Mat: I used to ride along the bike route that goes under the bridges at the I-5 and 52 intersection. Directly under the bridges along the railroad tracks is a sign that says “Elvira.” Was there a sacrificial altar there at one point? Will there be a new town under the bridges filled with Elvirans? Was this ever a train stop? Now I have an obscure job in a bland building in Sorrento Valley. On the other side of the beautiful storm ditch along Sorrento Valley Road, I am fortunate enough to be along the railroad tracks again. Now I work near the railroad sign that says “Torrey. ” A few hundred yards farther north is a sign that says “Sorrento. ” Who named these places, and what is their significance now? — Rob Valerio, Sorrento Valley
Gee, we sympathize with your obscure, bland plight, Rob. Perhaps those tracks are beckoning you to bigger things out of town. If so, as you clickety-clack past Elvira, you can imagine the saucy temptress in flagrante transito with Santa Fe engineer Fred Perris. This is all rumor, of course. But according to spokesfolks at North County Transit, which shares the tracks with Santa Fe, there really was an Elvira, and tongues did wag back at the turn of the century.
The official name of the location is Control Point Elvira, and the sign marks the area where a spur line or siding veers off from the main tracks, like a freeway exit. Same goes for Torrey and Sorrento. In the late 1800s, Fred Perris (memorialized by that bland, obscure town in Riverside County) was chief location engineer for Santa Fe. Among his duties was the job of naming control points. Elvira was the wife of a Santa Fe big shot, and rumor has it she and Fred were more than just seatmates in the dining car of life. He named the control point for his sweetie. Other stories have it that Elvira simply nagged Santa Fe until they named something after her. Take your pick or make up your own. There were control points in Orange County named long ago for the daughters of the Irvine family, so it seems to have been just one more perk for the rich and well connected back when railroads ruled the West. Hope that gives you plenty of food for daydreaming when you’re staring out across the ditch and that you don’t get fired for not paying attention.