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.
Part 1; the history of highway transportation in Newcastle
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.
Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Toll Road on cprr.org
Below Newcastle can be seen along Central Pacific Railroad on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California and Nevada.
The emergence of the automobile in the early 20th Century led to the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act which was approved by voters during 1910. The majority of the highways approved as part of the First State Highway Bond Act were largely well-established routes of travel which included much of the DF&DLR. What would become Legislative Route Number 17
(LRN 17) was defined during the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act as a highway aligned from Roseville to Nevada City by way of Newcastle and Auburn.
Newcastle being an unincorporated community was part of State Maintenance on LRN 17. LRN 17 westbound originally entered Newcastle via the 1910 Newcastle Subway. The Newcastle Subway was possibly the first highway Rail Subway built on a State Highway in California. The 1910 Newcastle Subway is a single lane with only a 12-foot-high clearance. The Newcastle Subway project was instigated when the Southern Pacific Railroad had decided to double its line in Newcastle. The Newcastle Subway can be seen under construction in a 1909 sourced photo courtesy of Mike Monahan. The original through-highway in Newcastle westbound followed Lincoln-Newcastle Highway to Main Street which can be seen in the upper right-hand corner.
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.
The initial draft of the US Route System was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture during November of 1925. The US Route System within California was approved by California Highway Commission ("CHC") with no changes recommended by January 1926
. The alignment of US Route 40 (US 40) east of Sacramento was planned to follow the existing Northern Branch of the Lincoln Highway and Victory Highway over LRN 3, LRN 17, LRN 37 and LRN 38 to the Nevada State Line at Verdi. The planned alignment of US 40 east of Sacramento took it through 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.
Concept art of the Newcastle Tunnel and a feature on the project can be found in the November 1930 California Highways & Public Works
. The existing alignment of US 40/LRN 17 in Newcastle through the Newcastle Subway is compared to the planned realignment through the Newcastle Tunnel.
The February 1932 California Highways & Public Works
noted the completion the Newcastle Tunnel had come on December 21st, 1931. The Newcastle Tunnel is stated to be in the process of a paving contract and was slated to open as a realignment of US 40/LRN 17 during the coming May.
The April 1934 California Highways & Public Works
features the progressing construction of realignment of US 40/LRN 17 in the Loomis-Newcastle corridor. The new alignment of US 40/LRN 17 in the Loomis-Newcastle corridor is stated to eliminate 42 curves and bypass Penryn. The Loomis-Newcastle corridor realignment of US 40/LRN 17 is stated to have an anticipated opening on May 29th 1934.
The July/August 1955 California Highways & Public Works
describes a recommended freeway realignment of US 40/LRN 17 between Roseville and Newcastle. The proposed freeway corridor between Roseville and Newcastle is stated to be considered by the CHC during August 1955. Construction of a new freeway grade along US 40/LRN 37 from Applegate 2.7 miles east to Heather Glen. A new freeway grade of US 40/LRN 17 between Newcastle and Auburn is stated to have a budgeted allocation for the 1955-56 Fiscal Year.
The May/June 1956 California Highways & Public Works
announced the opening of the Ben Ali-Roseville Freeway as the new alignment US 99E/US 40/LRN 3 on April 24th, 1956. US 99E was rerouted from the end of the Elvas Freeway along the Ben Ali-Roseville Freeway to the Riverside Avenue Exit. The Newcastle-Auburn freeway, Heather Glen-Colfax expressway, Colfax-Magra expressway and Floriston- Nevada State Line expressway all are described as being budgeted for future realignments of US 40.
On June 29th, 1956 the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 was signed into law on the Federal Level. The Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 was the genesis point of the Interstate Highway System which would in the coming decade sew the demise of US 40 in California. US 40 east of Roseville were ultimately selected to be incorporated into the alignment of Intestate 80.
