AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #40a -- Los Angeles, California to El Paso, Texas
Part 2 - Ontario to Palm Springs
Los Angeles to Ontario
Palm Springs to Yuma


38      ONTARIO station, 198 E. Emporia Street.  Elevation approximately 991. Ontario was established in 1882 by Canadians George, William, and Charles Chaffey, who named the town after their home province of Ontario, Canada, and established it as a “model” colony, so called because it offered the perfect balance between agriculture and the urban comforts of schools, churches, and commerce.

          Like the remainder of this area, the land was originally inhabited by the Tongva Indians.  After Mexico won its independence from Spain, much of this area was established as Rancho Cucamonga. After the town was established, it became a center for citrus production, and was originally considered a “dry” town, thus forbidding the manufacture and sale of alcohol here.

          The town was promoted as an agricultural town.  To impress visitors and potential settlers with the "abundance" of water in Ontario, a fountain was placed at the Southern Pacific Railway station, which was turned on when passenger trains were approaching and frugally turned off again after their departure. The original "Chaffey Fountain", a simple spigot surrounded by a ring of white stones, was later replaced by the more ornate "Frankish Fountain", an Art Nouveau creation now located outside the Ontario Museum of History and Art.

         Ontario was incorporated as a city in 1881, and the northern part of the city broke away in 1906 to form the new community of Upland. Ontario is the home of the Graber Olive House, the oldest operating olive packer in the Nation.  It is also the home of the Ontario Museum of History and Art, and also the home of Ontario International Airport (see MP 40 below), the 15th busiest airport in the Nation based on cargo carried. Ontario was also the home of rock & roll performer Frank Zappa., and was the former home of the Ontario Motor Speedway.

40-41 L.A./Ontario International Airport is visible on the right (eastbound), and is generally known as Ontario International Airport. The airport was originally known as Latimer Field.  This airport is the Southern California hub for UPS and Fed Ex services.

41-42 Pass through Guasti, which was originally known as South Cucamonga.  It is named after Secondo Guasti, the founder of the Italian Vineyard Company, which operated here in the 1890’s.

43      Across the freeway in the distance on the left (eastbound) you may be able to see the large Ontario Mills Outlet Mall, which opened on November 14,1996.  It is the largest one-level shopping mall in the Western United States.  The shopping center was built on land formerly occupied by the Ontario Motor Speedway.

44      Pass beneath Interstate 15, here known as the Corona Freeway.  Note the massive San Gabriel Mountains on the horizon to the left (eastbound).

47-48 Pass through South Fontana.  The main city of Fontana was founded before 1905 by Azariel Blanchard Miller, who initially called the community “Rosena,” which is a Spanish poetic word for “fountain.” In 1913, the name was changed to “Fontana,” which is the correct Spanish word for ”fountain.”  After World War II, Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser built a large steel mill here, approximately 2 miles north of the railroad line we are on.  Eventually the Kaiser Steel Mill closed, and the Fontana Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) was built on the former Kaiser site.

         We are still following Interstate 10, the San Bernardino Freeway, also known as part of the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway.

50.5   North of the railroad approximately 0.5 mile is the large Fontana Medical Center, a part of Kaiser Permanente Hospital, which is a large health care corporation in California.

          We are still traveling through the City of Fontana.

51-52 Pass through a large Union Pacific freight yard.

52-53 Pass through the unincorporated community of Bloomington, which was organized in 1887 by the Semi-Tropic Land and Water Company, which is now known as the West Valley Water District.  In 1907, the Riverside Portland Cement Company built a large plant near what is now Crestmore, located south of Bloomington.  The town is largely agricultural, and many citizens still keep animals. Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to incorporate the community, led by the Bloomington Incorporation Committee, but they have all failed primarily for various financial reasons.

          The Jurupa Mountains are visible to the south (right if eastbound). They are part of the Peninsular Ranges, and are composed of Jurassic to Cretaceous-aged (70-200 million years old) intrusive igneous rocks flanked by younger volcanic flow rocks.

53-54 Pass through Union Pacific’s large West Colton Yard.

55.5   Slover Mountain, adjacent to the railroad here on the right (eastbound) contains an active cement quarry.

56-57 Pass through Colton, named after David D. Colton, a former Brigadier General in the California State Militia, who later became the Vice President of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  The community was founded in 1875 and incorporated in 1887.  In the 1840’s,what is now Colton was part of two Mexican Ranchos, Rancho Jurupa and Rancho San Bernardino.

