Tehachapi Loop – Tehachapi, California - Atlas Obscura

Tehachapi Loop

Tehachapi, California

Where a railroad loops under or over itself to rise or drop more than 70 feet in a short distance.  

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Tehachapi Loop is an amazing feat of ingenuity to raise or lower a train a significant elevation in a very short distance. The project was completed in 1876, and has remained largely unchanged today. 

When the train is going downhill, or generally to the northwest, it begins a descending arc in a clockwise direction. As it goes over a tunnel, it starts a 0.73-mile loop, tightening its spiral to encircle a hillock. As it completes the loop, 77 feet lower, the train circles under itself—through the tunnel that a long train might still be passing over. If the train is going uphill, or to the southeast, the process is reversed, with the engine entering through the tunnel, making the loop counter-clockwise.

If you don’t see a train immediately, have a little patience. An average of 36 trains per day use the loop. 

Know Before You Go

From California highway 58, from Barstow to Bakersfield, turn southwest at the Woodford-Tehachapi Road near Keene. The overlook is 3.2 miles ahead and well marked. East of the parking area is a chained-off dirt road that goes north another 100 yards to a shaded picnic table where you can enjoy the view over lunch!

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