A Wigwag is an older form of railroad grade crossing protection. It was also known as a Magnetic Flagman. Think of it as a mechanical version of a person waving a railroad lantern to help “protect” a train crossing a roadway. These are now extremely rare to see as they don’t have gates in addition to the flashing lights.
I’ve either found or learned of only a few in Southern California. In the Los Angeles area, there is only one left – on 49th St between Pacific Blvd and Santa Fe Ave in Vernon along the BNSF Railway.
After serving the traveling public faithfully since 1941, the North Burbank Underpass on San Fernando Blvd in Burbank will close permanently on May 20, 2014. It is one of the more significant structures on old US 99 in the San Fernando Valley. Somewhat ironically, the structure will be replaced with a new interchange at Empire Ave. San Fernando Blvd will be rerouted back to its pre-1941 alignment, this time without a grade crossing. So, get out there and take your pictures while you can. Do the same for any other sections of old highway. You never really know how long they will last.
In the Hollywood Hills off of Coldwater Canyon Road, there is an unusual street. First turning off of Coldwater Canyon as Cherokee Lane in Los Angeles, it looks like a pretty standard road. However, reaching further up, the road passes the Beverly Hills City Limits. Well, only half of it does. So, now the left half is in Los Angeles and the right half is in Beverly Hills. The blocks are also now slightly different, with the LA side in the 9400 block and the Beverly Hills side in the 9300 block.
The road follows the city limits until it reaches Bowmont Drive. Bearing to the right at the intersection, things get very unusual. Instead of just different cities, now the same roadway has different names. The left side is now the 9300 block of Cherokee Ln in Los Angeles. The right side is now the 2000 block of Loma Vista Dr in Beverly Hills. This oddity continues until the entire roadway crosses into Beverly Hills a short ways up the canyon. Sometimes cities work together, sometimes they work apart. This is the most unusual mix I’ve ever seen.
In the 1930’s, Los Angeles County began construction of an additional roadway over the San Gabriel Mountains via the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. About half of the roadway, complete with with four larger bridges and a tunnel, was constructed. Work had progressed as far as “The Narrows” by 1938. However, the March 2-3, 1938 storms caused much of the roadway to be washed out. The project was then abandoned, leaving a large arch bridge stranded many miles upriver. The tunnel still exists as well, just north of the “Bridge to Nowhere”, though it has been sealed at both ends.
In the 1955, a new road building project commenced in the canyon. This new alignment would stay high above the canyon floor until it got nearer to the “Bridge to Nowhere”, allowing that earlier work to come to some use. Progress on this roadway was slow, mostly due to poor funding. Convict labor was used for most of the project, similar to many other road building efforts at the time in Los Angeles County. Two tunnels were constructed as well. These still exist and are mostly intact. This project too was cancelled in the late 1960’s, leaving another large scar in the canyon. This road is presently known as Shoemaker Canyon Road.
Today, the canyon is protected from future development through the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area. Even without this protection, the geology of the canyon makes for a very expensive project. Maintenance would also be costly, as seen with State 39 through San Gabriel Canyon and above Crystal Lake. In time, all these structures and cuts will wash away, leaving the canyon with only bits of concrete and asphalt to show what was once here.
A M5.1 earthquake occurred at 9:09PM on March 28, 2014, located 1 mile easy of La Habra, CA, or 4 miles north of Fullerton, CA. The event was felt widely throughout Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. It was preceded by two foreshocks, the larger of M3.6 at 8:03pm. The demonstration earthquake early warning system provided 4 second warning in Pasadena.
There have been 23 aftershocks as of 10:00PM on March 28, the largest of which was a M3.6 at 9:30PM, and was felt locally near the epicenter. The aftershock sequence may continue for several days to weeks, but will likely decay in frequency and magnitude as time goes by.
The maximum observed instrumental intensity was VII, recorded in the LA Habra and Brea areas, although the ShakeMap shows a wide area of maximum intensity of VI. The maximum reported intensity for the Did You Feel It? map was reported at VI in the epicentral area.
This sequence could be associated with the Puente Hills thrust (PHT). The PHT is a blind thrust fault that extends from this region to the north and west towards the City of Los Angeles. It caused the M5.9 1987 Oct. 1 Whittier Narrows earthquake.
Previously, the M5.4 2008 Chino Hills earthquake occurred in this region. It caused somewhat stronger shaking in Orange County and across the Los Angeles Basin.
The moment tensor shows oblique faulting, with a north dipping plane that approximately aligns with the Puente Hills thrust.
The demonstration earthquake early warning system provided 4 second warning in Pasadena.
Angels Flight is a short funicular railway in downtown Los Angeles. It has been around since 1901, though not continuously. It used to run from Hill St and 3rd St west up Bunker Hill. It was moved about 1/2 block south about 15 years ago. I took this video of it in 2010.
