Friday, November 28, 2014
Views of California, Mt. Lowe Railway
I had to go all the way to South Dakota (via eBay) to get this classic southern California scene.
Alright, let's start with a bit of heavily edited history. In the late nineteenth century, Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe. inventor, astronomer, balloonist, and businessman, thought it would be a grand idea to build a railroad into the San Gabriel Mountains, above Pasadena and Los Angeles. A daft idea, but by 1893, he was open for business.
The Mt. Lowe Railway was actually three separate railways. The Mountain Division started in the city of Altadena, and actually had stops for locals, just trying to get from one street to another. Eventually, it entered Rubio Canyon, home to some rather scenic waterfalls that hikers can still visit. After crossing the upper canyon on a bridge, it ended at Rubio Pavilion, a small 12 room hotel.
From there, the next leg was The Great Incline, a funicular railway that had inclines ranging from 48 to 62 degrees. It ended at the top of Echo Mountain, and yet another hotel. This one, an 80 room Victorian monstrosity. There was also an astronomical observatory, the gear house for the funicular, and finally, a mega watt search light that could be seen fifty miles out to sea. The whole lot was dubbed, The White City.
And finally, The Alpine Division, a mere 3.5 miles, that had 127 hairpin curves, and 18 bridges, ended at the foot of Mt. Lowe, and another hotel, the Ye Alpine Tavern, a 12 room Swiss style chalet. Round trip, $5.00.
Things never really went well for Lowe's dream project. The whole thing went into receivership within a few years, complicated by the fact that the good Professor built the whole thing on federal land without permission. (The San Gabriel Mountains Forest Preserve, latter Angeles National Forest, and soon to be San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.) In 1905 the hotel on Echo Mountain burned to the ground, in 1909, a flood wiped out The Rubio Pavilion, in 1928, a Santa Ana wind blew down the observatory, and in 1936, the Ye Alpine Tavern, also burned down. And finally, adding insult to injury, in 1938, a three day rain storm destroyed what was left. To expensive to rebuild, in World War 2, a scrapper went along the route and pulled up what was left of the tracks. From 1959 to 1962, the Forest Service dynamited the foundations of all the buildings.
This card is post marked, "OCEAN PARK JAN 20 9:30 A.M, CAL." And since this is from the era when postmarks were added at both ends of the process, "ESMOND FEB 8, A.M. 1908, S.DAK." It was addressed to "P.G. Hanna, Esmond, S.D." I looked up Esmond. It's not even listed as a town, but as a populated place. The map showed all of six streets.