Friday, 26 November 2010

Mount Lowe Railway

 Climbing Los Flores Canyon, Mt Lowe, California

Mount Lowe Railway, the only scenic mountain electric traction rail-road ever built in the USA, 7 miles of track starting at Mountain Junction in Altadena, California.  It was the vision of Prof Thaddeus S.C. Lowe (balloonist and Lincoln's Chief Aeronaut in the American Civil War) to  to build this tourist attraction which started in business on 4th July 1893.  The civil engineer and partner in this venture was David J MacPherson.

The card is of the 'alpine' section which was begun at a later date in 1894 and took a narrow gage track across 3 canyons to the foot of Mount Lowe. The line set out across the broad Las Flores Canyon which I have read gave a tremendous panorama of the Los Angeles area below.

Things did not go smoothly for Thaddeus Lowe's venture the hotel which had been built on Echo Mountain on top of the Great Incline burnt down, there were landslides, flash floods, electrical storms and lastly in 1938 there was a "three-day deluge of biblical proportions" which "wiped out everything left of the railway and stranded the caretakers on Echo for 10 days. After that the railway was officially abandoned".  By this time Lowe did not own the railway, he had gone bankrupt and the railway  had changed hands twice.  There is a fascinating article on Wikipedia with photographs of this visionary venture here.

The 3 million people that rode the railway and perhaps had their photograph taken by the official photographer Charles Lawrence would only see traces of it today.  Happily on part of the old rail bed from Echo Mountain there is a hiking route part of which drops down to the Flores Canyon.   Some of the old hardware and information boards about the railway line the route which was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

Saturday Update: Following up Lyneen of "I Am Dreaming of Castles" comment.  See her wonderful find of Mt Lowe postcards, really see what it was like to teeter on the edge of a mountain in a small electric rail car and read the newspaper article here

Beth of The Best Hearts Are Crunchy is the hostess of Postcard Friendship Friday


Postcardy said...

It would have been interesting to ride that, but I wouldn't want to be stranded.

papel1 said...

Interesting postcard. Grew up in the LA area but never heard of that train!

MuseSwings said...

Nice card! Interesting that a balloonist/aeronaut would have a vision of building land transportation in an area that perhaps a balloon would be a safer ride.

viridian said...

Darn, I am sorry it's gone. Looks like an exciting ride!
Thanks for sharing.
happy PFF!

Dorincard said...

Cool blogpost! Nice research. :)

Lyneen said...

I love postcards of Mt Lowe... I did a post with several postcards in the spring you may be interested in... all different postcards of Mr Lowe. Wonderful post... TFS

Happy PFF

here is the link to Mt Lowe if you are interested.

Sheila said...

What a shame it was all so disastrous. It must have been spectacular.

Lyneen said...

Thank you for linking... once I started researching I couldn't stop... some of these old amusements are amazing feats for their time.

Debs said...

what a wonderful card and story...and it looks like i've been rewarded for turning up two days late for PFF ;-) the link to lyneen's earlier post was also a great find!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear some of it's on the National Register. Must've been quite a view.