Facebook Page

The Travel Town Collection 3/26/2011

by Chris Guenzler

I finished at Fillmore and Western Railway then drove to Travel Town in Griffith Park in Los Angeles and parked.

Travel Town information and history

Travel Town, the Los Angeles City Recreation and Park Department's unique display of vehicles representing many modes and eras of conveyances, is visited each week by hundreds of youngsters and adults who are interested in the development of transportation.

Located on a 9-acre site at 5200 Hollingsworth Drive in Griffith Park, Travel Town is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no admission charge. Displaying everything from a 104-ton locomotive to a one-horse shay, Travel Town offers its visitors what for most of them is the only opportunity they ever have to see and examine at close hand many different types of vehicles.

Credit for the idea which evolved into Travel Town goes to William Frederickson Jr., the city's superintendent of recreation. It was Frederickson who, in 1947, was struck with the realization that thousands of youngsters had never been close enough to climb into an airplane and get a look at the pilot's cockpit and its myriad of controls and gauges. This was at a time when the federal government was disposing of large amounts of surplus war material, so Frederickson resolved to see if it would be possible to obtain a surplus plane to be exhibited at one of Los Angeles' municipal playgrounds. George Hjelte, general manager of the City Recreation and Park Department, and the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners thought the idea was a good one and allocated the sum of $700 for the purchase of seven planes which were stored in the Middle West. But by the time the necessary purchase orders had been properly channeled, the aircraft were unavailable. Although officially the project was dormant for several years, Frederickson continually mulled the idea of establishing an exhibit where youngsters could actually climb aboard various vehicles.

Just a few months ago, in late September 1952, Frederickson was able to start the project - his dream - toward reality. Enlisting the aid of Orin Wennersten, the Recreation and Park Department's supervisor of maintenance, he set about the work of obtaining Travel Town's first Exhibit. Wennersten assigned a member of his staff, Charles Atkins, the task of writing a letter to D.J. Russell, president of the Southern Pacific Company, in which the suggestion was made that the railroad company might be willing to donate an obsolete locomotive to the display. Russell heartily approved the donation and directed his staff to have Engine "3025" prepared for its emergence from "retirement" and its appearance as an honored exhibit at Travel Town.

With the donation assured, Atkins' next problem was to determine how to move the gallant, oil-burning chugger from Glendale to Travel Town. The Belyea Truck Company agreed to tackle the ticklish task and, on October 10, the unprecedented hauling job was completed as a free public service. The Belyea Truck Company has since performed several other similar assignments in aiding the development of Travel Town.

The giant locomotive and its 25 1/2 ton tender, which in their heyday pulled several "presidential specials" during campaign sweeps across the nation, now stands on a strip of track at Travel Town, and visitors may enter the engine's cab, examine the controls, and tug the cord which clangs its big brass bell.

News about Travel Town spread like wildfire, and almost immediately the display was receiving new vehicles and other exhibits in rapid, one after the other sequence. By the first of December, Travel Town had on exhibit a 44-passenger street car given by the Los Angeles Transit Lines; an historic 76-year old dray, presented by Paul J. Smith, president of the republic Van and Storage Company, a 50-year-old kerosene tank wagon, donated by Standard Oil Company of California; a colorful old circus wagon, given by the Beverly Amusement Company; Caboose No 2117, a veteran "home on wheels" for nomadic trainmen, given by the Union Pacific Railroad Company; and a one-horse shay, the gift of Knott's Berry Farm.

To add still more charm to the transportation array, the Pacific Electric Company donated its old Sierra Vista "waiting station," which had sheltered "big red car" commuters over a period of several decades. With that impressive slate of exhibits cleaned and polished for the occasion, Travel Town was officially dedicated on Sunday, December 14, 1952.

Since then, several new vehicles have been added to the display, including an obsolescent Japanese "zero" fighter plane which was captured on a South Pacific island during World War II; and an ancient petroleum field fire truck, which was donated by the Shell Oil Company. And still more exhibits are being planned and will take their places of honor at Travel town in the near future, according to Frederickson, whose "pet project" has blossomed into a popular attraction for Southlanders and tourists of all ages. The unique facility is particularly a "Mecca" for transportation hobbyists.

My Visit

I walked out along Zoo Drive for my first few pictures.

The view from Zoo Drive.

Southern Pacific Atlantic 4-4-2 3025 built by American Lomotive Company in 1904. It is the only surviving Atlantic built for the Southern Pacific and was the first standard gauge locomotive to be displayed at Travel Town.

