The Sierra Nevada has always been a barrier to travel of all kinds: paths, wagon trails, roads, and railways cross the mountains in only a few places, and those few places present engineering challenges. No paved roads cross the mountains for well over 150 miles between Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park, and Walker Pass well south of Sequoia National Park (Sherman Pass has a paved former logging road that is inappropriate for heavy traffic). The only freeways exist at Donner Summit and Tehachapi Pass, which is where we found ourselves on our recent trip.
I go over Tehachapi Pass several times every year, and on this trip I was looking for some more "short cuts" so we took Woodford-Tehachapi Road which winds its way across a ridge high above the main freeway for a number of miles before rejoining Highway 58 at Keene. The road provided wonderful views of the Southern Sierra Nevada and Tehachapi Mountains (above and below).
busiest single-track mainlines in the world, averaging 40 trains a day. The rail line was constructed between 1874 and 1876, and as can be seen in the photos above, the engineering must have been a nightmare. The mostly granitic landscape is intricately eroded with steep slopes. Ultimately the tracks required 18 tunnels and 10 bridges. And still there was one spot that defied all normal efforts at maintaining the needed gradient. William Hood, the civil engineer who planned the route, hit on a unique solution. He built a 0.73 mile loop that gained the needed 77 feet. A 4,000 foot long train could pass over itself.
|The Tehachapi Loop. The lower tunnel is in the cut on the left side of the photo|