Thursday, May 14, 2020

Travel Town, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Sue B. (of "Lou and Sue" fame) sent me some scans of some vintage photo prints that had faded to the usual shade of pink. But they featured early shots of Travel Town, one of my favorite spots in Los Angeles (in beautiful Griffith Park). Wikipedia sez: The history of railroad transportation in the western United States from 1880 to the 1930s is the primary focus of the museum's collection, with an emphasis on railroading in Southern California and the Los Angeles area.

Travel Town opened in 1952 (interestingly, the parcel of land had been used as a prisoner of war camp during WWII!), so these photos probably show how it looked more or less at that time; I love this little depot; The "Crystal Springs and Southwestern Railroad... operated two locomotives from Oahu on 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of track beginning in 1955, but these locomotives were later returned to Hawaii for display.

Here's a nice passenger car from the Tucson Cornelia & Hula Bend R.R., which is now apparently in the collection of the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Here's a cute li'l locomotive; my research (possibly erroneous) gleaned this passage: Originally built by Baldwin in 1880, it was originally an 0-4-2 steam dummy, a locomotive disguised to look like a trolley car so it would not frighten horses. You can find a photograph of the engine in this configuration, and the fascinating history of this engine, on the Travel Town Museum web site. The engine has 36" drivers and 12" x 16" cylinders. It weighs 20 tons and it is 22' 6" long.The round canisters behind the smoke stack and sticking through the cab roof are for sand. It looks like it was converted to oil at some point. The fuel tank is a very odd design. And there is no smoke box door; apparently they had to remove all the bolts to clean the smoke box.

I confess that I am strapped for time as I am writing today's post, and was unable to find any info about this mystery locomotive. 

Here's engine #85 from the Oahu Railway and Land Company, built in 1910 in Patterson, New Jersey. Travel Town still owns a coach, a combine car, and a caboose from the Oahu Railway, but this locomotive (which actually operated under its own steam at TT - see the text for the first photo) experienced boiler deterioration, and eventually was bought and has since been returned to Hawaii, where it is undergoing restoration. 

You can read more about it on a PDF file HERE.

And this appears to be one of the passenger cars that ran along the "Crystal Springs (etc)" Railroad. Don't you wish you could step back to the 1950's and ride this train on a warm summer day?

Thank you as always to Lou and Sue!


Nanook said...


Travel Town always brings back so many great memories - as I visited there many times as a kid. Why - LOOK HERE I seem to recall spending hours exploring the many locomotives and cars, not to mention the aforementioned birthday party.

Thanks to Lou, Sue and The Major for more memories.

TokyoMagic! said...

Did any of the large trains at Travel Town, ever travel around the park? I believe today, there is only a smaller "amusement park" type of train that takes guests around a limited area of the property.

Thank you to Lou, Sue and the Major, too, for these!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Great photos Major. Spent many a happy day at Travel Town as a kid and as an adult.

Mystery locomotive No. 5 is an 0-6-2ST (Saddle Tank) Engine built for the Oahu Sugar Railroad by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1921 and named "Waikakalua." It was originally used as a switch engine for the Oahu Sugar Railroad.

Today it is currently on static display outside the main station at the Lahaina and Kaanapali Railroad on West Maui.

The "Passenger car" in photo No. 2, from the Tucson Cornelia & Gila Bend (Not "Hula"--different railroad entirely, one that only went in a circle) appears to actually be a self-propelled motor car. See the radiator in the front, headlight and bell.


I only went to Travel Town once as a kid - I must have been about 4 or 5 years old. I remember riding a horse drawn street car around the park. I thought that you could pick the train you wanted and they would place it on the track for you to ride ...... that was not the case. I always made great assumptions about things as a kid. My two uncles and I got to make a molded wax souvenir from one of those hot wax mold machines. I don’t recall what my uncles got but mine was a blue 1800’s style locomotive...... which I have a memory that it acted also as a whistle .....but I may be confusing that part with something else.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Nanook, I love your birthday party pictures; and I had to look to see when my dad's pictures were taken (as I knew he was in California in June 1956 - the same month as your party). These pictures were in his May 1958 trip scrapbook, not the 1956 one . . . darn!

Steve DeGaetano, I knew you would enjoy these and have more interesting information, too, to share. I always think of you when I find train pictures.

Major, thanks for making my dad's pictures "come alive" for me - as I knew nothing about this place when I sent you these scans. Now I understand why my dad loved Griffith Park!

DrGoat said...

What a great birthday party! And what a wonderful memory. Thanks for that link, I missed it the first time around.
Lou & Sue....Thank you for those pics. Your Dad is a gem for documenting all these great places. Wished my parents had been into taking more photos back then. I never visited Travel Town.
I even lived in Los Angeles for two years back in the early 70s. Must have been busy elsewhere.
And who doesn't love locomotives. My long time friend and I have an HO set-up we drag out occasionally and play with. And yes, Major. Send me back for ride in that beautiful bit of the past. To Willoughby of course, or drop me off at the Main Street station.
Thank you Major and Lou & Sue.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I thought of you and your birthday party photos when I was writing this post! I never had a birthday party at Travel Town, but I’ve always loved the place.

