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A Company History

A Company History

Santa Fe Employe's Hospital Association – Coast Lines – An Abbreviated History, © 2008

By Don Richardson

The present employer provided healthcare system in this country began in the 19th century when the fledgling railroad industry, especially in the west, found itself in the unique position of being the only organization with sufficient expertise and resources, both financial and manpower, to take on the responsibility of public safety and leadership. In small towns across the west, the railroad was the de facto administrator, law enforcer, medical practitioner and communications center. It was said that southern pacific railroad ruled California from its office at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco.

In the 1870’s, Union Pacific Railroad officials proposed a scheme on witch their employes would be “vested” after staying with the company for a period of ten years, at which time they would have a guaranteed lifetime job with medical care and a pension. This idea was scrapped when the infant union movement took root, as employers considered joining a union as an act of disloyalty to the company.

This did not, however, prevent Union Pacific from organizing a medical department around 1880. The need was to great and the advantages too self evident. After all, the railroad had to ensure that its employes, especially engineers and conductors, were healthy and fit to operate their trains. With accidents so prevalent, the railroad would have to provide for the treatment and care of injured passengers and crewmen anyway, so it made sense to have its own medical department. With most railroad presidents and other officials being former civil war military officers, it was a logical thing to pattern the railroad medical departments after the Civil War medical corps. This extending to referring to the company doctors as surgeons, as most of the medical care they would be giving would be the repair of torn limbs, broken bones and bodily lacerations.

Santa Fe Railway followed a similar pattern in forming its hospital associations. The first and original company was chartered in 1859 as the Atchison and Topeka Railroad for the purpose of connecting Topeka, the principal city of Kansas, with the Missouri River at Atchison. The name was changed in 1863 to Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad as in building west towards the coal fields, the more ambitious plan of building along the Santa Fe Trail to its namesake city New Mexico came to the fore. As it turned out, the city of Santa Fe was not a viable railhead as it provided little traffic. Therefore, Santa Fe Railroad expanded its vision and set its goal reaching the Pacific Ocean. After being defeated by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in its quest to build west up the canyon of the Arkansas River (which included gunfights between opposing track crews), it won a similar confrontation at Raton Pass and gained control of the route along the Rio Grande River to El Paso. After gaining control of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, more commonly known as the Frisco Lines, it acquired joint ownership with Frisco of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, and as a result was able to extend its lines westward to Needles, California. But the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, built through the vacant lands of northern New Mexico and Arizona, generated little traffic and potential bridge traffic from San Francisco was diverted by Southern Pacific Railroad over its lines through Ogden and Yuma. Santa Fe’s solution to this problem was two-fold.

Firstly, it traded rights on its lines in Mexico to Southern Pacific for a lease on Southern Pacific’s line between Needles and Mojave, California, with trackage rights over Southern Pacific between Mojave and Bakersfield. Santa Fe President William Barstow Strong chalked up a significant and rare victory over Southern Pacific President C. P. Huntington in this 1884 business negotiation. Secondly, it acquired a line south from Waterman (later changed to Barstow), California, through an arrangement with the California Southern Railroad, which had built north from National City (just south of San Diego) to San Bernardino. By this means, it acquired exclusive access to the Pacific Ocean via the port of San Diego, thus thwarting efforts by Southern Pacific to block its access to tidewater in California. Therefore, by 1889 the termini of Santa Fe’s lines were in Chicago, St. Louis, Galveston, El Paso, Denver, San Diego, and Guaymas, for a total system of 7,100 miles. In Southern California, the following lines were built, either with Santa Fe money or with anticipation of it, with all of them eventually becoming totally under the control of Santa Fe:

  • California Southern R.R. (1880) from National City to San Bernardino via Fallbrook.
  • California Southern Extension R.R. (1881), San Bernardino to Barstow.
  • California Southern R.R. (1882), consolidation of above two companies.
  • Los Angeles & San Gabriel Valley R.R. (1883), Los Angeles to Duarte.
  • Riverside, Santa Ana & Los Angeles Ry. (1885), San Bernardino to Los Angeles via Orange.
  • Los Angeles & Santa Monica R.R. (1886), Los Angeles to Mesmer (near Inglewood).
  • San Diego Central R.R. (1886), Oceanside to Escondido.
  • San Bernardino & San Diego Ry. (1886), Richfield (later Atwood) to Fallbrook Jct.
  • San Bernardino & Los Angeles Railway (1886), San Bernardino to Duarte.
  • San Bernardino Valley Ry. (1887), San Bernardino to Mentone via Redlands.
  • San Jacinto Valley Ry. (1887), Perris to San Jacinto.
  • California Central Ry. (1887), consolidation of above eight companies.
  • Redondo Beach Ry. (1888), Inglewood to Redondo Beach.
  • Southern California Ry. (1889), consolidation of California Southern R.R., California Central Ry., and Redondo Beach Ry.
  • San Bernardino & Eastern Ry. (1890), San Bernardino to Mentone via Highland.
  • Santa Fe & Santa Monica Ry. (1892), Mesmer (near Inglewood) to Santa Monica.
  • Southern California Ry. (1892), consolidation of former Southern California Ry. and above two last named companies.
  • Elsinore, Pomona & Los Angeles Ry. (1895), Elsinore to Alberhill.

All the above owned mileage in Southern California was conveyed by Southern California Railway Company to The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company in 1906.

The Santa Fe Hospital Association traces it ancestry back to 1891, when the Southern California Hospital Association was formed on June 29 of that year. As can be seen from the above chronological listing of Santa Fe’s earlier Southern California lines, the Association was formed under the auspices of the original Southern California Railway Company, which had been incorporated in 1889 and consisted of almost all the lines in Southern California, the only exceptions being the lines between Elsinore and Alberhill, between Alberhill and Porphyry (near Corona), and between Richfield (later Atwood) and Fullerton, all of which had not been constructed yet.

As stated earlier, one of the main reasons for the formation of the railroad medical departments and hospital associations was to provide for the treatment and care of passengers and crewmen injured in railroad accidents. For this reason, it soon became apparent that a listing of local surgeons should be provided to railroad crews to be referred to when needed. This became a common practice on almost all railroads, especially the Western ones, including Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, and Union Pacific. The listings were not in alphabetical order, but were in station order along the lines of whatever employe’s timetable was applicable. The first listing for the Southern California Hospital Association was in Timetable No. 51 of the Southern California Railway Company dated July 1, 1900. It listed Chief Surgeon N. H. Morrison with an office in Room 444 in the Bradbury Building at Broadway and Second Street (where it still stands) in downtown Los Angeles and 12 local surgeons, with offices in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Perris, Santa Ana, Oceanside, Fullerton, Orange, National City, and Barstow.

All in-patient hospital care was provided through the facilities of the old St. Vincent’s Hospital of the Daughters of Charity in Los Angeles. This was to continue until 1905, when an Association hospital was erected on three and one-half acres of land purchased from Elizabeth Hollenbeck and her husband in 1901.

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