Built in 1903, Southern Pacific Santa Susana Depot sat on Los Angeles Ave. East of Tapo Street; it served the Rancho Simi area until the early 1970s when the SP closed it. Falling prey to age and vandalism, the deteriorating building was sold by the railroad for $1.06, and moved 2 miles east to its present site in May 1975 (6503 Katherine Road). After extensive restoration, the depot was reopened in 2000, as a museum and home of the local model railroaders club.
A passenger station, freight station, and telegraph office, it was based on Southern Pacific’s standard No. 22, combination depot plans; the depot has a recently restored stationmaster’s apartment on the second story.
Exhibits between today’s Union Pacific tracks and the depot:
On the second floor of this building, above the Santa Paula Hardware Company and the US Post Office, Union Oil Co. was founded October 17, 1890; when corporate headquarters were moved to Los Angeles in 1900, production offices remained in Santa Paula. In 1950, the building became Union Oil Museum. In 1988, Unocal announced a $2million restoration of the site, creating the California Oil Museum of today.
Much of the stone in the Queen Anne building came from the Santa Paul creek, and the purple Sespe sandstone trim came from a Fillmore quarry. The first floor has permanent interactive exhibits centered on the oil industry in California and rooms for changing exhibits; upstairs the building has been restored to its 19th century corporate Board Room and office space. The rig room, a modern structure adjacent to the original building, has a working, restored 1890s oil rig!
See https://www.caoilmuseum.org/about for more photos and information about current exhibits. I have a personal preference for museums that are interesting for both kids and adults!
I found the first three photographs (circa 1877) in the Library of Congress collection, published by the Continent Stereoscopic Company in the series “Descriptive views of the American Continent.”
According to LoC: “Written in pen on back of mount: Fort Yuma, Cal. on bluff in background.”
I believe the shot was taken looking north from Yuma, Arizona Territory; Fort Yuma on the California side of the Colorado River can be seen on the bluff, just as the note on back reads. If you look along the tracks, you can see a glimpse of the swing bridge built by the railroad across the river.
According to LoC: “Written in pen on back of mount: Yuma, Ariz., Fort Yuma, Cal. on bluff in background.”
Looking carefully, when enlarged, the tender is has the initials “S” and “P.”
The bridge was built to swing a section aside so large boats could ply the River. Starting in 1852, steamboats were used to transport goods and people on the lower Colorado.
The Southern Pacific completed tracks from Los Angeles to Indio, California in 1876, and on to Yuma, Arizona in 1877. That year, photographer Enoch Conklin traveled in Arizona, taking his own pictures as well as acquiring photos from others. “Picturesque Arizona: Being the Result of Travels and Observations in Arizona During the Fall and Winter of 1877” was published by the Mining Record Printing Establishment, in which his pictures were credited to the Continent Stereoscopic Company. An incomplete set of the images were deposited in the LoC by an unknown source in 1907.
With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1877, steamboat travel declined. The completion of Laguna Dam in 1909, was the end of viable steamboating on the lower Colorado (see my blog entry on the Swastika Bridge for more on Laguna Dam).
Sold to the US Reclamtion Service, the Seachlight was lost on the River in October 1916; as the last steamboat on the lower Colorado, its loss ended an era.
The copies of these two available digitally do not have the title captions, but the numbers and titles are given on the LoC information documents
Just a quick note on the power of water: I found this dramatic March 18, 1928 USGS photo of the railroad tracks between Castaic Junction and Piru (Calif.), having been moved onto the highway by the flood caused by the Saint Francis Dam failure.
Below is a photo of the dam before it failed on March 12, 1928. From the USGS archives, courtesy of Los Angeles Bureau of Power & Light. Harold Thornton Stearns, photographer
Yesterday is already history, but for some of us, it will be the day the BIG BOY came to Indio.
Needless to say, the crowds ranged from toddlers to the elderly, all here to see one of the largest steam locomotives ever built.
Originally delivered to the Union Pacific in December 1941, Engine No. 4014 has been fully restored and touring the country as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Meeting of the Rails at Promontory Point in 1869. More information on the Big Boy can be found at https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/4014/
Designed by Swiss-born Modernist architect Albert Frey,* the Yacht Club is an architectural gem sitting in a pretty desolate location, the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea, across Highway 111 and the Southern Pacific tracks from the unincorporated community of North Shore. Built in 1959, the marina was used to dock boats, in an era when the Sea had more visitors per year than Yosemite.
With the jetty long gone and the Yacht Club abandoned and vandalized, in 2009, Riverside County restored the building. For about a year the Salton Sea Museum operated from the building, with over 7000 visitors signing in. Sadly the museum closed, and the facility is now primarily used as a community center by Desert Recreational District. BUT at least it is being used and maintained!
Now the “new” problem is the dropping Sea water level, leaving the inlet to the marina cut off from the Sea. Last month the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy** voted to approve a grant, which along with funds from the Bureau of Reclamation and the California Natural Resources Agency, would enable the Salton Sea Authority to rehabilitate the inlet and marina. If you go to Google Maps satellite image of the area, you can see a tiny, compromised inlet from the Sea to the marina. However, last Sunday I went down to take photos and stood “in the inlet,” on dry beach to take the photo below.
Last Spring Desert X https://www.desertx.org/ brought more visitors to the area to see the outdoor art installations around the Coachella Valley, including the Salton Sea. It reminds me a little of Marfa Texas, in that a gem of art, is sitting in an out of the way location.
Next week the Salton Sea Summit will convene at UCR Palm Desert campus; let us hope this will bring needed attention and solutions.
*Albert Frey’s architecture is Desert Modernism, centered on Palm Springs; his work includes the Palm Springs Tramway Valley Station and the Tramway Gas Station, now used an a Visitor’s Center on the entry into the City, as well as City Hall, etc.
All of my life, a stop at Quartzsite has included a visit to Hi Jolly’s grave:
Growing up in the southwest I learned about the US Army’s experiment with importing camels before the Civil War, to determine if they would be more suited pack animals for our desert climate. Hadji Ali came as a camel driver in 1856. Records are sketchy, but it seems he was the son of a Greek and a Syrian, born somewhere in Syria (Smyrna?) around 1828. The soldiers called him Hi Jolly, inspiring the folk song of that name.
Eventually the Army abandoned the experiment, sold camels at auction, and released the remaining camels into the desert. Hi Jolly stayed in the Southwest as an army scout/packer, freight hauler and miner; he married, and became a US citizen in 1880 as Philip Tedro. On December 16, 1902, he passed away in Quartzsite, to be buried in a simple grave with a wooden marker.
His story does not end there. On December 15, 1935, the Arizona Republic reported that Jim Edwards (foreman for building that section of US Highway 60) and his crew worked on their own time, Sundays and holidays, building the monument with materials paid for by Mr. Edwards. A copper camel is atop a pyramid built of stones gathered from “Northern Yuma county.”
The Arizona Republic urged the state legislature to create a fund to mark historic sites. Today, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Exit 17 from Interstate 10, north on Business 10, east (right) on Business 10 (Main Street); the entrance to the cemetery will be on your left (about 1800 feet).