Growing up near an orange packing plant, one could often hear the whistle and low rumble of a freight train passing by late at
night, transporting boxcars of fruit to destinations far and wide.
That romantic sound has been replaced by the air horns of commuter trains, but at one time the railroads were the lifeline of the farmers and ranchers selling their products to the world at large.
The coming of the railroad to Orange County wasn’t an easy task, however. It was a classic 19th century power struggle
between a seemingly omnipotent railroad company and a stubborn ranch family.
The Southern Pacific Railroad was the first line to enter the farm fields and towns that would become Orange County. It
arrived at Anaheim in 1874, linking the area to Los Angeles, San Francisco and the recently completed transcontinental railroad, allowing farmers to sell their oranges, walnuts and other produce to markets around the country.
through part of the 110,000 acre Irvine Ranch. However, James Irvine, Sr., owner of the ranch that stretched from the Santa
Ana Mountains to the ocean, refused to allow the tracks on his land.
from the East Coast. Both were young men looking to make their way in the world.
winning a small sum, and remembered it the rest of his life. Incredibly, the two would meet only once again, as middle age men –
one a successful cattle rancher, the other heading a powerful railroad company.
boundaries were still under federal domain.
the case in 1876. A ruling in his favor would give Huntington large chunks of coastal land on each side of the tracks for
intact. It was one of the few times when the political power of a railroad company did not win the day in the 1800’s.
to take much of Southern Pacific’s business from its Orange County line.
Before the Santa Fe’s arrival, the Southern Pacific was reportedly taking advantage of its railroad monopoly and price gouging its customers in Orange County.
Many county residents protested the high rates, calling the railroad monopoly “the Octopus” with its “cold, steely tentacles.”
visitors and prospective home buyers
to the county. Southern Pacific saw
the to secure the line to San Diego
as the county’s population boomed.
the era, Southern Pacific planned to simply lay tracks on the Irvine land without the ranch family’s permission.
lay as much track as possible across Irvine property while the courts were closed.
crossed Irvine property. They never had to use their guns – the track layers quickly abandoned their chore.
to nowhere remained in place until 1910.
the railroad at the Irvine’s discretion, Santa Fe got its right of way to construct a line to San Diego.
Colton, Beaumont and Yuma, Arizona, finally crossing into the city via El Centro – and that didn’t happen until the 1930’s.