TokyoMagic!, it looks like one of that “Crystals Springs and Southwestern Railroad” did operate at Travel Town, Wikipedia said that it traveled just over half a mile. That would have been so fun!

Steve DeGaetano, thanks for the info/corrections. Knower of all things train related! I have NO idea why I typed “Hula” instead of ‘Gila”… like my fingers had a mind of their own. A self-propelled motor car? What is this, The Jetsons??

Mike Cozart, your 5 year-old assumption about the TT trains made a kind of sense. Why else would they have so many trains in one place? I never knew they had a MOLD-A-RAMA machine at Travel Town, do you still have your blue locomotive?

Lou and Sue, wouldn’t that be a blast to see our own Nanook in one of Lou’s photos? I’ve gone to Travel Town twice in the last few years, once just to see Walt’s Barn (finally), and before that, I decided that it had been too long since I’d last been there, and went on a quiet day. It was still fun.

DrGoat, I know that Sue is a bit overwhelmed by all of Lou’s photos, but you are right, it’s so nice to have them as a record of life and Disneyland and Knott’s and other places. Travel Town is just small enough that I think a lot of people don’t even know it’s there, even though you can see it from the freeway. I’m so glad it’s still with us!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Thanks Lou and Sue!

Before I moved to NC 14 years ago, Paul Boschan, who rebuilt the Ward Kimball at Disneyland, along with a small team of volunteers, had started to restore the little engine in the third photo, I believe for operation. I'm not sure what the status of that project is.

Mike Cozart, I, too, got one of those blue plastic engines! (don't think it was wax, just soft plastic).

Major, self-propelled motor cars were popular during the Great Depression. Basically you could have one-man operation of a small "train." They were often called "Doodlebugs."

JG said...

I had no idea this place existed. What an interesting spot.

That last photo looks like one of the cars on the Yreka Western RR which ran passenger excursions out-and-back from Yreka to Montague for a few years. Yes, I would like to ride that again, lets fill that car with Junior Gorillas and have a party.

Thanks Major and Lou+Sue


Anonymous said...

There's simply something quaint about these types of train cars and locomotives. They seem like novelties, but then you realize that they were actually used to carry passengers and cargo across the country. Simply fascinating what a little engine...could do!

Major Pepperidge said...

Steve DeGaetano, it’s too bad there’s not a website (as far as I am aware) that would give at least a general idea of the progress on these restorations! But I know these things can take a long time and a lot of money. Were the self-propelled motorcars electric?

JG, I think a lot of those old trains and passenger cars look very much alike, at least to those of us who aren’t super knowledgeable!

The Magic Ears Dudebro, I think it’s kind of a miracle that Travel Town existed at all, and that it has managed to survive over 60 years. It’s one of the little wonders in the city.

K. Martinez said...

I love Travel Town in Griffith Park. It' a great place to explore old passenger cars and locomotives. Also, it's fun to ride the nearby L.A. Live Steamers miniature trains. A total blast!

One of the things I discovered is that Southern California is a great place for anyone interested in railroads/railways. Not only are there the live steam trains of the Disneyland Railroad and Knott's Calico Railroad, but there's the Orange Empire Railway Museum with operating trains and trolley, Angels Flight Incline Railway, L.A. Live Steamers and of course Travel Town. Oh, I almost forgot Walt's Barn, another great place for railroad fans. Lots of railroad fun to be had in the region for sure.

Thanks, Lou and Sue. Thanks, Major.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Major, the self-propelled motor cars used internal combustion engines (if you're a steam guy, otherwise known as "infernal" combustion).

Travel Town back in the day was great. Kids (including me) would literally climb all over the equipment without restriction. So what if you could crack your skull from slipping off the top of a boiler 20 feet above the ground, maybe glancing off the steel running board before landing in a crumpled heap? Character building, is what that is!

Irene said...

Griffith Park and Travel Town. Great memories. Our family went there a lot when I was a kid back in the 50's. I can vividly remember having picnics there with orange flavored soda pop (my mom would wrap the bottles in newspaper to keep them cold), and she was big in making flaked salmon sandwiches. Bruce and I would run all over and climb on and into the trains. We would also go to the merry-go-round in Griffith Park, the same one Walt would watch his daughters ride on though that would have been earlier than the time I was there. Our extended family would join us too - Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle and family friends. I don't get back too often anymore but have been to Walt's Barn and the other places around that area.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Speaking of Mold-A-Rama, they are still in business - not too far from me. I thought about taking a drive there, before all this covid-19 stuff happened, after reading a past GDB post - where the wax figures were discussed.