The September/October 1956 California Highways & Public Works
features a progress report on US 40 east of Roseville. The Newcastle-Auburn expressway segment of US 40/LRN 17 is stated to be under construction and the Roseville-Newcastle freeway is stated to be in design stages. The new four-lane alignment of US 40/LRN 37 between Applegate and Heather Glen is stated to be complete. Freeway alignments of US 40 around Emigrant Gap and Donner Pass are stated to be under study.
The November/December 1957 California Highways & Public Works
features numerous updates to US 40 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. US 40/LRN 17 in the Newcastle-Auburn corridor is stated to be 75% complete. US 40/LRN 37 in the Heather Glen-Colfax corridor is stated to be in the process of grading. The US 40/LRN 37 freeway in the Colfax-Magra corridor as well as Truckee-Nevada State Line.
An additional article in the November/December 1957 California Highways & Public Works
states US 40/LRN 37 freeway bypasses Emigrant Gap and Donner Pass were adopted. All active projects east of Roseville are stated to have anticipated completion dates during late 1959 in anticipation of the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics. The article notes US 40 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to be part of the Interstate Highway System.
The July/August 1958 California Highways & Public Works
notes the US 40/LRN 17 freeway in the Newcastle-Auburn corridor was slated to open during the summer of 1958. The Heather Glen-Colfax freeway corridor of US 40/LRN 37 is stated to have an anticipated opening during summer 1958. The Colfax-Magra freeway corridor of US 40/LRN 37 is stated to have an anticipated opening during fall 1958. The Boca-Stateline freeway corridor of US 40/LRN 38 is stated to have an anticipated opening during summer 1958.
The July/August 1959 California Highways & Public Works notes the Roseville-Newcastle freeway alignment of US 40/LRN 17 was anticipated to open on December 1st, 1959. The Auburn-Heather Glen expressway corridor of US 40/LRN 37 is stated to be in the early stages of a freeway agreement with Placer County. The US 40/LRN 37 Heather Glen-Magra freeway corridor is stated to have been completed during 1958. The Baxter-Emigrant Gap freeway corridor of US 40/LRN 37 is stated to be under contract. The Hampshire Rocks-Soda Springs freeway corridor of US 40/LRN 37 is stated to have an anticipated opening during November 1959. The Donner Lake-Boca freeway corridor of US 40 is stated to have an anticipated opening during November 1959 and would bypass Truckee.
The November/December 1959 California Highways & Public Works
provides an update on the progression of US 40 being converted to a full freeway in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Gold Run-Emigrant gap corridor is stated to have an anticipated opening during 1961. Right of way for the Emigrant-Hampshire Rocks corridor is stated to be in the process of acquisition. Construction of the Donner Pass bypass corridor is stated to be ready to begin construction during 1960. Numerous new freeway segments on US 40 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are displayed.
The Division of Highways submitted an application for US 40 to be truncated from San Francisco to California State Route 89 in Truckee on August 26th, 1963. In a letter to the AASHO dated September 24th, 1964 the California State Highway Engineer noted even through US 40 was approved by the Executive Committee to be truncated to Truckee signage would be retained until approximately 1967 when Interstate 80 was completed in the State. It is unclear the exact date US 40 was officially truncated to California State Route 89 in Truckee. Given Interstate 80 had already been completed through Newcastle it is likely all US 40 signage had been pulled.
During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering all the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped. US 40 east of Roseville appears legislatively as Interstate 80 on the 1964 Division of Highways Map
Part 2; exploring Former US Route 40, the North Lincoln Highway and Victory Highway in Newcastle
Originally the North Lincoln Highway/Victory Highway and early US 40 followed the route of California State Route 193 onto Newcastle Highway and made a turn into downtown Newcastle via Old State Highway at Route 193 Postmile PLA 9.674.
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.
The North Lincoln Highway/Victory Highway and early US 40 continued through Newcastle on Old State Highway where both made a western turn onto Taylor Road. As noted in Part 1 US 40 was rerouted on a bypass of Newcastle via the Newcastle Tunnel during 1932.