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Lomita Railroad Museum Trip 9/16/2012

by Chris Guenzler

I had talked with Chris Parker on the phone about going to the Lomita Railroad Museum. I told him of my plan to stop at the Watts Towers on the way to meet him and he said he would meet me at the Pacific Coast Highway Blue Line Station after I was done. After Lomita we would head to The Grove and the Americana Plaza to ride their trolleys before he would get me back to LAUPT to get a train for home. After riding Metrolink on Saturday to escape the heat and a very hot night I drove down to Santa Ana to board my first train to LAUPT.

Pacific Surfliner 763 came into Santa Ana for the quick trip to LAUPT. Once there I went down to the Subway Station.

The Red Line Train came into the LAUPT Station and I took at it to 7th Street/Metro Center Station and went upstairs to catch the Blue Line after the Expo Line train departed.

The Blue Line train to the Wilmington Station came into the station and I boarded for the 103rd Street/Watts Towers Station.

I detrained at the 103rd Street/Watts Towers Station and took a picture of my train that bought me here leaving for the Wilmington Station.

There is a Southern Pacific/Pacific Electric Station in Watts. I walked over to the Watts Towers.

The Watts Towers

The Watts Towers or Towers of Simon Rodia in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California, is a collection of 17 interconnected structures, two of which reach heights of over 99 feet. The Towers were built by Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato ("Sam" or "Simon") Rodia in his spare time over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954. The work is an example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Na�ve art. The Watts Towers are located near (and visible from) the 103rd Street-Kenneth Hahn Station of the Metro Rail LACMTA Blue Line. They were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. The sculptures' armatures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh and coated with mortar. The main supports are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, and glass. They are decorated with found objects, including bed frames, bottles, ceramic tiles, scrap metal and sea shells. Rodia called the towers Nuestro Pueblo (which means "our town" in Spanish). He built them with no special equipment or predetermined design, working alone with hand tools and window-washer's equipment. Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia, some of which were added, but the majority of his material consisted of damaged pieces from the Malibu Pottery or CALCO (California Clay Products Company), located nearby. Green glass includes recognizable soft drink bottles from the 1930s through 1950s, some still bearing the former logos of 7 Up, Squirt, Bubble Up, and Canada Dry; blue glass appears to be from milk of magnesia bottles. Rodia bent much of the Towers' framework from scrap rebar, using nearby railroad tracks as a makeshift vise. Other items came from alongside the Pacific Electric Railway right of way between Watts and Wilmington. Rodia often walked the right of way all the way to Wilmington in search of material, a distance of nearly 20 miles. Rodia reportedly did not get along with his neighbors, some of whom allowed their children to vandalize his work. Rumors that the towers were antennae for communicating with enemy Japanese forces or contained buried treasure caused suspicion and further vandalism. In 1955, Rodia gave the property away and left, reportedly tired of the abuse he had received. He retired to Martinez, California and never came back. He died a decade later. The property changed hands, Rodia's bungalow inside the enclosure was burned down, and the city of Los Angeles condemned the structure and ordered it razed. Actor Nicholas King and a film editor William Cartwright visited the site in 1959, saw the neglect, and purchased the property for $3,000 in order to preserve it. When the city found out about the transfer, it decided to perform the demolition before the transfer went through. The towers had already become famous and there was opposition from around the world. King, Cartwright, and museum curator Jim Elliott of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, along with area architects, artists, and community activists formed the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts. The Committee negotiated with the city to allow for an engineering test to establish the safety of the structures. The test took place on October 10, 1959. For the test, steel cable was attached to each tower and a crane was used to exert lateral force. The crane was unable to topple or even shift the towers with the forces applied, and the test was concluded when the crane experienced mechanical failure. Bud Goldstone and Edward Farrell were the engineer and architect leading the team. The committee preserved the towers independently until 1975, when it deeded the site to the City of Los Angeles, which in turn deeded it to the State of California in 1978. It is now designated the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park. It is operated by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department in partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In February 2011, LACMA announced that it had received a $500,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to conserve and promote the Watts Towers.

Views of the Watts Towers. I returned to the 103rd Street/Watts Towers Station to wait for my train to the Pacific Coast Highway Blue Line Station. I called Chris Parker to let him know I was on the way.

My train pulled into the 103rd Street/Watts Towers Station and I boarded. I detrained at the Pacific Coast Highway Blue Line Station then waited a few minutes for Chris Parker to arrive. After he took care of a work problem we drove to the Lomita Railroad Museum.

Lomita Railroad Museum

The Lomita Railroad Museum was the first of its kind west of Denver, Colorado. It was made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Irene Lewis who donated the Museum to the City of Lomita in honor of her late husband, Martin Lewis, in 1967. It was a rather natural thing for Mrs. Lewis to do since she had been a dedicated railroader and spent many years building Little Engines, a business devoted entirely to developing and manufacturing miniature steam operated locomotives which were sold all over the world. The museum proudly displays some of these locomotives. The Museum was built in 1966. Much research and study was given to depot structures before the final home the Museum was chosen. Mrs. Lewis chose to copy the Boston & Maine's Greenwood Station at Wakefield, Massachusetts, which was built before the turn of the century. The Museum has been referred to as a "work of art". Everyone who worked on the building was an artist in his line. This of course includes John W. Gallareto, designer and builder. No expense was spared too produce a proper and appropriate treasury to house the valuable historical items on display in the Museum.

Views of the Lomita Railroad Museum.

Southern Pacific Mogul 2-6-0 1765 built by Baldwin in 1902.

Santa Fe Caboose 999531.

Union Oil Company of California Tank Car ALAX 103.

Union Pacific Outside Braced Box Car 51406 built 1913 and it is originally from a naval weapons station located in Seal Beach.

The station building at the Lomita Railroad Museum is a copy of the Boston & Maine 19th Century Greenwood Depot at Wakefield, Massachusetts.

There is a Wig Wag crossing signal here.

Union Pacific CA-1 Wooden Caboose 25730 built in 1910.

A Velocipede Hand Car.

Empty baggage cart.

Baggage cart with milk cans.

Two views of the Southern Pacific 1765.

Locomotive in a case.

Railroad China.

Locomotive Whistles.

Order Board Light.

Switch Latern and a locomotive head light.

A Keeler Cooler.

Super Chief drumhead, oil cans and Tonopah Sign.

The Gift Shop.

Locomotive Number Plates.

Various pictures.

Valve Gear Demonstrator.

The Ticket Office.

Pictures of the North Wales Railroad.

Timetable Board from the Kelso-Longview Station.

The Rockwood Bridge on the Pennsylvania Railroad picture.

Semaphore Signal Blade.

A Union Pacific Map.

Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy.

A railroad date spike collection.

Pictures of steam engines.

Boston & Maine Mountain Number 4117.

Virginia Alleghany Articulated Number 900.

Benches and storage shed.

Denver Rio Grande Consildation Engine Chart.

Switch stands on display.

Link and pin coupler display.

How they got here.

How a SP Mogul Steams.

Here is another baggage cart.

Next I visited the cab of the Southern Pacific 1765.

The inside of the cab of the Southern Pacific 1765.

The view from the engineer seat of the Southern Pacific 1765.

The water tower at Lomita.

The front end of the Southern Pacific 1765.

The Southern Pacific crossbuck at the museum.

The Southern Pacific 1765 and water tower.

Two more switch stands.

The Lookout for the Locomotive Stop & Listen sign. This end of coverage of the unique Lomita Railroad Museum. Now we will head to some new streetcars to ride.

Click here for Part 2 of this story