          The railroad line we cross over as we pass through Colton is the former Santa Fe Railway line which connects Los Angeles with Chicago. In 1882, the former Southern Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific) held the monopoly for rail service to Southern California, and when they heard of the plans to cross their line at grade by the California Southern Railroad (a part of the former A, T,& S.F), they attempted to block the construction of the crossing by parking freight trains at the location where the crossing was to be built, and by hiring armed guards led by famed Wild West lawman Virgil Earp, to watch the area.  Before any violence began, the then Governor of California deputized a posse from San Bernardino to go to Colton to enforce the State court order which would allow the CSRR to build their crossing. In recent times, however, on August 28,2013, the former grade crossing was replaced by the current fly-over track which is now in place here.

          In addition to Virgil Earp, his brother, the better known Frontier lawman Wyatt Earp, also lived in Colton.

58      Cross the normally dry river bed of the Santa Ana River.

58.5  Pass beneath Interstate 215, the Riverside Freeway.

60-61 Pass through Loma Linda, whose name in Spanish means “beautiful hill.” The city was incorporated in 1970,and was originally known as Mound City due to the downtown area’s location on a small rise. In the 1890’s, the Seventh Day Adventist Church built a sanatorium here, which eventually became Loma Linda University, which started as a Christian Health Sciences Institution of Higher Learning.  The first baboon-to-human heart transplant surgery took place at Loma Linda University.

          The Loma Linda campus is visible from the train on the right (eastbound) as we pass through town.

          Several years ago, an incident of ground water contamination took place near Loma Linda, when a Lockheed Aerospace plant was accused of improperly disposing of rocket fuel, which leached into the ground water aquifer near here.  None of the Loma Linda municipal wells were affected by the spill, however, and in 2010, Lockheed Martin installed a $19 million water treatment plant to remove perchlorate and trichloroethylene from the ground water.

          The hills south of the railroad (right if eastbound) are composed of Pliocene to Pleistocene-aged sandstones and shales.

62      Pass through the unincorporated community of Bryn Mawr, which is now a part of Loma Linda.  The words “bryn mawr” are Welsh for “big hill.” The community was established in 1895, and likely named after the city in Pennsylvania of the same name.

          We are entering the San Timoteo Canyon, which generally follows the alignment of the San Jacinto Fault.  This fault has produced several earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater since 1890, and like many faults in California, it is a right-lateral strike-slip fault.  We are traveling through the San Jacinto Mountains, which are included in the Peninsular Ranges Province.  The San Timoteo Canyon is cut into loosely-consolidated deposits of Pliocene and Pleistocene age.  Fossils of Pleistocene-aged mammals such as saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths, and prehistoric camels and horses, have been found in these deposits.

63-65 Pass through Redlands, which sis located primarily on top of the canyon walls of San Timoteo Canyon on the left here (eastbound). Redlands is known as the “Jewel of the Inland Empire.”  The name of the city refers to the color of its soil.  The area was originally inhabited by the Coahuilla people, and in 1819, Franciscan Friars from Mission San Gabriel Arcangel established a mission outpost here known as San Bernardino Asistencia (more properly known as San Bernardino de Sena Estancia), and by 1820, a drainage ditch known as the zanja, was constructed by the natives for the Franciscan Friars.  This ditch has been preserved, and now augments the City of Redlands’ water supply system.

          In 1842, the Lugo family bought the Rancho San Bernardino Mexican land grant, and this became the first fixed settler civilization in the area.  Then, with the arrival of the railroads in the 1880’s, a land boom was triggered here, and the area soon became a major citrus growing region, and several large citrus packing houses developed here.

          Redlands is the home of the University of Redlands, and is also the home of the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens, which was originally built for Mrs. Cornelia A. Hill. In 1905, J. Alfred Kimberly (co-founder of Kimberly-Clark) purchased this home for his family.  His daughter, Mary Kimberly Shirk, lived in the home until her death in 1979.  Redlands is also the home of the Lincoln Shrine Museum, the San Bernardino County Museum, and an Egyptian-themed amusement park known as Pharaoh’s Adventure Park.  Redlands was the home of folk singer Joan Baez and country singer Skip Ewing, as well as magician Harry Blackstone, Jr., and the 1960’s surf rock band the Tornadoes.

67     Enter RIVERSIDE County, the 4th most populous county in California.  The county is a large county, which was created from San Bernardino County and San Diego County on May 2,1893.  The county seat is Riverside.  The county was named after its county seat, which was named after its location on the Santa Ana River.

