The Visalia Electric Railroad
Southern Pacific's Orange Grove Route
by Phillips C. Kauke.
Cloth with dust jacket, 168 pages, 8.5x11", 240 photos. 21 maps and drawings, rosters, bibliography, index. 2004.
"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 Some 249 photographs, most previously unpublished, and 15 maps, enrich the book.
"Author 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.
"Born in Berkeley, California, in 1921, Phillips C. Kauke has been a railroad enthusiast all his life. He worked for the Santa Fe Railway for 38 years in engine service, retiring in 1982. He also worked for the Alaska Railroad and for the Southern Pacific for a time in the 1940s. During World War II, Phil served his country in the South Pacific.
"Many examples of his photographic work have appeared in books on Western railroads. He has authored several articles, including a chapter, entitled Mojave Detour, for the 1979 book, Wheels Rolling West, and a study of SP gas-electric cars for the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society publication SP Trainline.
"Mr. Kauke¹s roots with the Visalia Electric date back to the 1930s when he lived in Lindsay. Here, as an eleven-year-old boy, he witnessed the VE in action and was befriended by crews, early memories which fueled a lifelong ambition to document this diminutive electric line.
"Mr. Kauke is a member of the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Tulare County Historical Society, Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, Orange Empire Railway Museum, and is a lifetime honorary member of the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers."