Santa Ana to Newport Beach

The Santa Ana and Newport Railroad

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SA&N locomotive number 2, seen at the pier at what is now Newport Beach.

On January 12, 1891, the Santa Ana and Newport Railroad began service on 11 miles of tracks running down what is now Newport Boulevard, running through present-day Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, CA. The railroad was owned by a local entrepreneurial family, the McFaddens; its operation was based on ferrying farm goods, wood and other products between the pier at Newport Beach and an interchange with the Santa Fe railroad in Santa Ana Valley. The line was also responsible for bringing thousands of passengers to Newport Beach, most of whom were from Los Angeles.

In 1899, while the SA&N was struggling with an anti-competitive rate war conducted by the Southern Pacific, it was purchased by J. Ross Clark, a U.S. Senator and millionaire thanks to his other investments in the sugar beets industry. Upon completion of the sale, Clark immediately sold the SA&N to the Southern Pacific, who abandoned the line in 1933.

The line did have at least two spurs that are known, both of which were established before Clark purchased the SA&N. The first is the Harper spur, which was located on what is now the west side of Newport Boulevard opposite E. 18th Street. The second is the Thurin spur, which was located between present-day 22nd and 23rd Streets.

Thanks to Paul Dexter for contributing information about this route.

The Clark who acquired SA&N at turn of century was W.A. rather than J Ross, who was his brother. W.A. earned his wealth in mining, as sugar only figured in their later enterprise. Rate competition between S.P. and SA&N had been competitive rather than "anti-competitive". Thurin station was between 20th-21st street (note Thurin Ave. today). For more accurate and reliable info see chapter in my "Rails Through the Orange Groves".

Steve Donaldson
Orange County previously, SF now, CA
5/11/2009

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Thanks for posting this Greg!

Paul Dexter
Costa Mesa, CA
11/19/2009

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The section of track that remains at the car wash along Harbor Blvd, was part of the spur the ran to the Santa Ana Army Air Base (served some warehouse after the base was closed). The Pacific Electric and, after the merger with the SP in 1965, the Southern Pacific ran over this track. It was not part of the Santa Ana-Newport Beach line that was built by the Santa Ana & Newport Railroad. That line followed Newport Ave throught Costa Mesa and was east of the pictured track.

Clifford Prather
Orange, CA
3/11/2010

[Thanks for the correction Clifford, I will change it as soon as I get a chance.  —Greg Harrison]

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Thanks for the correction regarding J. Ross Clark, it was his brother William who was the senator. I believe that William and J. Ross worked together, and it actually was J. Ross' idea to purchase the railroad.

I am doing genealogical research on the Clark family, as my boyfriend, John Clark, is the great grandson of J. Ross. His grandfather was Walter Clark, who died on the Titanic.

Any further information regarding the Clarks would be appreciated, especially J. Ross. Thank you!

Jill Osgood
Portland , ME
9/1/2010

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As time passes, more details surface regarding the history of this line. Now I have learned that neither Clark actually bought the SA&N, but rather W.H. Holabird, an associate of the Clark brothers. The L.A. Times made the original mistaken report and even featured Senator Clark's likeness in its first report of the McFadden sale, but later disclosed thru subsequent interview with J.Ross in the matter that Holabird bought option on his own behalf rather than as agent of him or brother. Holabird then offered road to both SFe and Huntington, the latter accepting and integrating it into S.P. O.C. branch network.

Steve Donaldson
San Carlos, CA
10/25/2010

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I thought the Newport Santa Ana line ran up Superior from Balboa Bl... The map does not indicate. According to the Google map it appears the line crossed the the Newport Bl Bridge at PCH near Arches and scooted up Newport Bl and then the 55. Correct?

scott
NEWPORT BEACH, CA
5/29/2011

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Scott's presumption about SA&N following route of SR55 is correct. Had its own trestle across Newport Bay(west arm) which was demolished to make way for original "Arches" interchange. No railroad ever ran on Superior.

Steve Donaldson
SFBay now, OC formerly, CA
5/30/2012

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Hi, this site is great - thanks for the information. I have a question about this line, do you know if it runs to the east of the 55 freeway around dyer?

There are some abandoned tracks there, and just wondered if this was it. Thanks.

Rachel
Costa Mesa, CA
10/17/2012

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Our family has owned a duplex on 51st and Seashore since it was built on the tracks in 1963. I remember my father talking about how the rail road asked him whether he wanted to renew his lease on the land or buy it outright (which he did). Recent renovations at our home unearthed a very old rusty railroad spike. I've seen old maps of the line but would like to know more about it so I can create a collage with the spike and information. Any help would be appreciated.

Ron Davies
Newport Beach, CA
7/29/2013

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Regarding Rachel's question about abandoned tracks east of the 55 near Dyer...There's a spur that's called the "Irvine Industrial Complex Spur" (IIC). If you google that, you'll find some information. This would have been very close to the Santa Ana Newport Railroad, but I think the IIC was built after Santa Ana Newport Railroad was abandoned. I saw a history about IIC somewhere and I think it was built as the industrial areas in Tustin and Irvine came to life.

The railroad crossing at Dyer is still active, but just south of Dyer it takes a turn and crosses Red Hill. It used to also go straight all the way to MacArthur, parallel to the 55 (I don't know if it ever crossed MacArthur).

Michael
OC, CA
1/3/2014

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I used to live around the corner from that car wash on Harbor Blvd as a kid! I used to stare at that isolated section of track in their parking lot all the time. I wondered where the track originated from. Thanks for the info!

Dan W.
San Diego, CA
4/24/2014

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I am interested in the actual original ownership. The California Railroad Commission report of 1897 references 5 members of the Board of Director for this railroad; James and Robert McFadden, W.H. Spurgeon, M.M. Crookshank and E.M. Smiley, all very wealthy prominent businessmen of Santa Ana. The report indicates the company had 7 shareholders. In addition to the above names, Frank Chilton and A.J. Crookshank were also involved. Yet the railroad co is always referred to as McFadens. Conrad Crookshank owned a general store at the end of the line in Newport. Any thoughts on the inquiry?

Chris Jensen
Riverside, CA
6/17/2014

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