mid-1980s, a new industry showed up on the line, just east of the elementary school on Bloomfield Street. They built a spur but they never received rail shipments. The spur, however, proved quite useful to switch crews.

Toward the end of the life of this branch, switch crews had to creep their way along the line. There wasn't much in the way of a roadbed and drainage was non-existant. The ties were badly rotted in many places and you could pull many of the spikes out by hand. I knew the end was near during the early 1990s and never missed an opportunity to watch the local do its job. Consequently, I just happened to be there during that last derailment. A sad day.

Don B
Cincinnati, OH
4/25/2010

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Correction: Barr Lumber was the last customer on that line, not Ganahl.

Don B
Cincinnati, OH
4/25/2010

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Los Alamitos Blvd is being dug up for a center median and there are pieces of the old tracks in the middle of the street right now before they haul them away. Looks like they had to cut up the metal tracks to make them manageable.

Richard Daskam
Long Beach, CA
6/7/2017

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While doing my research for my book on the History of Los Alamitos, I came across articles regarding the Los Alamitos Branch line.

The line was originally built for two purposes. The passenger side served the town of Los Alamitos – which with the construction of the factory in 1896 and 1897, it was thought would become a city equal in size of Fullerton or Santa Ana. And this line was originally intended to continue on to Long Beach. But surmising from newspaper articles from 1897 -1899, apparently the riverbeds made this too difficult to construct (this area frequently flooded and the San Gabriel and Coyote Creek course often shifted). Also it was soon apparent that Los Alamitos would not grow as predicted, so they probably figured the traffic didn't justify the cost.

The branch line had a spur that split off just west of Bloomfield that went north and then paralleled the branch line – this brought the coke and other materials to the sugar factory and carried away the sugar. It apparently was also used to take pulp over to the feed lots beyond the factory and west of Los Alamitos Blvd. where cattle were fattened up on old sugar beet pulp. There are a couple articles on cattle drives from ranches in the Chino and Pomona areas sending their stock to Los Alamitos. Some articles also reference a smaller gauge for this feed transfer rail line.

After Dr. Ross Pet Food leased the old sugar beet factory buildings in 1936 there are articles and court testimony telling of how he shipped in captured mustang horses for their slaughter at the pert food factory. Fred H, Bixby, a very influential landowner in the area (he owned or controlled most of the land south of Los Alamitos), took Ross to court for his inhuman treatment of the animals who were herded tightly together in boxcars and shipped from Nevada and Arizona across the desert to Los Alamitos. Many died in the shipping. Ross contracted with some of the Indian tribes in Arizona and Nevada to capture the wild horses.

In 1939 the SP also obtained a franchise to extend the sugar factory upper spur across Los Alamitos Blvd to the El Camino Oil refinery at the corner of Spring (now Cerritos) and Los Alamitos Blvd. It also went by the names of Los Alamitos refinery and in 1940 it was the Pathfinder refinery. The refineries were long gone by 1960.

Strangely, in July 1939, a few months after obtaining the refinery line franchise, the SP filed to abandon the Alamitos branch line extending beyond the 518.576 mile marker for a half mile to its terminus at Coyote Creek.

When the SP abandoned all the lines, they originally tried to sell the property, until the Bixby Land Company reminded them their ownership only existed during the operation of the lines. After some court battles, the SP conceded the battle to the Bixby land Company which then sold off the parcels. From an aerial view you can see these very oddly shaped parcels which follow the line of the branch line and spur lines. Its made for some very confusing ownerships in our area,

Larry Strawther
Los Alamitos, CA
4/28/2018

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