September 7, 2013 —
The Southern Pacific Railroad bridge over Piru Creek is located on the east side of Piru behind Warring Park. The steel through-truss, two-span bridge was built in 1902 by J.P. Morgan's American Bridge Co. of New York. It's of the Pratt type, with diagonals sloping downward toward the center. Each span is 160 feet, for a total of 320 feet.
Trains first came through the area in 1887 when the Saugus spur line to Ventura was completed. Traffic increased after December 1900 when the last spike of the newly completed SPRR Coast Line was driven at Gaviota. It was now the main line from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
It didn't last. The completion of the 7,369-foot Santa Susana tunnel in 1904 facilitated a more direct route from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Splitting off at Montalvo, it ran through Oxnard and Moorpark to the San Fernando Valley, bypassing the old Saugus spur, which was relegated to branch line status (SPRR Santa Paula Branch Line).
So this new bridge went in during that narrow window of heightened activity.
Southern Pacific passenger trains stopped at the Piru Station until 1938. Through-service ended in 1953.
Trucks were hauling most of the Santa Clara River Valley's produce when the interstate highway system was completed in the 1960s. In 1979, when heavy rains washed out big sections of track between Saugus and Piru, the Southern Pacific decided not to replace them. In 1984 the SPRR abandoned the line between Saugus and Piru, most of which meandered through property owned by The Newhall Land and Farming Co.
With development plans on the drawing board — and knowing freight trains and new-home communities wouldn't really mesh — Newhall Land purchased the right-of-way between Saugus and Rancho Camulos and removed the remaining track except for a short stretch near Castaic Junction, which it leased in 1985 to Short Line Enterprises, a movie train company. Five years later, with plans of a new commercial center on that section, Newhall Land terminated the lease and Short Line went looking for a new home. It found one in a community that received a ton of FEMA money to do a complete downtown makeover after the 1994 Northridge earthquake — a place where the old, abandoned tracks hadn't been removed.
In 1996, Short Line would morph into the Fillmore & Western Railway Company. In that year, the Ventura County Transportation Commision purhased the Santa Paula Branch Line from Montalvo to the Ventura/Los Angeles County Line and leased the portion with existing track — from the Coast mainline in Montalvo to the eastern edge of the community of Piru — to Fillmore & Western.
East of Piru, as stated, the track was removed, and there is a segment of right of way that was used by Caltrans to widen Highway 126. However, there is a written agreement requiring Caltrans to provide VCTC
with alternative right-of-way. Several long-range studies have looked into reconnecting the Branch Line in Santa Clarita, but as of 2013, there are no existing agreements to do so.
According to a representative, VCTC purchased the Branch Line with the intention of preserving the right-of-way for future rail use and for use as a recreational trail.