Stenner Creek Trestle

The longest railway bridge on the Daylight is the 930 foot long, Stenner Creek Trestle, built in 1894. Just north of San Luis Obispo, this bridge is at the southern end of the famous Horseshoe Curve that climbs up north to Cuesta Grade.

The 17 miles of railway line between Santa Margarita and San Luis Obispo is said to be the most expensive work undertaken on the Coast Line. Engineers had to get over the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains and the construction price was said to be $3 million or $300,000 a mile. Tunnels and trestles had to be built and in 1893, 1,200 men were working on the line.

I wanted to see and sketch this trestle and see parts of the Horseshoe Curve, without getting too close to the Men’s Colony near the Horseshoe Curve (this is not an art colony). Being a planner, I am a teacher after all, I did a quick map of the location in my notebook based on google maps. This really helped me visualize the location before I headed down to the Central Coast.

Cuesta notes

San Luis Obispo is an interesting location on the Coast Starlight because it is the point on the line when both trains pass each other. Train 11 arrives at SLO from Seattle at 3:20 PM and Train 14, from Los Angeles, comes in shortly afterwards at 3:35. So I was able to see two trains cross over the Stenner Creek Trestle within half an hour!

A southbound Coast Starlight, train number 11, with an eight car consist crosses the Stenner Creek Trestle, 80 feet over Stenner Creek. This AMTRAK passenger train started its journey in Seattle at 9:00 AM the previous day and was running about ten minutes late.

An archival photograph taken in 1939, from roughly the same spot, of a Coast Daylight with a helper coming down from Cuesta Grade and crossing Stenner Creek Trestle. The scene after 70 year remains the same, except for the difference in motive power. (Union Pacific Museum Collection: SP photos)

This is the sort of railroad touchstone that remains timeless and is still in use today. I could almost hear the Daylight crossing this trestle.

A Seattle-bound Coast Starlight enters the timeless trestle. I would be on the same Coast Starlight the following day. Read more about it in another post.

The number 14 Coast Daylight climbing up above the Horseshoe Grade toward Cuesta Summit. This train left Los Angles’ Union Station at 10:10 AM. The curve is so sharp that if you are in the middle of the train you can see the front and end of the train. You just have turn your head from left to right.

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