Newcastle is a community located in Placer County, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Foothils. Newcastle was founded as a siding of the Central Pacific Railroad and throughout its history been part of numerous historic highway corridors. Newcastle was once on the alignments of; the Northern Branch of the Lincoln Highway, Victory Highway and US Route 40. Pictured above as the blog cover photo is the 1910 Newcastle Subway.
Even prior to the California Gold Rush the present corridor of Interstate 80 was well known due to the relatively low crossing of the Sierra Nevada Mountains via what now is known as Donner Pass. The first known wagon crossing of Donner Pass occurred during 1844. The infamous Donner Party saga occurred in the winter of 1846-47 during which only 48 of the 87 party members survived. Although the Donner Party incident is largely attributed to poor planning and the ill-conceived Hastings Cutoff it largely led to the infamous reputation of Donner Pass.
During 1861 the State of California granted the Central Pacific Railroad a 10-year franchise on toll rights to the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road (DF&DLR) which completed by 1864. The DF&DLR was used to finance the Central Pacific Railroad's construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad from 1864 to 1868. Newcastle was originally settled about a mile south of its present location prior to the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The location of Newcastle moved to the Southern Pacific Railroad circa 1864 to take advantage of construction on the First Transcontinental Railroad. Newcastle became the head for the stage routes heading over Donner Pass via the DF&DLR.
The DF&DLR was likely not tolled after the Central Pacific Railroad was completed over the Sierra Nevada Mountains during Spring of 1868. The DF&DLR became a public highway in 1871 and was only loosely maintained given rail service had become the easiest form of transportation over Donner Pass. The website below goes into far more detail about the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road.
Below Newcastle can be seen along Central Pacific Railroad on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California and Nevada.
The Victory Highway was formally organized during 1921 as a coast-to-coast highway aligned from New York to San Francisco. The Victory Highway Association lived on after the creation of the US Route System and became the US Route 40 Association in 1938.
During 1912 Indiana Businessman Carl G. Fisher conceptualized the Lincoln Highway as a major transcontinental Auto Trail. The Lincoln Highway was formally dedicated on October 31st, 1913 and was aligned west of Fallon via split branches over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The original northern branch of the Lincoln Highway (displayed in blue) is shown on the Lincoln Highway Association's Official Map aligned through the 1910 Newcastle Subway and what is now Old State Highway in Newcastle.
Thusly US 40 appears on the 1925 Rand McNally Map of California east of Sacramento to Verdi, Nevada.
The US Route System was formally approved by the American Association of State Highway Engineers on November 11th, 1926. The approval of the US Route System formally brought US 40 into existence east of Sacramento to the Nevada State Line. Notably US 40 east of Sacramento to the Nevada State Line was referred to as the Victory Highway in numerous official documents into the 1930s.
The January/February 1929 California Highways & Public Works announced a 0.9 mile grade separation for US 40/LRN 17 in Newcastle was budgeted for the 1929-31 Fiscal Years.
The May 1932 California Highways & Public Works featured the opening of the Newcastle Tunnel and realignment of US 40/LRN 17. The Newcastle Tunnel is stated to have opened to traffic on May 14th, 1932.
As noted in Part 1 the North Lincoln Highway/Victory Highway and US 40 originally entered Newcastle via the 1910 Newcastle Subway. The Lincoln Highway shield on the 1910 Newcastle Subway was painted during June 2019.
The alignment of the Lincoln Highway and US 40 in Newcastle circled the community via Old State Highway. On Main Street there is still access to downtown Newcastle and the shipping yards that were once serviced by the Central Pacific Railroad.