Throwback Thursday (#100!) | When the Iron Horse Became a Red Car

Heavy rail gives way to light rail as electric power supplants coal

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena bound Red Car crosses the Arroyo Seco

Before the rolling hills of scrub and oak is terraformed with streets and homes, the only transportation “vessel” capable of making the transcontinental trek to California requires coal to produce steam locomotive power. These “Iron Horses” carry loads of lumber and other freight from the port.

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | SouthPasadenan.com News | The L.A. & S.G.V. train crosses the Arroyo Seco heading for South Pasadena
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Railroad tracks with South Pasadena’s Raymond Hill and hotel in the background
PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | SouthPasadenan.com News | Train belches smoke goes by South Pasadena’s Raymond hotel

Using smaller-gauge railroad tracks, the urban electric car (known as Red Car) quickly dominates city streets offering affordable public access to downtown goods and services from nearly every neighborhood home. Hundreds of staircases lace the hills providing door-to-door interurban travel.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | Red Car passes South Pasadena Pharmacy at the corner of Mission and Fair Oaks
PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | SouthPasadenan.com News | Passengers leave with their bicycles

The Mount Lowe Railroad provides public access to our local mountains.

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PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Rubio Pavilion, Mount Lowe Railroad
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | The Great Incline, Mount Lowe Railroad
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Incline Car, Mount Lowe Railroad
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Echo Mountain, Mount Lowe Railroad

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

 

Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.