          Riverside County is the location of March Air Force Base, a major base for the Air Force Reserve and the California Air National Guard.  The county is also the birthplace of highway lane markings, introduced by Dr. June Mc Carroll in 1915.  The county was also a seat of activity for the Civil Rights Movement, which centered around the Mexican-American farmers of the Coachella Valley led by Cesar Chavez. The county also played a role in the establishment of Native American Gaming Enterprises, which led to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which opened the door for Native American groups to establish gambling casinos throughout the Nation.

67.5   Cross the San Jacinto Fault at approximately this location.

70.5   Pass through El Casco, a former station on the Southern Pacific Railroad, established prior to 1891.  The name of the community means “the skull.”

         The rocks in San Timoteo Canyon adjacent to the railroad are still sandstone, siltstone, and shale of Pliocene to Pleistocene age.

71.5  El Casco Lake is visible on the right.

72      Another small lake sis visible on the right (eastbound), which is surrounded by a small resort known as Fisherman’s Retreat.  The mountains south of the railroad are known as the Badlands, and consist of Pliocene- to Pleistocene-aged sedimentary rocks.

74      The development adjacent to the railroad on the left (eastbound) is a part of Cherry Valley, the Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon (development not shown on maps). We are now at the summit of the San Gorgonio Pass.

75.5   On the right is Highway 60, here known as the Moreno Valley Freeway.

77-78 We are now paralleling the Oak Valley Parkway on the left (eastbound – development not shown on maps).

78     On the left (eastbound) is Interstate 10 again, here known as the Redlands Freeway.

79-81 Pass through Beaumont, located near the summit of San Gorgonio Pass, which is a surface water divide separating the drainage between rivers and streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean from those flowing into the Gulf of California.  The name Beaumont means “beautiful mountain” in French, and was given to the community in 1887.  The Southern Pacific Railroad came through here in the 1860’s, and the railway station at the summit of the pass was named Edgar Station, after a physician from the railroad’s survey party. In 1875, the name of the town became Summit, and in 1884, it became San Gorgonio.

          With the nearby development of Palm Springs to the east, in the 1930’s, Beaumont established many “guest ranches” in the area, which offered lodging, horseback riding, tennis, archery, baseball, basketball, and even ballroom dancing and massage.  Since 2000, many people from Los Angeles and San Diego have flocked to several newer planned communities in the area, and the population grew faster than any other community in Riverside County.  In the next 20 to 25 years, Beaumont is anticipated to be the fastest-growing city in the State.

         As we pass through Beaumont, we are crossing the NNW-SSE trending Banning Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault.  The mountains south of the railroad, along the fault are the San Jacinto Mountains.

          We are passing through San Gorgono Pass for the next few miles.

84-87 Pass through Banning, which was named after stagecoach line owner Phineas Banning, who operated a stage line between Los Angeles and San Pedro in the 1850’s.  Originally, this region was inhabited by Coahuilla Indians, and it became part of the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in 1824, and later became part of Rancho San Gorgonio. The city was known as Moore City previously, named after Ransom B. Moore, who owned a large cattle ranch here and was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Commissioners.

          In 1890, the St. Boniface Indian Industrial School was opened here to provide vocational education to members of the several Native American tribes in the area.

         Banning was incorporated on February 6,1913, and, like its neighbor Beaumont (see MP 79 above), became a very rapidly-growing residential community. Between 1880 and 1989, Banning had the largest year-round population of any city between Redlands and the Colorado River.

         In 1940, Irving Berlin wrote the song “White Christmas” near here.

87      Banning Municipal Airport is visible on the right here (eastbound).  South of the railroad (right if eastbound), the Peninsular Ranges are visible, which In this area are composed of Mesozoic-aged (Jurassic to Cretaceous – 200 to 100 million years old) granitic igneous intrusive rocks.

89     Cross the usually-dry bed of the San Gorgonio River.  The San Jacinto Mountains are visible on the left (eastbound)

90     On the left (eastbound) are the Desert Hillls Premium Outlet Mall and the Cabazon Outlet Mall.

91      On the left (eastbound), the stunning 27-story Morongo Casino, Resort,& Spa is visible. This enterprise is owned and operated by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

91-92 Pass through Cabazon, which was named after the Coahuilla Indian word cabezón, which means “big head.”  The name of the town was given by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1870’s, named after a nearby Indian rancheria called Cabezone.  Apparently, the chief of the local Cahuilla band was named “Cabezon” because of his large head.  The community was originally named Jacinto.

