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Bakersfield in Kern County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

Southern Pacific Railroad Jail

 
 
Southern Pacific Railroad Jail Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, November 27, 2009
1. Southern Pacific Railroad Jail Marker
Inscription.  
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.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the E Clampus Vitus
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, and the Southern Pacific Railroad series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1875.
 
Location. 35° 23.536′ N, 119° 1.26′ W. Marker is in Bakersfield, California, in Kern County. Marker can be reached from Chester Avenue. Marker is located near the Bena Depot at Pioneer Village at the Kern County Museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3801 Chester Avenue, Bakersfield CA 93301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
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). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bakersfield.
 
Additional commentary.
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
Southern Pacific Railroad Jail and Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, November 27, 2009
2. Southern Pacific Railroad Jail and Marker
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 retirement.
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
 
Railroad Jail and Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, November 27, 2009
3. Railroad Jail and Marker
Interior of the Jail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, November 27, 2009
4. Interior of the Jail
Photos Displayed on Marker image. Click for full size.
5. Photos Displayed on Marker
Upper Photo:
San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad (later the Santa Fe Railroad) workers build a bridge over the Kern River, circa 1898.

Lower Photo:
Workers repair Tunnel 5 on the Bakersfield to Tehachapi route after a collapse in 1920.
Photos Displayed on Marker image. Click for full size.
6. Photos Displayed on Marker
Upper Photo:
Bakersfield residents celebrate the arrival of the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad in 1898.

Lower Photo:
The railroad depot located in Caliente, circa 1910
E Clampus Vitus Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Alan Price - ECV Chapter 1866
7. E Clampus Vitus Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on December 18, 2009, by Syd Whittle of Mesa, Arizona. This page has been viewed 1,706 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on December 18, 2009, by Syd Whittle of Mesa, Arizona.   7. submitted on May 18, 2015, by Alan Price or Jayne Hotchkiss-Price of Caliente, California.

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Apr. 19, 2024