VIDEO: The Old Ridge Route – An Engineering Marvel

The 1915 Old Ridge Route was a turning point for California history and a grand endeavor of the time. As we started transitioning from stagecoaches to automobiles, the old gold rush era Stockton-Los Angeles Road would no longer do for the modern needs of the automobile.

The groundbreaking Ridge Route was the solution. Designed for the automobile, for safer and faster travel. Built to support heavy trucks and last, much of this road still remains over 100 years later.

The first of a series of Ridge Route videos, we hear from John Kelley and Tom Fearer about the significance of the Old Ridge Route.


John Kelley, Ridge Route Historian

Tom Fearer,

California Highway Bulletin, 1913

California Highway Bulletin, 1916

University of Southern California. Libraries and California Historical Society

University of Southern California. Libraries and California Historical Society


Produced by 8N04, Ridge Route Gallery – Sydney Croasmun


All historic photos are public domain, photos not credited are from the 8N04 collection. Drone footage is filmed and owned by Sydney Croasmun.


John Kelley:
The Old Ridge Route. We’ve never built anything like this, and we couldn’t move mountains like they do today. What equipment they had so far, they have to build it up high and nobody had ever done anything like that. So they had to build it all with pick and shovel and a Fresno Scraper.

Tom Fearer:
So basically, there was a road kind of like a semi organized stage route called The Stockton-Los Angeles Road. Not so much a road in the conventional sense that we would think of it now more, but it would facilitate stage travel.
When the car came around, this was just a huge game changer. For a car to operate properly, even in the early 20th century, you need a smooth, flat road. What ended up happening 1909 was the first State Highway Bond Act, which you see is the creation of a lot of state highway corridors that are really core to California as everyone knows it today. But in the case of the Ridge Route, you get Legislative Route Four, which was known as the Inland Route and eventually the Ridge Route.

Sydney Croasmun:
Work started on the new road in 1914, with two railroad contractors taking on the daunting task. Mahoney Brothers and Le Moor Contracting Company. Armed with mule teams and Fresno Scrapers, they started carving out the path of the Ridge Route.

John Kelley:
You know, they started in late 1914. They opened to the public in 1915.

Sydney Croasmun:
Over 1 million cubic yards of dirt was moved by pick, shovel, Fresno Scrapers and mules to create what is now the Ridge Route. The road open to the public in October of 1915. At that point, it was an oil dirt road with 697 curves and no more than a 6% grade. This brand new route cut off 24 miles from the next best path.

Tom Fearer:
It’s like it really, really made state available to anybody to have like a twelve hour day travel between those two cities was just, like, monumental.

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