Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sunset Valley - Bakersfield to Taft

This railroad was built in 1901 and ran south out of Bakersfield, west through Maricopa, then northwest into Taft (originally named "Siding Number 2"). It was originally built to haul oil supplies to and haul oil away from the oil-rich area in the southwestern region of the San Joaquin Valley. Interestingly enough, a portion of the line was built atop the existing right-of-way of a former narrow-gauge line, the Buena Vista Reservoir Railroad.
In July, 1907, a 12-mile section of the tracks were washed out when the Buena Vista Irrigation Complex overcame its levee. The Sunset Railroad was consequently rebuilt along a new, higher corridor in just 34 days.

The last 20 miles or so of the line went dormant in 1976, and the track was finally removed in the first part of this century. Parts of the movie Bound For Glory were filmed along the abandoned section of line soon after it was abandoned. The eastern-most section of track, out of Bakersfield, is still in use by the San Joaquin Valley Railroad (SJVR), a subsidiary of RailAmerica.
There is some confusion about who owned the line in its later years. Some sources say it was a Southern Pacific/Union Pacific line and in fact the line connects to the Union Pacific in Bakersfield. However, at an abandoned railroad crossing in Taft (see pictures), the electrical cabinet is marked with Santa Fe markings. Any further information about this line will be greatly appreciated.

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