When I first saw the Stenner Creek Bridge I was amazed that such a marvelous example of 19th century engineering existed in San Luis Obispo County. I assumed the old bridge was no longer in use, as the steel trestle was heavy with rust, until a lengthy freight train passed over my head. I had to know more about this trestle bridge.
The year was 1889 - The Southern Pacific Railroad had reached as far south as Santa Margareta. Ahead loomed the Santa Lucia Range of rolling hills with the steep Cuesta Grade. A typical trip from San Luis Obispo to Templeton took eight hours over the grade, needless to say the railroad was eagerly anticipated.
Between 1893 and 1894 workers, primarily Chinese, blasted 1,100,000 cubic yards of rock to create six tunnels, the longest 3,610 ft. Crews worked 12 hour days, six days a week for $30 - $35 a month.
The final challenge for the Southern Pacific was crossing the broad expanse of Stenner Creek. The Thompson Bridge Company of San Francisco was contracted to build a 950 foot trestle bridge, 80 feet above the creek bed; the bridge was designed and manufactured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Getting there: Stenner Creek Road is located on the East side of Hwy One in San Luis Obispo. From the north take the first left turn after passing the California Men's Colony. From the south turn right about one mile after passing Highland Drive. Follow the road to the bridge