Santa Maria Valley Railroad Mikado 2-8-2 1000 built by American Lomotive Company in 1920, originally Hetch Hetchy Railroad 4. This 68-mile railroad was built by the City of San Francisco to develop the O'Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River in Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite, California. In 1930, 4 was sold to the Newaukum Valley Railroad, a line owned and operated by the Carlisle Lumber Company in Washington State running between Napavine to Onalaska. There, it was re-numbered 1000. In 1944, the engine was sold to the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, a 10 1/2 mile shortline serving oil refineries in Santa Maria, California, as well as hauling produce to the Southern Pacific's mainline at Guadalupe. The Santa Maria Valley Railroad donated 1000 to the museum in 1953 as it dieselised.

Los Angeles Railway Horse flat car built in 1880.

Santa Fe Railway 2-8-0 664 built by Baldwin in 1899 as Santa Fe 891. In 1910, it was loaned to the Pecos & Northern Texas Railway, but returned to the Santa Fe after only one year. It worked on Santa Fe's Northern, Southern, Panhandle, Plains and Gulf Divisions and was in active service when donated to Travel Town in 1953.

Southern Pacific 4-4-2 3025.

Santa Maria Valley Railroad 2-8-2 1000.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1273 built by Southern Pacific in 1921. It worked in the Sacramento yards for most of its life logging over 1,500,000 miles in 35 years service. Retired in 1956, it was donated to the museum by the railroad in 1957.

Los Angeles Harbor Department 0-4-0T 31 built by Davenport in 1921. This saddle tank locomotive was purchased to work on the ongoing development of the Los Angeles Port of San Pedro, mainly on the island of Catalina hauling rock from the quarry to the shore, but also on the main land. Destined for the scrap yard, 31 was identified as a candidate for the museum's collection and was donated by the Los Angeles Harbor Authority in 1953.

Los Angeles Harbor Department 0-4-0T 32 built by American Lomotive Company in 1914. The saddle tank locomotive worked on the Port of San Pedro harbour development.

Pickering Lumber Company Heisler 2 built by Heisler in 1918 as Hetch Hetchy Railroad 2. It worked on the O'Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River in Hetch Hetchy Valley. In 1923, 2 was sold to Standard Lumber Company, which later became Pickering Lumber. It was donated to the museum in 1957.

Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe 3-Truck Shay 2 built by Lima in 1922, originally Little River Redwood Company Railroad 4. The CPLT ran eight miles from Camino in the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of Sacramento to a connection with the Placerville Branch of the Southern Pacific at Placerville, California. It was primarily a lumber-hauling line owned by the Michigan-California Lumber Company.

Western Pacific 2-8-0 26 built by American Locomotive Company in 1909. The C-43s served the railway through World War II and were retired in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This steam engine was donated to the museum in 1954.

Richfield Oil tank Car 670 built in 1911.

Western Pacific wooden caboose 754 built by Haskell and Barker in 1910.

Stockton Terminal and Eastern 4-4-0 1 built by Norris-Lancaster in 1862 and was one of ten bought by the Western Pacific, who lettered them "A" to "J", this particular one being "G". It was sold to the Stockton, Terminal and Eastern Railroad in 1914 and became 31.

Oahu Railway and Land Company coach 1 built by Oahu Railway and Land Shops circa 1900.

Oahu Railway and Land Company combination car 36 built by Oahu Railway and Land Shops circa 1910.

Oahu Railway and Land Company caboose 1 built by Oahu Railway and Land Shops circa 1900.

The Travel Town train came from Melody Ranch and I would ride this train later.

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authotity 1543 built by American Car and Foundry in 1911.

Pacific Electric steeplecab 1544 "Electrica" was built by North Shore Railroad in 1902 at their Tiburon shops in Sausalito, California. The Pacific Electric used 1544 as a work locomotive and switcher at various locations in the Los Angeles area. It last worked at PE's Torrance repair shops until it was retired in 1952 and donated to the museum two years later.

Union Pacific wooden caboose 2117 built by the railroad in 1881.

Union Pacific 0-6-0 4439 built by Baldwin in 1918. During its early career, it worked in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Later, it served on the Los Angeles Harbor Belt line until its operation was ended on the order of the Air Pollution Control Board in 1957.

Los Angeles Railway open streetcar 405 built in 1890 and currently numbered 57.

Travel Town 42 ton switcher 1 "The Charley Atkins" built by Electro-Motive Division in 1942 for the United States Navy.

Sharp & Fellows Railroad Contractor Prairie 2-6-2 7 built by American Locomotive Company in 1902. It worked on building the Santa Fe Railway system through Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and California. During World War I, 7 worked at Camp Kearney in San Diego and during World War II, it worked at various ordnance depots, including Fort Wingate, New Mexico, and the Navajo Ordnance Plant at Flagstaff, Arizona.

