Beale's Cut

Forum for general car talk, upcoming events, posting photos, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Steve Simmons
Site Admin
Posts: 3874
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:45 pm
Vehicles Owned: .
1925 Ford Model T
1939 Ford V8 Pickup
1946 John Deere AN
1949 MG TC
1958 MGA Roadster
1965 MGB
1967 MGB GT (UK-Spec)
1969 MGC GTS
Location: Co-Nay-Ho Valley
Contact:

Beale's Cut

Post by Steve Simmons » Sun May 06, 2012 11:22 am

Beale's Cut is a local landmark that I have always wanted to see up close but was never able to get to. It is difficult to find today but it does still exist if you know where to go. Yesterday I went on a search to find it and find it I did. First a bit of history, with some car content included...

Just north of L.A. is Newhall Pass, which links the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. The original route was difficult to traverse, so in 1853 Henry Clay Wiley (Wiley Canyon Road is named for him) installed a windlass at the summit to help pull wagons with heavy loads to the top.

In 1854, Phineas Banning cut a narrow slot through the summit of the mountain. It was 30-feet deep and greatly eased the task of traveling over the ridge. The approach was very steep and difficult even with this cut. In the following decades, several people would set up businesses to help pull loads over the top with teams of oxen.

In 1861 President Lincoln appointed Edward Beale as Surveyor General of California and Nevada. One of his tasks became to deepen the cut through Fremont Pass (later renamed Newhall Pass) to 90-feet. What a sight this must have been, a cut nary 20 feet wide through the top of a mountain! Beale renamed the cut after himself and it remained in use as a primary route of travel from the L.A. area to the Santa Clarita Valley, Fort Tejon, Bakersfield and beyond.

As the next closest route was through the desert, there was little choice for travelers between these destinations and Beale knew this when he set up a toll booth and collected fees for the next two decades! The cut was difficult to maintain because of erosion and the rough terrain of the area.

In 1902 an Autocar became the first automobile to make the ascent. It was driven by an auto dealer named Ralph Hamlin, who was accompanied by the car's new owner. Like most cars of the era the fuel system was gravity-fed, and the approach to the cut was so steep that the engine could not receive any fuel. So, they made the climb in reverse gear to ensure continuous fuel delivery. As strange as this seems today, it was common practice on steep grades in those days. The ascent was not accomplished quickly, and each time the car would stall, the two men would jump out and chock the wheels with rocks to prevent the Autocar from rolling back down the hill. Beale's Cut would become a popular testing ground for early automobiles, some in later years publicizing how "easily" their cars could make the ascent.

Two years later the route was seeing many more autos making the journey so the approach to the cut was improved to reduce the grade slightly. This was only delaying the inevitable and by 1907 a new route was planned by way of a tunnel through an adjacent hill. This tunnel was completed in 1910 and was named the Newhall Tunnel. It was only 17-feet wide and tall, so it was a bit tight for large trucks to get through. Eventually the entire mountain was cut away to make what is now the Newhall Pass along Sierra Highway.

In the 1990's, a severe storm caused a partial collapse of the cut, filling 60-feet of it with dirt and debris. What remains now is about 30-feet, which is about the same depth as the original cut made by Banning. It is no longer passable by automobile however, as the approach from the South is completely eroded and overgrown.

A bit later I'll post Part II of this entry, showing my visit to the cut yesterday. For now enjoy these historical images. Comments are posted with each photo...
fremont.jpg
A photo I believe shows the original 30-foot cut
cut1872n.jpg
The cut in 1872, North side (heading toward Los Angeles)
cut1872s.jpg
The cut in 1872, South side (heading away from Los Angeles)
buick.jpg
A Buick making a run up the grade, reported in Motor Way Magazine, 1906.
simplex.jpg
A 1909 Simplex advertisement
cut1937.jpg
Cal Trans photo of a car passing through the cut in 1937
cut1937.jpg (180.99 KiB) Viewed 4072 times
tunnel1919.jpg
Newhall Tunnel in 1919
early.jpg
Newhall Tunnel in the 1920's
early.jpg (61.92 KiB) Viewed 4072 times
traffic.jpg
Sunday traffic in Newhall Tunnel, 1920.
traffic.jpg (41.77 KiB) Viewed 4072 times
newhallgrade.jpg
A view of the new road (now Sierra Highway) alongside the old road (now gone) in 1914.
newhallgrade.jpg (43.22 KiB) Viewed 4072 times
1937.jpg
A view of Beale's Cut in 1937 from Sierra Highway.
plans.jpg
Lines showing where the Newhall Pass would be carved out to what we have today along Sierra Highway.