          Cabazon was incorporated as a city in 1955. In 1972, after years of scandal, political instability, and stalled growth, the citizens of Cabazon voted to disincorporate the city. Interest in re-incorporating the area has been reported in the 2000’s.

92      On the left (eastbound), notice the two gigantic dinosaur sculptures at the Wheel Inn Diner, sculpted by Claude Bell.  One dinosaur is a large Apatosaurus sculpture named “Dinny,” and the other is a large Tyrannosaurus Rex sculpture named “Mr. Rex.”  These large dinosaur sculptures were featured in the 1985 movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”

          A fault crosses the landscape just north of Interstate 10 on the left (eastbound).

94.5   Note the wind farm located south of the railroad here (right if eastbound). Such wind farms are common in this part of southern California.

          The mountains to the south (right if eastbound) are composed of Jurassic- to Cretaceous-aged granitic igneous rocks.

96     The normally dry river bed of the San Gorgonio River is now adjacent to the railroad on the right (eastbound). We are again crossing a fault here.

98.5   We are now at the crest of San Gorgonio Pass as we pass beneath Highway 111.

100    Pass the former Palm Springs Railway station.  We are now entering the hot, dry, interior-draining Coachella Valley, which is located on the border of the Peninsular Ranges and the Salton Trough Section of the Basin & Range physiographic province, also known as the Colorado Desert.  The San Jacinto Mountains are still visible on the right (eastbound), and the Little San Bernardino Mountains are visible of the left.

101    Cross the sandy dry river bed of the Whitewater River.  The rocks visible in the prominent hill on the right (eastbound), Windy Point, are igneous and metavolcanic rocks of Jurassic to Cretaceous age.  Windy Point marks the eastern end of the San Jacinto Mountains.

          Between this point and the Arizona border, the topography near the railroad will change dramatically to a classic desert landscape.  Note the wind farm on the left (eastbound).  We are following the sandy Whitewater River bed on the right here.

106    PALM SPRINGS station, North Indian Canyon Drive.  Elevation approximately 687.  This is an unstaffed station which serves the Palm Springs area. Downtown Palm Springs is located approximately 7 miles south of the AMTRAK station.  This is one of AMTRAK’s newer stations, and was built in 1999.  Prior to construction of this station, the Palm Springs area stop for AMTRAK’s Sunset Ltd was at Indio (see MP 128 below).  Note the large wind farm adjacent to the station.

         The resort town of Palm Springs was named after the native palm trees, but was originally known as Palmetto Springs, then later it was called Agua Caliente, after a hot spring in the area which was well known by the Coahuilla Indians, who originally inhabited the area.  In the 1900’s, Palm Springs was started to attract a wide variety of tourists, due to its average of 350 days per year of sunshine and its warm dry Mediterranean climate.  In the 1930’s, celebrities from Hollywood began coming to the area and building large secluded homes in the canyons near the city.  After World War II began, the airfield here was used for military purposes, and the El Mirador Hotel was bought by the U.S. Government from its original owner Warren Phinney, and it was converted to Torney General Hospital.  During the War, General Patton's Desert Training Center encompassed the entire Palm Springs region, with its headquarters in Camp Young at the Chiriaco Summit, and an equipment depot maintained by the 66th Ordnance in present day Palm Desert.

         After World War II, several new styles of architecture were introduced to the Palm Springs area, such as steel homes with prefabricated panels, homes which could be rotated to avoid the sun’s glare, and various designs of mostly glass houses.

         Today, tourism is a major factor in the city's economy, with 1.6 million visitors in 2011.  The city has over 130 hotels and resorts, numerous bed and breakfasts, over 100 restaurants and dining spots, and more than 100 golf courses.  The city is home of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, Knott’s Soak City Water Park, Moorten Botanical Garden, the Palm Springs Desert Museum, and the Palm Springs Tramway, which whisks guests to the top of San Jacinto Peak.  Also in town is the Cornelia White House, which was built of railroad ties in 1893 and used as a guest house for the town’s first hotel.  Palm Springs covers approximately 94 square miles, and is the largest city by area in Riverside County.  In addition, it has been a popular spring break location since the 1950’s.

                                                                                               Garnet Hill, on the left (eastbound), is composed of Pliocene-aged sandstone, shale, and conglomerate.  Northeast of the railroad (left if eastbound) is the San Andreas Fault, which we will be following for several miles now.  Approximately 8 miles northwest of here, at the upper end of Coachella Valley, was the epicenter of the July 1986 M5.9 North Palm Springs earthquake.  Another branch of the San Andreas Fault is lcoat6ed just south of the railroad (right if eastbound).