Santa Fe Motor Car 177 built by Pullnan Company in 1929. Motorcars, nicknamed "doodlebugs", combined three functions of railroading into one vehicle: motive power, passenger seating and baggage compartment. This functional consolidation efficiently served branch lines by saving the railroads the costly operation of an entire train with locomotive and half-filled cars. The baggage compartment of the M.177 served not only as baggage and freight compartment, but also as a Railway Post Office and as a refrigerator car (by sitting perishables on metal plates with ice blocks). Doodlebugs, like M.177, were the life blood along the smaller veins of the Santa Fe system serving small, rural communities in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas from the Depression through the Korean War.

Although M.177 did not operate in Southern California, one of the cars from the same order, the M.181, did work Santa Fe's Los Angeles-San Bernardino run for many years. The M.177 last operated on a line between Pampa, Texas, and Clinton, Oklahoma, in October 1953, when retired to Topeka, Kansas, where it remained until its donation to the Travel Town Museum in 1958.

United States Navy flat car 61-02011.

United States Navy crane 84-00503 built by American Hoist in 1943 and lettered CSCV 1887.

California Western RS-12 56 built by Baldwin in 1955.

A covered tank car stored on a flat car.

Conrock 0-6-0T 1 built by American Lomotive Company in 1925 for the Reliance Rock Company. The company was consolidated into the Consolidated Rock Products Company in 1929. 1 worked on the three-mile standard gauge railroad connecting the quarry to a connection with the Southern Pacific until it was retired in 1955 at the order of the Smog Control Board and replaced by a diesel. It was donated to Travel Town in 1958.

Union Pacific Sleeping Car "Hunters Point" built by Pullman Company in 1940. Both "Rose Bowl" and "Hunter's Point" were part of an unusual tourist attraction in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 1963, Verl Thomson opened a train motel, or traintel, out of three decommissioned Pullman sleeping cars and a chair car he bought from a broker in 1962. The chair car was refurbished to feature a television and snack room in one end, and the traintel office in the other end. Except for re-wiring the lights to 120 volt and exterior repainting, the sleeping cars were left much the same as they last operated on the Chicago & North Western, which was still very much the same as they looked inside when first assigned to the Union Pacific's City of San Francisco and City of Los Angeles trains. Taped train sounds were played to add to the atmosphere. In 1965, the charge for a single person in a roomette was $5, and a drawing room for five was $12.85. The traintel closed in the summer of 1980 due to lack of sufficient tourist business.

Union Pacific Diner 369 built by the Pullman Car and Manufacturing Company in 1921.

Union Pacific Dormitory Car LA-701 "The Little Nugget" built by Pullman in 1937 and designed by American artist Walt Kuhn. For the Streamliner City of Los Angeles, a Union Pacific train carrying passengers between Chicago and Los Angeles, Kuhn improved on his own gaudy and extravagant imagination. The result was "The Little Nugget" car, a Victorian dream of red velvet sofas and drapes, bevel-edged mirrors, gas lamp-style, stars twinkling on the ceiling and caricatures of famous vaudevillians crowding the walls. Bartenders and waiters wore gay nineties attire. "The Little Nugget" was the show-stopper of the City of Los Angeles, despite its other classy observation cars, lounges and diners.

Union Pacific sleeping car "Rose Bowl", nee Union Pacific "Telegraph Hill" built by Pullman Company in 1937.

After that picture, I decided to ride the Travel Town train that loops the grounds twice for $2.50. Below are some views from on board.

Just some of the great views you see from the train.

Municipal Railway of San Francisco Cable Car 28 built before 1900.

Two views from the final lap. I still had the inside of the building to see.

Melody Ranch Special diesel switcher 1986 built by Gerry Bowden in 1986.

Southern Pacific narrow gauge railway post office car 12 built by the Carter Brothers in the 1880's.

Southern Pacific narrow gauge box car 1 built in 1890.

A couple of vintage cars on display.

Vintage cars and a Carnation milk truck.

Standard Oil Company tank wagon and an old fire wagon.

An old truck.

Republic van and storage wagon.

Golden Farms wagon 26.

Carson and Colorado narrow gauge stock car built by the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in the 1890's, lettered Southern Pacific 163.

"Colonel Griffith" 2-8-0 25 built by Severn Lamb Limited in 1983. This beautiful locomotive and tender were built by one of the premier builders in the world.

Two views of the Travel Town grounds.

Pennsylvania Railroad dining car 4118 built by Pennsylvania Railroad in 1914.

Southern Pacific coach 2513 built by Pullman Company in 1910.

Santa Fe snack car 3355 built by Pullman Company in 1928.

I went out to the bridge to wait for the Travel Town train to run below and with that, my visit was complete. I drove home to Santa Ana, ending a morning of rail adventures.