THE KITE SHAPED TRACK
By Kay Beattie
1885 was an important date in San Bernardino when the Santa Fe Railroad (California Southern Railway) entered the city through the Cajon Pass and made a new connection to the outside world for the valley.
Prominent men in Redlands immediately began to plan a branch line around the east part of the valley. They raised $42,750 to purchase rights of way and depot grounds, and in February 1888 a railroad line was built from San Bernardino to Redlands. In a short time it was extended to Mentone.
Local railroad officials wanted to continue the line from Mentone back to San Bernardino by way of Highland, making a loop of the valley.
So in January of 1892, the famous "loop" of the Kite Shaped Track was finally finished. Together the tracks made a 158 mile long figure eight from the Santa Fe's yards in Los Angeles east to Mentone and back, providing passenger and freight services.
Passengers on this train were treated to beautiful scenery along the southern rim of the San Gabriel Mountains passing through Pasadena, San Dimas, Claremont, Cucamonga, Rialto and San Bernardino. At this point "The Loop" began its eastern circle. The train left the Santa Fe yards on Third Street, crossed Third between "J" and "I" streets, traveling in a southeasterly direction through the south end of San Bernardino, across old Highway 99 (Redlands Blvd.) near Alabama, and then into Redlands. Next was Mentone, East Highlands, Highland, Patton, West Highland (Del Rosa), Shandin Hills, and then from San Bernardino to Colton, Highgrove, Riverside, Corona, Richfield, Placentia, Fullerton, La Mirada, Whittier and Los Angeles.
The railroads played a great part in the sale and promotion of land development of the citrus industry and encouraged immigration to California.
There was a rate war between the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads during 1886. It is hard to estimate the number of people who came into California during this year, as the cut in the rates led to a phenomenal amount of travel. California was flooded with tourists. Population in the state gained 347,4444 in the years between 1880 and 1890. Fares dropped so low that it reached a point "where it was cheaper to travel then to stay at home."
The Kite Shaped Track became a popular excursion for San Bernardino Valley visitors. In the 1890's a tour of Southern California was not complete without a ride on the route that advertised " No Scene Twice Seen."
In Redlands sightseers could leave the train for a city tour that included Smiley Heights which had gained fame among eastern millionaires. Excursion trains usually ran on weekends. The daily "Loop" brought mail and delivery of necessary goods to all station's and made it possible for most of the residents to have a ride into town to shop when a buggy outing was long and tedious. Trains left at two-hour intervals every day. An early Redlands newspaper, the Citrograph, advertised a commuter book of tickets for 60 rides between Redlands and San Bernardino for $7.50, about 12 1/2 cents a ride. (1891)
When the San Bernardino Opera House was booking top New York stage plays, operas and vaudeville, the Santa Fe ran specials from Redlands. The train was also popular transportation to the beaches in the summertime.
Only two of the railroad station's still remain -- one in Patton, on Highland Avenue, The other, The Grecian style depot in Redlands on Orange Street, north of Redlands Blvd., built in 1909-1910.
As the railroads prospered, depots were enlarged and improved. At the original Redlands site in January 1888, regular service began from a boxcar office In July a wooden frame and board depot west of the present station was opened, and in 1909 the new and grand depot was begun. The floor is 311 feet long, and is 36 feet wide, and contains about 50,000 bricks. It was ample to accommodate the usual three car trains on the Loop Track as well as the typical excursion trains. The ticket office, baggage room and waiting room, with its fine fireplace, were in the depot.
The first station in East Highland was a Santa Fe red building on Church Street north of today's Fifth Street. When it burned to the ground a boxcar was brought in for a depot. The handsome new station was built from rocks brought from the nearby wash by ranchers. This rock depot was demolished in 1970.
The Highland Depot was on Palm Avenues. This building burned and a second one was built which was razed in 1960.
Railroad men called the Valley track "The Loop". For the orange growers it was often called "The Golden Horseshoe" and when citrus was at its height, nearly forty packinghouses were along the route.
In the Highland, East Highlands and West Highland area the following were some of the early houses in business: Highland: Allen Brothers, Highland Orange Growers Association, Earl Fruit Company, Pattee and Nye, California Citrus Union, Cleghorn Brothers' Independent, and the Stewart Company. In East Highlands there were Arthur Gregory, Stewart Fruit, Sherrod-Knight-Fruit-Smith, East Highlands Citrus Association, and the East Highlands Fruit association which became Gold Buckle Association. In West Highland were the West Highland Mutual Association and West Highland Citrus Association.
Packing houses has their own colorful labels that were glued to the ends of the wooden packing crates. These labels are now collectible items and many people are serious collectors.
Many early pageants and fairs led to what was to become the world famous "National Orange Show". The first was held March 6-11, in 1911. Many of the packinghouses and growers, serviced by "The loop", were part of the spectacular displays for years. The Orange Show was known as a showcase of new orange techniques, equipment and orange products. Citrus fairs demonstrated how interest could be attracted to an industry by and exposition.
Passenger service on the Kite Shaped Track was discontinued on March 2, 1938. Freight service was concluded in the early 70's. In the autumn of 1981 the tracks that had been there for almost one hundred years were torn up by the Santa Fe. Some of the dismantled tracks bore a stamp of the old Krupp iron plant in Germany, dated 1881. Many discarded Santa Fe tracks are used by rail firms in Mexico and the ties were sold to decorate gardens and patios of homes.
Information and materials used in preparing this pamphlet are credited to the following sources:
G.W. Beattie Memoirs
Brown and Boyd
San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, Vol.1
(Sanborn Maps from 1899)
Albert Canham, Joel Carter, James McCarthy
Development and Operation of the Citrus Industry in the San Bernardino, Redlands, East Highland area Jan. 1984
Century Annals of San Bernardino Co, 1904
Grains of Salt Redlands Daily Facts
"Where Have All The Oranges Gone" The Sun, May 24, 1981
The Kite Shaped Track
"THE KITE SHAPED TRACK" booklet of the Eastern end of the loop with color photos, maps etc. is available from Mark Landis. Contact him by his email: . I am sure you will enjoy his book.