The Visalia Electric Railroad
Southern Pacific's Orange Grove Route
From its beginnings in 1904 until abandonment of most trackage in 1992, the Visalia Electric Railroad had a fascinating history. Built as an electric line which pioneered 15-cycle alternating current in the United States, it operated orange interurban cars along its 30-mile route until 1924. Serving the Sierra Nevada foothill region of eastern Tulare County, the VE became a local fixture as towns and agriculture developed.
From the outset in 1904, the Visalia Electric Railroad had all its stock owned by the Southern Pacific. Primarily serving the growing areas east of Exeter, branches extended eastward toward Sequoia National Park, and southward to Strathmore. After passenger service ended in 1924, electric freight operations continued until 1944. Thereafter, diesels provided service, from GE 44-tonners to handed-down SP Alco and EMD switchers. Loss of perishable traffic finally doomed the line, and the last significant trackage was abandoned in 1992.
In its heyday, the VE carried out a variety of operations, all described in this volume, from passenger excursions and commuting, to electric and gas-electric freight service to numerous packing sheds along the line. Though owned by Southern Pacific, many aspects of operations were locally controlled until 1964. Ownership of locomotives, motor cars, cabooses, and other rolling stock is all presented here, in photographs and rosters. Some 249 photographs, most previously unpublished, and 15 maps, enrich the book.
Phil Kauke has worked many years assembling information and collecting photographs to create this history. That it is now appearing will gratify not only electric traction fans, but also enthusiasts of the Southern Pacific, as this small but vital part of the system was quite interesting in its own right. Every rail-fan who ever saw a photograph of a 44-ton locomotive lettered "Visalia Electric" understands that interest.
Also available: full reviews of the book, and the Table of Contents of the book.
Particulars: The Visalia Electric Railroad:
Southern Pacific's Orange Grove Route, by Phillips C. Kauke
List price: $55 Size: 168 pages, 8.5" x 11"; 240 photos; 21 maps and drawings, rosters, bibliography, index
ISBN: 1-930013-15-9 Publication date: October 15, 2004
Distribution: Western Star Distributors, Lompoc, CA; or direct from publisher.