User avatar
whitebuffalo
Core Member
Posts: 392
Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:57 am
Vehicles Owned: 1970 Morris Minor Pickup (Kiwi)
1971 Leyland Mini Clubman Van (Leyla)
1965 Sunbeam Imp (Lulu)
1966 Sunbeam Imp (Lucy)
Location: Lancaster, Ca
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by whitebuffalo » Sun May 06, 2012 2:40 pm

I really do like the history of these places, even when I have been driving by or through the areas and never know how it was. Can't imagine driving a car through such rough terrain.

User avatar
gorms68
Core Member
Posts: 662
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 8:10 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1929 Chandler model 65
1966 MGB roadster
1968 Mustang Dlx coupe
1970 BMW 1600
Location: Monrovia

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by gorms68 » Sun May 06, 2012 7:18 pm

Can't wait to see what you have found. Will have to make a trip up there soon to see it first hand. Thanks for doing the investigation.
Chris Gorman

User avatar
Steve Simmons
Site Admin
Posts: 3874
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:45 pm
Vehicles Owned: .
1925 Ford Model T
1939 Ford V8 Pickup
1946 John Deere AN
1949 MG TC
1958 MGA Roadster
1965 MGB
1967 MGB GT (UK-Spec)
1969 MGC GTS
Location: Co-Nay-Ho Valley
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Steve Simmons » Sun May 06, 2012 8:38 pm

Part II

So these photos came from a "friend" who wasn't afraid to trespass on private property to reach Beale's Cut. After finally locating the cut itself, he set off in search of a better way to reach it than through the overgrowth at the bottom of the canyon. He found a way to get to the ridge adjacent to it, but the other side was too steep to descend. Knowing approximately where the cut should exit on the North side, he found a hole in a chain link fence and climbed through. I think he said he passed at least three large "Keep Out - Private Property" signs as he walked around the ridge and up the hill behind the cut. At last, there he was, standing before Beale's Cut as he had always wanted to.

Here is a photo of the North side of the cut, looking through toward Los Angeles.
1.jpg
Beale's Cut
1.jpg (97.31 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
Part way in were these marks left from the original work done in 1854. You can see where picks or stakes were driven into the rock to break it away. This work was all done by hand. I can't imagine how many man hours of back-breaking labor went into the first 30-feet, let alone the additional 60-feet later on!
2.jpg
Beale's Cut
2.jpg (121.72 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
Walking through the cut toward the South...
3.jpg
Beale's Cut
3.jpg (121.51 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
Exiting the South side of the cut...
4.jpg
Beale's Cut
4.jpg (130.82 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
Looking back to the North. The grade on that side was much more gentle...
5.jpg
Beale's Cut
5.jpg (109.19 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
As I understand it, these notches were made by Beale to support timbers across the cut, as some sort of toll booth roof. They would have been over 60 feet in the air before the partial collapse in the 1990's. They are now at chest level.
6.jpg
Beale's Cut
6.jpg (108.39 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
So there you have it, Beale's Cut then and now. :)

User avatar
gorms68
Core Member
Posts: 662
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 8:10 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1929 Chandler model 65
1966 MGB roadster
1968 Mustang Dlx coupe
1970 BMW 1600
Location: Monrovia

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by gorms68 » Mon May 07, 2012 1:33 pm

I guess the fact that it is so hard to find and on private property is what has kept this place so intact. Thanks for sharing the pictures and giving us a slice of some real vintage motoring history!
Chris Gorman

User avatar
Larry Kluss
Veteran Member
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2007 12:28 pm
Vehicles Owned: -
1967 MGB (Works tribute)
1968 E-type Jaguar FHC
1974 Chevy Nova SS (faux)
2000 Ford Ranger XLT
2008 Jaguar XJ L
Location: Conejo Valley

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Larry Kluss » Mon May 07, 2012 4:36 pm

Great history lesson, Steve. I love that kind of stuff. It's amazing the lengths people went to back in the day to make a buck.