It seems I have to redefine what a short ride is for me lately. I’ve been gradually increasing my distance record over the past three years. Sometimes I increase my record by only a few miles, sometimes by a whole lot more.
On May 7, 2011, I took the train to Los Angeles Union Station, and rode home. Downtown Los Angeles and my home in San Diego seem so far apart. They are about 110 miles apart, along the 5. The route I took, which I felt was the easiest and safest route, was 154 miles in length. San Diego may be southeast of Los Angeles but I started my ride heading west. Seems odd to go the opposite way to my destination, but it was the best way. I’ve found a really nice and fast route west from Downtown LA to Mid-City (Vineyard Junction, or for those non-Pacific Electric knowing folk – San Vicente Blvd and Venice Blvd). Past that, the options open up. On that ride, I followed Venice Blvd to Overland Ave, then to the Ballona Creek Trail. It proved to be a good way to bypass a large swath of city in a fast and efficient way. Once at the coast, I took the South Bay Trail down to Redondo Beach. That trail can be quite fun to ride, with all the distractions of the hot surfer boys in their wetsuits to watch!
After Redondo Beach, I followed Palos Verdes Drive North, then around the harbor, and into Long Beach. From Long Beach, I followed the coast the rest of the way down. The ride got more interesting and more tiring through Laguna Beach, with all those rolling hills. Things did look up though, as I found $80 alongside the roadway not long after taking a break just south of Laguna Beach. Sometimes, it does pay to bicycle! It did add a bit of brightness to my day, as the last few miles had been less than fun. Just too much traffic, and too narrow a roadway. Beyond that, there were a few more rolling hills, and San Clemente. At least that town could be avoided, quite nicely too. The signed bike route has sharrows and bike lanes. It can be tougher to follow at the north end, but overall, a good route. Just past San Clemente was San Diego County. So, goodbye Orange County, hello San Diego County!
I kept a good pace most of the route south, stopping in Oceanside for some food. It got dark around Torrey Pines, but most of the ride was over by then. I finally got home right about 8:30pm, tired, a bit sore, but quite happy. It was a long ride, but my next would be even further. I had a 200 mile ride in the works for the end of May.
While I could write about my staying out at the southeast corner of Colorado Blvd and Lake Ave for almost 24 hours, parts may be boring. So, I’ll be brief. Except three years (1997, 2000, 2006), I’ve gone to the Rose Parade since 1995. The first time was with my dad, and we arrived around 4:30am. We were on the wrong side of the street and didn’t know what we were doing. We now know what to do. I was dropped off at the corner about 11:15am on the 31st, and was the first there at that corner. This year, I held spots for 12 people, 8 showed. That gave us plenty of room, right on the front row. Overall, it was a great experience. I always meet new people there. This time, the people adjacent to me were from Hanford and Las Vegas. I may not be there for the 2012 parade, but I will be there for the 2013 parade, weather permitting. Maybe I’ll see you there?
In 2011, the newest Metro Rail line in Los Angeles will open. Running from downtown Los Angeles at 7th St/Metro Center station, to Culver City at Venice Blvd / Robertson Blvd, it will be the first new line to open since the Metro Gold Line in 2003. This bike ride was to follow that from Culver City to Santa Monica Blvd. I wanted to see what was left of the old Pacific Electric line, and photograph it. It also made for a nice bike ride. The Metro Expo Line (no color for it yet) was set to open this year, but numerous delays changed that.
The line west of Culver City, however, has been a bit more of a challenge. The section from Culver City to Sepulveda Blvd has been the most contentious of them all. A small group of people in the Cheviot Hills, where the rail line will run, have fought the construction of the line for so many reasons. None are valid reasons, as they are just plain silly from the start. One of their biggest complaints, as seen in the sign pictured, is that kids and trains don’t mix. Now… to that I agree. They don’t. Kids shouldn’t be playing on active tracks, much for the same reasons they shouldn’t on any one of the major thoroughfares in the area. It should be simple, teach the kids to not play in front of trains, but to hold up a major rail line for it? They take the stance of “build it right, or don’t build at all”. All or nothing is a rather poor way of doing things. Kind of sad really, but hey, the line will get built despite them. Yeah!
Now, back to the bike ride! So, after doing a bit of research using Google Maps and Street View, I found free parking right near the old Helms Bakery. Perfect, right near where I wanted to start. After parking and getting the bike ready, it was time to go. The weather was fairly decent, though a bit on the cooler side near the beach. I started off heading to Venice Blvd, then onto Exposition Blvd. Just before National Blvd, I saw the first tracks of the day. The first thing I noticed was the bonds between the rail segments. These were original Pacific Electric tracks from the 1920’s. I took some photos, and moved on. Heading west from here, I went under the 10, then headed west through the Cheviot Hills area – remember them? Well, ignoring them and their silly signs, this is the best section of the whole line, certainly the most scenic. About halfway through the big cut here, there is a pedestrian bridge. It makes a great place to get photos, and will be a good place to watch the trains in 2015.
