Bakersfield & Ventura Locomotive Number 1, a Pitttsburg 2-6-0, shown here lettered for the successor Ventura County Railway. Photo by H.M. Kelso; date unknown.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

San Joaquin Southwestern – A John Armstrong Track Plan

The great model railroad track plan designer, John Armstrong, designed a layout to fit a concept similar to the Bakersfield & Ventura. It appears in a collection called 20 Custom Designed Track Plans. These were all plans that Armstrong developed for specific clients – so perhaps this one actually got built. I would guess that the client was at least somewhat familiar with the B&V and perhaps some other railroad activity in Ventura County.

The San Joaquin & Southwestern is described as a join venture between the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific (as the Sunset Railway between Bakersfield and Taft was in real life). According to Armstrong’s article, the Santa Fe routed passenger traffic to the Central Valley and Northern California over the SV&S rather than the longer way around through Cajon Pass.

The map below shows the approximate route of the SJ&S in green.

Some interesting points:

1) The main north-south route along Matilija Creek through Wheeler Springs follows the route of State Highway 33. SP reportedly considered building a line on this same route the same time that the promoters of the B&V were trying to raise funds. My guess is that the SP was never very serious about building this line, but was trying to discourage investment in a potential rival.

2) The branch through Ojai to Santa Paula (where it would connect with the SP) also has a basis in history. According to an article by David Myrick in the Ventura County Historical Society Quarterly, the Santa Fe did survey work in the 1880s for a line from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara that would have run through Santa Paula, north then west to Ojai (along the approximate route of today’s Highway 150), then west through Casitas Pass to Santa Barbara. The approximate route is marked on the map in red.

3) The Bakersfield & Ventura did buy or at least option rights of way from the Oxnard area, through the Conejo Valley to Los Angeles, roughly along today’s 101 Freeway.

4) Maguire says B&V officials reportedly met with May Rindge, who owned a private railroad line, the Hueneme, Malibu and Port Los Angeles, on her Rancho Malibu. Rindge built the railroad specifically to block the SP, which was seeking to use the right of eminent domain to seize a right of way across her property, which would allow it to build a line from Oxnard to Santa Monica. Under the law at the time, SP couldn’t use eminent domain to force through a line where a railroad already existed. It’s not clear why, or event if, the B&V thought Rindge would be more accommodating to them, but at any rate, nothing ever came of this proposal. But what Armstrong calls the Port Dume branch follows the very conjectural connection of the B&V with the HM&PLA.

The Armstrong book is apparently out of print, but may be available as used from Amazon or other online vendors.


Armstrong, John. 20 Custom Designed Track Plans. Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1994.

Maguire, Joseph F. “The Ventura County Railway,” Ventura County Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, May 1961.

Myrick, David. "Ventura County Railroads: A Centennial History, Part 2." Ventura County Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2 & 3, Winter-Spring 1988

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