Mojave, Calif., was founded by the Southern Pacific Railroad when its rails arrived here on August 8, 1876, on their trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles. SP laid out the town in a format and street names still in use after 135 years.
The railroad established a yard in Mojave and made it a division point. In subsequent years tracks were laid to Lone Pine that still connect the main line with the busy Trona Railway on the Jawbone Branch, and to the CalPortland Cement company west of Mojave on the Oak Creek Branch.
Tracks laid in 1942 for a Marine Corps Air Station on Mojave’s east side are now used by UP Distribution Services (UPDS) to transload wind turbine components from rail cars to trucks on what is now the Mojave Air and Space Port. This operation and deliveries to Progress Rail Services on the airport play a vital role in the economy of our community and region. The East Kern Airport District, which manages the airport, has applied for a federal grant to upgrade rails on the nation’s first commercial spaceport to current standards.
During World War II, several local women worked for SP maintaining locomotives in the railroad’s roundhouse, and for many years the depot housed a Harvey House to feed passengers from SP and Santa Fe passenger trains. Several sturdy homes built by SP to house its employees still exist on the west side of the railroad yard.
The Southern Pacific merged with Union Pacific in 1996.