The following article appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on September 22, 2014.
Pomona was willing suitor for Santa Fe’s railroad proposal – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
By Joe Blackstock
September 22, 2014
Pomona found itself in the midst of two approaching armies in early 1887.
Determined companies of men and machines marched every day, getting ever closer to a confrontation with the good folks of Pomona.
But as far as Pomona was concerned, the visitors couldn’t get here fast enough.
These “armies,” coming from the west and east, were hardly anything to be feared, because in their wake brought great prosperity and wealth.
In January 1887, builders of the first transcontinental railroad to reach Los Angeles — the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe — were 35 miles apart, with one crew of workers furiously grading and putting down rails west from San Bernardino and another moving east from Pasadena.
But before they could meet, the Santa Fe needed to tie up a loose end — or rather middle. Rail officials knew where they wanted the route to go but they hadn’t really told anybody or, more importantly, acquired the land. The railroads of those days were ever arrogant in their actions, knowing that communities and individual landowners drooled at the prospect of the train coming their way and would do almost anything they wanted.
It was obvious that if you didn’t agree with what the railroad wanted, it would just go around you.
The January 27 edition of the weekly Pomona Progress reported that Ontario officials objected to the Santa Fe planning its route along Eighth Street in that city. The discussion was probably very brief — Santa Fe will win out.
Pomona folks excitedly speculated on when it would be approached by the Santa Fe and which route would be proposed. The January columns of the weekly Pomona Progress were full of train rumors and speculation.
The big day — actually two — finally arrived when an engineer and attorney from Santa Fe appeared in Pomona ready to acquire the rights-of-way.
The Progress said that on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28 and 29, 20 local landowners sat down with the Santa Fe representatives in the Pomona courtroom of Judge Frank Fiery on Second Street. (However, most history books say it happened on Feb. 3)
The Progress of Feb. 3 reported a Santa Fe assistant engineer laid out the railroad’s wishes to the assembled Pomonans: The route would be “the south line of the (Charles) Loop place, due west to the old San Bernardino stage road and following the latter to Mud Springs (the original name of San Dimas.).
That was simple enough but the final details were certainly not arrived at easily. The actual location of the Pomona station, about 2 ½ miles north of downtown, was the real sticking point — everyone wanted the station near their ranch for the ease of shipping their goods to market. The conference lasted all day Friday without much resolution, but upon returning the next day an agreement was reached.
“In the evening the deeds were signed by A.R. Meserve, E.D. Rice and Dr. (George) Parsons giving 10 acres to the railroad company for depot purposes,” reported the Progress.
There were still a few problems requiring some additional talks between the three men and the railroads but that was finally cleared up on Feb. 23. That same day, the railroad crews started grading through what today is Claremont, north Pomona and La Verne, reported the Progress. The first trains over the new route arrived in Los Angeles on May 31, 1887.
With the railroad also arrived an army of land developers and speculators who quickly recognized the value of the land now so accessible by rail. Everywhere you looked, new towns sprouted overnight, bringing us such places as Claremont, La Verne (known as Lordsburg), San Dimas and Glendora.
For the next century, that original route was traveled by tens of thousands of Santa Fe passenger and freight trains, and today east of Claremont it carries the commuters on San Bernardino-Los Angeles Metrolink trains.
And the Santa Fe route west of Claremont? Well, that’s the scene of another railroad-building operation. The Metro Gold Line light rail project is moving ever closer and very slowly in hopes of eventually joining Los Angeles and Claremont along the 1887 route.