Bakersfield in Kern County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
Southern Paciﬁc Railroad Jail
Approximately 3,000 men labored on railroad construction up and over the Tehachapi Mountains in the 1870s.
It took over three years for the line to be completed through Kern County. As the railroad slowly progressed through the county, settlements sprang up along the track to supply the hungry and thirsty railroad workers. In the fall of 1875, Caliente, a rowdy temporary railhead, was described as “infested with a numerous horde of thieves and robbers, comprising the worst class of hoodlums in the country.”
The railroad sought to alleviate the crime problem with a jail, which could be put on a train car and moved where needed.
This Southern Pacific jail was one of the first buildings donated to the museum in the late 1940s. Marker is located next to the Bena Depot at Pioneer Village at the Kern County Museum.
Erected by Kern County Museum.
Marker series. This marker is included in the E Clampus Vitus, and the Southern Pacific Railroad marker series.
Location. 35° 23.536′ N, 119° 1.26′ W. Marker is in Bakersfield, California, in Kern County. Marker can be reached from Chester Avenue. Click for map. Marker is located near the Bena Depot at Pioneer Village
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Southern Pacific Engine #2914 (a few steps from this marker); Santa Fe Caboose #1323 (within shouting distance of this marker); Railroad Scale House and Telephone Booth (within shouting distance of this marker); Bena Depot (within shouting distance of this marker); Weller House (within shouting distance of this marker); Photographer’s Studio (within shouting distance of this marker); The Barn (within shouting distance of this marker); Drug Store (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Bakersfield.
1. The Railroad Jail
A most unusual accommodation, the Southern Pacific Portable Jail was built sometime in the 1870's, and was used to house prisoners being taken by rail to the county seat for judgment. It did its duty affixed to the top of a railroad flat-car as a sort of paddy wagon on rails, but when its time was up, the little calaboose was forced to do hard time at the Delano Railroad yard until sprung by the Kern County Museum and brought to Pioneer Village for its well-deserved
During its time of service the little jail rolled up and down the Southern Pacific tracks as the rail line to Caliente was being completed. On the southern side of the Tehachapi Mountains getting prisoners to their destination meant getting them as close to Caliente as possible, and then taking them by horseback up the Caliente-Bodfish Road to the County Courthouse at Havilah. All this was to change in 1884, when the Kern Valley Diggings began to play out and the county seat was transferred to Bakersfield; but even then, the little jail just kept right on rolling until around 1884.
— Submitted May 18, 2015.
Additional keywords. Jails
Categories. • Railroads & Streetcars •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California. This page has been viewed 1,242 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California. 7. submitted on , by Alan Price or Jayne Hotchkiss-Price of Caliente, California. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.