PROFESSOR THADDEUS LOWE
HIKING WHERE LOCOMOTIVES ONCE CHUGGED
Aberdeen American News (SD) - Friday, July 8, 2011
Author: Megan Kimble, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Jogging along the Whittier Greenway
Trail is traversing a corridor of history, a trip through an era when
citrus trees bloomed - and boomed - in the breeze of passing rail
trains. I found this trail because I wanted somewhere long and flat to
run, but then I realized I'd stumbled on a relic of a Southern
California long past.
The Whittier Greenway Trail is a rail
trail, a multipurpose public path along an abandoned rail corridor.
Following the gentle grade of railroads, rail trails offer recreation -
bicycling, walking, horseback riding - and open transportation routes
through otherwise dense urban areas where similar trails would now be
difficult to build.
As I jogged along the five-mile
trail, I paused at information stations such as the one in front of the
former Sunkist packing house - built in 1902, it is now, appropriately,
an antique store - that outline the interwoven boom-and-bust history of
citrus and rails in Whittier. In the early 1900s, the railroad was
carrying thousands of train carloads of oranges to market - $2 million
worth in 1931. By 1967, the Whittier depot was closed, and the track
That is, until 2008, when the city of
Whittier purchased the land right of way and built a trail along the
former rail corridor.
"Railroads had such a pivotal role in
the development of the country, especially in the opening of the West.
Many communities' identity sprang up around the railroads, so
[preserving rail trails] preserves an important piece of American
history," said Laura Cohen, the Western regional director of
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation
of railway corridors. "We look at rail trails as a way to reconnect
neighborhoods and reconnect people."
In 1920, when Congress began to track
the loss of freight railroad lines, the national rail network extended
more than 270,000 miles, a Rails-to-Trails report said. By 1990, that
number had shrunk to 141,000 miles. Highways replaced many of these
routes, but just as many were left untended. When Rails-to-Trails was
founded in 1986, there were fewer than 100 miles of rail trails
nationwide. Today, 20,000 miles extend on 1,600 rail trails around the
country; California has more than 100 distinct trails.
Besides preserving history, rail
trails help transform urban areas. "A lot of times, an abandoned rail
corridor will be an eyesore, a place where people dump trash or spray
graffiti," Cohen said.
The Martin Luther King Promenade runs
through downtown San Diego along an active trolley line; adorned by
public art, grassy areas, water fountains, the trail offers access to
revitalized areas of downtown such as the Gaslamp Quarter.
Rail trails also offer scenic day
trips outside of major cities. The Ojai Valley Trail begins just south
of Ojai and sweeps 10 miles down to Foster Park, north of Ventura. With
panoramic views and a gradual downgrade as you head south, it's a good
trail to cycle. From Foster Park, you can hop on the Ventura River
Trail, which continues to the Ventura Pier, for a complete
The Mount Lowe Railway Trail,
teetering through the San Gabriel Mountains with grades up to 62%,
defies the long and flat rule. It was built in the 1890s by engineer
Thaddeus S.C. Lowe and drew tourists to the expansive Mount Lowe
Tavern. At 4,420 feet, the lodge boasted vistas from Pasadena to the
Pacific but was plagued by fires and floods until it closed in 1937 and
the railway was abandoned. Now it's a narrow 21/2-mile hike up 1,500
feet just to access the railway (a climb once mounted by cable cars)
and tavern ruins, and a 31/2-mile climb along the rail line to
The Whittier Greenway Trail begins
just off Interstate 605 and runs mostly parallel to Whittier Boulevard.
The route is well landscaped and decorated; four wind sculptures adorn
the bridge over Whittier Boulevard, and a wide woodchip shoulder
protects the joints of joggers and dogs.
BEFORE THE WAR
CIVIL WAR YEARS
INVENTIONS AND INDUSTRY
PASADENA CALIFORNIA YEARS
MOUNT LOWE RAILWAY
AFTER THE RAILWAY
BOOKS ABOUT LOWE
EVENTS AND REUNIONS
ARTIFACTS AND HISTORY
ACCLAMATIONS AND AWARDS
LINKS TO OTHER THADDEUS LOWE WEBSITE