Siskiyous led to Ashland's rail role

Why was Ashland chosen as the final connection point for the railroad track that finally made a circle around the entire United States?

— Elijah G., Ashland

The primary reason Ashland became the connecting point for the rail lines coming south from Roseburg and north from Redding was its close proximity to the treacherous Siskiyou Mountains.

The Oregon & California Railroad Company was initially in charge of extending the northern line to the California border from Oregon, where it would meet with a line coming out of Redding, but it went broke before making it to the border.

In 1885, as crews from the Central Pacific Railroad Company were nearing the Oregon border with track from Redding, the company was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Two years later, in the summer of 1887, O & C exhausted its funds extending its track through Medford to Phoenix, and Southern Pacific took out a 40-year lease on the company's newly completed line.

The work of connecting the two lines was up to Southern Pacific, and all that stood in its way from completing the railroad circle around the U.S., and opening up a more efficient means for commerce between California and the Pacific Northwest, was the Siskiyous.

The company wasted no time and decided it would build from south to north, working down the Oregon side of the Siskiyous and into Ashland.

On Dec. 17, 1887, G.H. Kilborn, the superintendent of Southern Pacific's Shasta Division, drove the rail line's final, and golden, spike, just south of the Ashland rail yard.

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