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NewThe Ridge Route Book - Now Available for online purchaseNew


Discovery, Find, Beginnings, Early, Challenge, Breaking, Paving, Residents, Tourists, Kelly's, Conclusion

The challenge of early crossing by automobile

   From the southern end of the Ridge Route, the early motorist heading north from Los Angeles had to deal with the Newhall Pass also known as Fremont Pass. General Fremont gave it prominence when he took this route in 1847 to confront the Mexican forces in the San Fernando Valley. This is the southern approach to Beales's Cut as well as the divide which separates the Santa Susana Mountains on the West from the San Gabriel Mountains on the east.The early motorist would venture up the grade to the top of the pass which was described in a club tour book as a 30 percent grade!

    It was here at the top of the pass that General Beale, federal Surveyor-General of California and Nevada, and a capable engineer, in 1862 dispatched a crew of Chinese laborers to deepen an earlier 1858 cut established for the Butterfield stage."' Beale's laborers cut a 12-foot wide passage through 60 feet of sandstone to reduce the climb by 50 feet.

   This cut was also referred to as "The Narrows." In 1904, to further lessen the grade, men with picks and shovels once more laboriously deepened the cut and the roadbed was graded and oiled. The first automobile went over the pass in 1902 Beale's Cut was the only way over the pass until the Los Angeles County Road Department constructed the 435-foot Newhall tunnel just west of Beale's Cut, opening in October, 1910.

   The road through the tunnel was only two lanes, and loaded trucks often scraped the sloping walls inside unless directly in the center of the tunnel. This obviously created a traffic hazard. The tunnel was dark as well as low and narrow, 17.5 feet wide and 17 feet high at the center. For this reason the state awarded a contract in May, 1938 to "daylight" the tunnel."'  

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