Back in '91 I drove the old ridge route road. Not the maintained part from Castaic to Templin Hwy, but north from there to Hwy 138...at night! It's 21 miles long. You can see it here:
http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=8N04% ... 1&t=m&z=11

We were checking out a car rally (helping to proof and time the route) and the Rallymaster had the bright idea to use that part of the road. We ultimately over-ruled him because even back then, the road was paved but with countless pot-holes and broken pavement, along with dirt and debris covering maybe a quarter of the surface.

I must admit, it was a lot of fun blasting over that historic road. I wonder if it's still passable?

User avatar
tannyo
Core Member
Posts: 909
Joined: Wed May 20, 2009 1:58 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1967 MGB GT
Location: North Hollywood, CA
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by tannyo » Mon May 07, 2012 7:44 pm

Larry Kluss wrote:Great history lesson, Steve. I love that kind of stuff. It's amazing the lengths people went to back in the day to make a buck.

Back in '91 I drove the old ridge route road. Not the maintained part from Castaic to Templin Hwy, but north from there to Hwy 138...at night! It's 21 miles long. You can see it here:
http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=8N04% ... 1&t=m&z=11

We were checking out a car rally (helping to proof and time the route) and the Rallymaster had the bright idea to use that part of the road. We ultimately over-ruled him because even back then, the road was paved but with countless pot-holes and broken pavement, along with dirt and debris covering maybe a quarter of the surface.

I must admit, it was a lot of fun blasting over that historic road. I wonder if it's still passable?
Part of the old ridge route is maintained by the county. It was part of this year's Old Country Tour. It's a very nice road to drive and fairly well maintained.

Robb
Active Member
Posts: 66
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:23 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1912 EMF Semi-Racer
1932 Wolseley Hornet Special
2009 Mini
Location: Monrovia, California, USA
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Robb » Tue May 08, 2012 8:58 am

Steve,

The Horeseless Carriage Club of Southern California toured a lower portion of the Ridge Route a while back. It must have been before 1999, when I got my first digital camera, so the photos are a bit crappy. I tried to find a modern map with the route included to try and recall our route, but couldn't. I'm pretty sure that we drove through the Newhall Pass, but don't remember Beale's cut being mentioned.

As you can see, the rough road was a bit much for the home made spindles on the Hosterman's Reo. This is among the dangers of buying an already restored car! Barbara Hosterman was launched onto the pavement, but took it in stride.
Attachments
RidgeRoute (3).jpg
RidgeRoute (3).jpg (139.04 KiB) Viewed 3998 times
RidgeRoute_0001 (2).jpg
RidgeRoute_0001 (2).jpg (147.53 KiB) Viewed 3998 times
Robb Stewart

User avatar
Steve Simmons
Site Admin
Posts: 3874
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:45 pm
Vehicles Owned: .
1925 Ford Model T
1939 Ford V8 Pickup
1946 John Deere AN
1949 MG TC
1958 MGA Roadster
1965 MGB
1967 MGB GT (UK-Spec)
1969 MGC GTS
Location: Co-Nay-Ho Valley
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Steve Simmons » Tue May 08, 2012 10:40 am

The original Ridge Route is still there. Tanny, the part you guys drove during the Old Country Tour was the maintained part that Larry was talking about. The rest of it is unimproved pavement and it's in terrible disrepair based on the last reports I've heard.

Great stuff Robb, whenever you post this stuff it strengthens my desire to get a brass era car.