After that, the next major hurdle was Overland Ave. There were some remains of a crossing signal there, so I got some photos. The rails were cut at the crossing, but were still there on both sides. After Westwood Blvd, I got a different idea. There was plenty of dirt between the rails, and no plants. As railroad tracks usually have lots of thorns around them, I was a bit leery of doing this. I still did it anyway. After all, it is a cross bike, gotta ride dirt at some point! It was pretty smooth overall, with some muddy spots. Just beyond Military Ave, the tracks ended, for a while. The east switch for Home Junction still remained, but after that, no more tracks. At Sepulveda Blvd, only the guard rail for a crossing arm remained. From here west, there wasn’t as much to see. I was surprised to see the tracks still in place, along with the remains of the west switch for Home Junction, at the edge of a parking lot west of Sawtelle Blvd. They just paved right up to the north rail.
After Pico Blvd, Exposition Blvd picked up again. This time, even less remained of the tracks. From what I could tell, they had been pulled up long ago. No trace remained at the road crossings, only the occasional crossing signal or pole remained. At Centinela Ave, it was time to go over to Olympic Blvd. This ride isn’t about the PE after all! Olympic Blvd is an old State Highway, former Route 26. West of Centinela, the roadway turns into a four lane divided roadway, complete with concrete. I had only driven the roadway before, so this would be a good opportunity to find a date stamp on the concrete.
Just after Cloverfield Blvd, I found two things I had been looking for. The rail line crossed Olympic here, with the rails still in place, and there was a date stamp in the concrete. The stamp was from 1948, a bit earlier than I had thought, as I saw a 1958 stamp in a curb just before Cloverfield Blvd. I continued down Olympic Blvd as far as Lincoln Ave. Why that far? Well, that intersection, or at least the modern equivalent (the 10 freeway has modified things around there), was the west end of US 66. US 66, the Mother Road, ending at such a bland location? Yes. It never ended at Ocean, never mind what the signs may say. It always ended at the intersection of Lincoln Ave and Olympic Blvd. This intersection was formerly the junction of US 101A, SR-26, and US 66. The last two ended here, the first continued north to Malibu and Oxnard. After making some zigs and zags through central Santa Monica, I made it to Ocean Ave. Finally, the coast! It was a good place to take a break, enjoy the view from the cliffs, and figure out my next move.
I decided it was time to take some photos. There was a plaque for Will Rogers, and a sign stating it ended here. As stated before, it didn’t. Once I had taken my photos of the Will Rogers Highway plaque, I headed on south. It was time to hit Venice and see what remnants of the Pacific Electric I could find. I followed Ocean Blvd down until I could connect to the beach path. It wasn’t a busy beach day, so taking the path wasn’t a bad idea. Before I got to the beach, I found some reminders of why I like to ride there – SURFERS! Yes, it is always a good day for a ride here. The trouble with the path is sand. Lots of sand. It is a beach path after all! It wouldn’t be so much trouble, if it weren’t for the very sharp curvy nature of too many sections of the beach path. Seems to go out of its way to put curves in places there should be none. Just gotta take it slow. After I got as far south as central Venice, I left the path. As it turned out, I was right at Venice Blvd.
I took Pacific Avenue for a while, looking for traces of the PE. I found some, a building that had loops for hanging the overhead wire. After a while, I moved over to Main St, and followed it to the south end of Santa Monica. I was searching for a train station, but did not find it. Next time perhaps, when I remember to bring the address! No matter, I headed back south, following 2nd St this time, which eventually turns into Electric Avenue (yes, I did rock down to…. Electric Avenue, but I didn’t take it higher.) This follows another PE line, with some tracks still extant. There were two small sections of track, at Broadway St and Westminster St. I got my photos, and headed onto Abbott Kinney Blvd, which has sharrows. I took it just for that reason.
After roaming through Venice, it was time to get back to the car. No rush, but I decided to take the shortest route – Venice Blvd. The roadway is wide, with overall decent paving, and bike lanes both directions. Winds, the seemingly slight downhill, and my energy at that point in the ride seemed to meet. I kept a decent pace down the road, averaging about 26 mph, sometimes up to 30 mph. Not bad, I thought, as I noticed I was keeping up with traffic. With that, the ride took less time than I had thought it might, and I got back to the car just shy of two hours later than I started. Overall, a fun ride. I saw most of what I set out to see, with few problems. The future of Los Angeles, it seems, lies in its past. Where there were trains before, there will be again. Instead of building a city as they did, they’ll keep it moving.