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December 18
1929 - Swift justice: Thomas Vernon sentenced to life in prison for Saugus train derailment & robbery 1 month earlier [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

mug_darrylmanzerIn 1876, rails were joined right here in the SCV that linked the northern and southern halves of California. The event took place in a spot now long forgotten, called Lang Station. There is a historical marker that last seen was covered in weeds.

For many years, California had the lead in mass transit for the public. You could take a train or trolley car just about any place in the state.

The Pacific Electric Red Cars were replaced by the freeways, and now we have transportations wonders like the 405.

Maybe we could go back to trains again – but I doubt it. We are Californians. We are an automobile society. We love to drive to a place when we want to go there and drive back when we want. We don’t really want to wait on train schedules.

A few years back, we Californians voted on building a high-speed rail system. At first it was going to speed us from San Francisco to Los Angeles nearly as fast as an airplane. At least that is what we voted on at the time. Now rumor has it that it might take nearly as long as driving your own vehicle.

So now we have a building process sponsored and paid for by the state. We taxpayers.

Frankly, I don’t want to be in the railroad business. If the current railroads wanted a high-speed passenger rail system and felt it would make a profit, they would have built it already. Alas, we’ve not seen the Union Pacific or Burlington Northern-Santa Fe start to build anything.

amtrakI look at Amtrak, the government-operated passenger rail system. It is not making money. I look at other government-run agencies like the Veterans Administration and wonder about the state of California operating anything.

Our governor, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, wants to build it. Maybe his father never let Jerry play with toy trains and he wants to do it now … with our money.

Like many people, I know it is “what we don’t know” that scares us about the Jerry Brown train. We don’t know the route. We don’t know the cost. We don’t know the speeds it will actually run at, and if it runs at all, we don’t know what the ticket price will be.

We should be able to get some of the answers during a dog and pony show taking place tonight at Hart Hall at William S. Hart Park in Newhall. The rail authority will be on hand with displays and folks to answer questions.

The “show” runs from 5 p.m. to 8 pm. I hope to go, and I hope a lot of you do, too. Maybe they’ll have some neat model trains to watch. I like model trains. I used to belong to a model railroad club in Vallejo.

I love just about all things “trains.” Many memories of riding the rails creep out of my brain. One that is most wonderful is from 1967, when my mother and I got aboard the Santa Fe Super Chief and headed east as far as Kansas City. Dome cars. Dining cars with linen and silver and outstanding food and service.

highspeedrail2Now we have Amtrak. Paper napkins and poor service. Government-run trains.

A favorite was a cab ride in the Felton and Big Trees Railroad near Santa Cruz. Now that was a train.

Some folks think the first transcontinental railway was a government-financed and -operated project. Wrong. The United States did back the builders by giving land and funding to Union Pacific and Central Pacific to build the roads as loans. Those loans were paid back in a very few years, and the railroad was a private concern. It is all the Union Pacific today. A profitable company – and it gave up passenger service years ago to stop the cash from running down a hole.

Along came Amtrak. Don’t you find it odd that you have to take a bus at the gaps in the Amtrak system in California? We used to be able ride the rails in comfort. Now we get a bus.

So I’ll go stop, look and listen at William S. Hart Hall tonight. Hey, am I the only one who remembers the safety lectures from the railroads to stop, look and listen at grade crossings? How about another railroad memory? Engineer Bill every weekday afternoon. Cartoons and milk and cookies. “Red Light-Green Light.” Remember what that was all about? Wasn’t it on Channel 9? Anyone remember?

How about putting a red light on the California High Speed Rail? Because it just plain isn’t the job of the state, and we can’t afford it. Engineer Bill would agree, I think.

All aboard! Not.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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1 Comment

  1. Nanette says:

    Yes, Darryl, Engineer Bill was on channel 9 (Los Angeles) about 6:00 or 6:30 in the evening. I remember the time range because it was a treat to eat on TV trays in front of the TV at our house and we always played Red Light, Green Light as part of dinner of those nights. Dinner was at 6:00 after my dad got home and washed up. :-) Of course, that was before we lived on the ranch when dinnertime was whenever chores were done and we no longer had any sunlight outside to work by. Nan

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