Organizers of the Tehachapi Loop Overlook Project are turning a dream into reality by raising funds to improve the viewing site of one of the area’s most historic landmarks.

Located near Keene, the Tehachapi Loop is a railroad engineering feature in which the tracks pass over themselves in a circular loop to allow trains to gain elevation in a steep area without exceeding a 2.2 percent grade.

Each year, the Tehachapi Loop attracts thousands of visitors and tourists.

"It's kind of a hairy part of the road because there is not a lot of room to park," said Nick Smirnoff, board member of the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot.

Over the years, the county has provided warning signs for pedestrians, telling of the safety hazards present while attempting to cross the road.

The board of directors for Friends of the Tehachapi Depot decided to work toward installing a proper viewing platform for its bus tours, which operated pre-COVID.

"We are world-famous here," Smirnoff said. "Why do they have to stand on the edge of the road? So that was the birth of it, with Keith Sackewitz, board vice president, as a driving force."

Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner is also a supporter of the project.

"Representatives from Friends of the Depot met with me in 2017 to discuss the concept, and I recognized the benefits of both enhanced safety and increased tourism to the region," Scrivner said. "I directed Kern County Public Works to get involved in the discussions with Friends of the Depot about the project concept, potential costs, and how we may involve the community to help make it a reality. Public Works was integral in developing the design for the project. The effort really started to take off in 2020 when I asked my field representative, Laura Lynn Wyatt, to work with Friends to reach out to community partners to raise the needed funds. I’m excited to see the tremendous progress everyone involved has made."

According to Linda Gordon, store manager for the Tehachapi Railroad Depot and board member of FOTD, this project is a joint effort between Kern County, Friends of the Tehachapi Depot and community stakeholders.

"I’m excited to see the tremendous progress everyone involved has made," Gordon said.

Once the project is complete, the county public works department will be responsible for the road maintenance including any repaving, repairs, signage or drainage issues that may arise. This is funded with tax dollars and grants obtained by the county.

The platform itself will be constructed of low-maintenance materials and will be the responsibility of Friends of the Tehachapi Depot. The nonprofit already leads fundraising efforts to maintain the Tehachapi Depot Museum and has done so successfully for many years.

The overlook for the Tehachapi Loop is estimated to cost $100,000. So far, significant donations have been made toward the project, but there is still a ways to go. To make a donation, visit tehachapidepot.com and click the donate button at the top of the page. Or, write a check to: Friends of the Tehachapi Depot or FOTD, nonprofit 501(c)3 EIN #65-1221063.

Major donors include the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot, the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council, Eight Minute Solar, City of Tehachapi, BHE Renewables, LOOP RANCH, Fill Dirt Provision, and the Kern County Public Works Department.