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Western Railroad Discussion > The Western Rust Belt

Date: 06/29/20 03:04
The Western Rust Belt
Author: ats90mph

Last week, we decided to go out for a socially distant outing. After spending lots of time on the Central Coast of California as a youngster, it had been about 20 years since I'd returned for any length of time. Craving a "Jalama Burger", off to north western Santa Barbara County California we went...

We also visit Surf, although this is the first time I had seen it with it's "new" passenger station, built in 2000. Also, I remember everything that happened to be of ferrous origin began corroding, almost on the spot. The ball on the rails had a coating of rust on them, even though a train had just ran over them about 90 minutes prior. Here are some more examples of the corrosive atmosphere at Surf...

1. Looking at some track charts was no help in determining the age of the plate girder bridge spans across the Santa Ynez River at Surf, the chart shows that the line was completed in 1896, which seems about correct for the southern (eastern if your old enough) masonry bridge abutment. However the appurtenances such as the concrete wing wall and walkways are clearly newer...

2. Once again, I have no Idea when the steel spans were placed here on the southern abutment (maybe other TO members can help with that), but here is the ocean side bearing loosing the battle with the sea air, with the already fallen chunks of steel that have already mostly oxidized...

3. Looking North at the southernmost span, and it's north bent. This is a six span bridge I believe, with one of the center spans that has had an extra bent added to support it..

Date: 06/29/20 03:13
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: ats90mph

4. When thinking about trespassing across the Santa Ynez bridge, apparently being on UP property shouldn't be your first concern...

Here are two from Jalama Beach, which is about halfway between Sudden and Conception on the railroad. Thankfully the "Jalama Burger" was just as good as I remember, despite the hoards of seagulls ready to grab it out of your hands (literally). Although I was impressed, they can catch a french fry in mid air...

5. Amtrak 11, crossing the Jalama Creek bridge heading south, with an unfortunate sun flare against one of the passenger cars...

6. The Jalama Campground, and the Coast Starlight heading toward Conception, and Santa Barbara, it's next stop...

Date: 06/29/20 06:15
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: Searat

Thanks for the photos from Surf and Jalama.  As an SP engineer back in the '70s and '80s, I made many trips over that bridge, well aware of the damage wrought by wind driven saltwater on the steel.  I can't help you on the original construction date, but I remember that it was extensively repaired in the mid '80s after being damaged when the river flooded. As I recall, there was a standing slow order over it for at least a year.  You might be able to find out more by contacting the San Luis Obispo RR Museum staff.

Date: 06/29/20 06:24
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: bmarti7

Thanks-great stuff!


Date: 06/29/20 07:33
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: Curt

I've lived on the Central Coast for over 30years, and was in Lompoc for about 10.  Surf is an interesting place - very desolate; usually only a few fishermen out there, and usually very windy.  I also camped several times at Jalama, which was always a fun spot.  And yes, the burgers are great!

Date: 06/29/20 08:14
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: railstiesballast

I think that the original bridge was a pair of steel through trusses.
Sometime before WWII they were replaced with the deck plate girders you see.  That could have been a washout but I'm unsure.
The river bottom is unstable and during the 1983 storm season the center pier shifted downstream but did not settle down lower very much.  We temporarily jacked the girders into alignment then the General Office contracted for design of the pier you see now, the two large diameter concrete columns that are drilled deep into the river bed.
Flood damage here occurs during big, long duration storms when the authorities at Lake Cachuma have to open their emergency discharge gates and add to the flow of the river.
I have heard tales of USAF security helicopters landing on the beach for them, they had a code worked out so the cook shack knew what and how many to have ready by the time they got there.
It is quite a hike from the tracks to the cook shack, I never heard of a train crew going there.
Inside the shack are some photos of the wreck of the USN destroyer squadron that ran aground early in the 20th century, at Point Arguello, about half way between Jalama and Surf.

Date: 06/29/20 09:56
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: Ritzville

Thanks for a very interesting series!


Date: 06/29/20 10:26
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: mile250

It looks like "railstiesballast" has the best info. Most of the original Coast Route bridges were strengthened during the "Harriman Era" of the 19teens/20s. I've heard rumors of potential bridge replacements, but so far as I know all the recent work has been south of Santa Barbara, where the traffic levels may justify more spending. 
Glen Matteson
SLORRM Archivist
(We may have info in 1920s - 1950s documents that still need to be gone through. I had high school interns helping with that task until Covid-19 came along.)

Date: 06/29/20 19:27
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: ChrisCampi

I'm I the only one wishing for pic's of the burger? (Not getting out much lately).

Date: 07/01/20 03:13
Re: The Western Rust Belt
Author: DNRY122

The destroyer disaster was on Sept. 8, 1923.  When I took the Coast Daylight from San Luis Obispo to LA in 1959, some of the wreckage was still visible.

For an extensive report of the tragedy:

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