Robb
Active Member
Posts: 66
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:23 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1912 EMF Semi-Racer
1932 Wolseley Hornet Special
2009 Mini
Location: Monrovia, California, USA
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Robb » Tue May 08, 2012 4:29 pm

Steve,

In that case, I'll post more photos.
Robb Stewart

User avatar
gorms68
Core Member
Posts: 662
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 8:10 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1929 Chandler model 65
1966 MGB roadster
1968 Mustang Dlx coupe
1970 BMW 1600
Location: Monrovia

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by gorms68 » Tue May 08, 2012 5:01 pm

Keep them coming Robb! It's great to see those car in use as they might have been in the day.
Chris Gorman

Robb
Active Member
Posts: 66
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:23 pm
Vehicles Owned: 1912 EMF Semi-Racer
1932 Wolseley Hornet Special
2009 Mini
Location: Monrovia, California, USA
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Robb » Mon Aug 05, 2013 4:18 pm

Steve,

Your postings last year must have made an impression. I'm a big Buster Keeton Fan and was surprised to see that a four reeler that I had never seen was playing on TCM. Towards the end, Keeton's character was running away from a mob of several hundred potential brides. He first runs through Beal's cut and then appears to jump across the top.

I recorded it and just watched it. If you know how to copy from a DVR, you could have a copy.

The name of the movie is "Seven Chances".
Robb Stewart

marankie
Active Member
Posts: 98
Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:36 pm
Vehicles Owned: '73 MGB-GT
'70 Porsche 914-6
'75 Ferrari 308 Gt4
Location: Agoura Hills CA

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by marankie » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:48 am

Thanks Steve. Great story and beautifully written and illustrated with old and new photos. There are a few small sections of the old highway left next to the freeway. In springtime when the wild flowers are out it is fun to go exploring there.

Harry
Active Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu May 29, 2014 12:39 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Harry » Sat May 31, 2014 12:10 pm

Always loved Beal's Cut. When I was working for Huell we did a great show there... you posted many of the pics we had...
but here are a few QTVRs
http://www.pricewestern.com/bealescut/northend.html

http://www.pricewestern.com/bealescut/southend.html

and a FAKE pic of Tom Mix jumping the cut...
Attachments
tom mix jump over beales cut.jpg
tom mix jump over beales cut.jpg (105.45 KiB) Viewed 3284 times
Last edited by Harry on Sat May 31, 2014 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Steve Simmons
Site Admin
Posts: 3874
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:45 pm
Vehicles Owned: .
1925 Ford Model T
1939 Ford V8 Pickup
1946 John Deere AN
1949 MG TC
1958 MGA Roadster
1965 MGB
1967 MGB GT (UK-Spec)
1969 MGC GTS
Location: Co-Nay-Ho Valley
Contact:

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by Steve Simmons » Sat May 31, 2014 12:20 pm

Harry wrote:Still not sure why link does not show the pic
It's an issue with Dropbox. They use secure links that mess with forum code. You can either just provide a link (as you did above) or attach the image directly to your post (as I did above).

User avatar
VWNate1
Veteran Member
Posts: 1211
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 7:41 am
Vehicles Owned: LBC's

Mercedes Diesels OM 616 & 617

1969 Chevrolet C/10 pickup shop truck
250 I-6 , TH350 slushbox

1959 Nash Metropolitan FH Sports Coupe

1961 Morris Minor W/ 1973 1275 CC engine & gearbox

Ural Solo Motos , old Honda 90 CC Tiddlers
Location: Sunny So. Cal. , land of fruits , nuts & flakes

Re: Beale's Cut

Post by VWNate1 » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:51 am

THANK YOU for this ! .

Great bit of local history here .

I used to drive The Old Ridge Route in the 1970's in my various oldies but sometime in the late 1980's there appeared closed gates so I never went back again .

Back in the 1970's the original cement roadway was still 99 % intact , the twists & turns were incredible , most had been filled in in the corners with asphalt and just for fun we tried following the original cement with it's tight radius curves , couldn't go much over 25 MPH .
-Nate

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 3 guests