DrGoat, my husband still plays with trains, too. He put in some track in our little backyard and lets the trains go round and round.

Steve D., I agree with the "character building." I have some small scars on my legs that I earned, during those early years. No regrets.

Major, yes, "overwhelmed" is a good word - but, after discovering GDB, I'm thrilled to be able to share them with lots of fun folks. I didn't really know what to do with them (the pictures, not the fun folks), otherwise.

JG, I like your idea of filling that train car with Junior Gorillas and partying . . . would love to do that this weekend, as my 60th birthday is this weekend and I can't think of any more-fun party than laughing with all of you on the birthday car! (Had originally planned to be in Disneyland, but that plan got scrapped.) I'll bring the cake and ice cream.

Mike, btw, I would NOT have been surprised if you told us you HAVE one of those trains, in your backyard. Seriously, you have the COOLEST collection of stuff . . . am I'm still waiting for your museum to open. Maybe, after all us Junior Gorillas get done partying on the train car, we can head over to your house to see your collection (??).

"Lou and Sue" said...

Mike . . . AND I'm still waiting for your museum to open.

Chuck said...

Thanks, Steve DeGaetano. I knew I'd seen that #5 locomotive somewhere before, but I couldn't quite place it. Been almost 35 years. I might even have taken a slide of it. Found the boxes of Hawaii 1985 slides a couple of weeks ago; time to pull out the GAF slide viewer and see if I'm in luck.

(Thanks to the other Steve, too, for the link to his birthday party pictures!)

And special thanks to Lou & Sue again today!

Chuck said...

No luck. Right year, right film processor, wrong trip. Medical mission trip into the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico. Great memories, but not of Oahu Sugar #5.

JG said...

@Steve DeGaetano, the California Western RR Skunk Train in Fort Bragg has at least one of the motor cars, I think theirs are like you describe. They called it the "scooter".

My scout troop would ride the Skunk train to the scout camp between Willetts and Ft. Bragg, the train was the only access to the camp. The scooter would follow the train pulling an open baggage car with all the backpacks and gear. Baggage loading was "casual" and occasionally, a sleeping bag or pack would slide off on the way, leaving a boy without gear. A good lesson in packing correctly. The gear was always recovered, usually the next day, by the scooter coming back out to get us.

One trip, we were treated to the spectacle of a number of scooters, maybe a dozen, running the track from the Willetts direction. Turns out there is an enthusiasts club for collectors of the vehicles, and the California Western track has no traffic but the Skunk, so the club uses the track to run their toys.

The RR has added "rail bikes" you can rent, pedal-powered scooters so you can ride the rails on your own power. see video here >>

Sue, Happy Birthday!


Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, I couldn’t remember if you had been to Griffith Park, have you been fairly recently? It’s not that far from where I am! I am ashamed to admit that I have never been on the L.A. Live Steamers trains, though I have no good excuse. Except that I’m so cool! Yeah that’s it. I would have never seen the Orange Empire Railway Museum if it wasn’t for meeting up with you and TokyoMagic! there a few years ago, it was really great.

Steve DeGaetano, I had the feeling that they weren’t electric, but I had to be sure! I have some photos of what appears to be Travel Town, only there are WWII airplanes on display as well, I need to look into that and see if they ever had those.

Irene, ah, I love your memories of Griffith Park, and the picnics with your family. There’s nothing better than an ice cold orange soda at a picnic! Flaked salmon sandwiches, fancy! My mom probably would have made salami and cheese or (yuck) bologna with mayonnaise, I never liked those. Even now the thought of them makes me a little green. I finally saw Walt’s Barn a few years ago, it was the first nice weekend after weeks of rain and it was SO crowded! I need to go back when it’s a little calmer.

Lou and Sue, I actually did not know that Mold-A-Rama was still in business. I know that some places still have the machines, but thought it was possible that they just had some handy people to keep them running. They had Mold-A-Rama machines at the L.A. Zoo ever since I was a kid, and I was so excited to show them to my niece and nephew… and they had been removed! Such a disappointment! Plus I needed to replace my plastic gorilla, my old one broke. It sure would be fun to have some sort of get-together with all of the GDB regulars, but I know that so many of them live far apart. The logistics would be pretty crazy.

Chuck, wow really? You’ve seen that train? As usual, even if I HAD seen it, I wouldn’t be observant enough to remember. That’s just the way I am, I have to be honest with myself.

Chuck, ah well. A medical mission trip into Chihuahua, Mexico sounds like an adventure!

JG, it’s interesting, whenever I seem to read about any railroad museum, they have traded various locomotives and rolling stock to other museums, and acquired “new” items for themselves. I’m just glad that there are dedicated folks out there who want to preserve these beautiful and historic machines for future generations. You sure have some wonderful memories of the Skunk Train! “Rail bikes”, that’s a new one on me, thank you for the link to the website!