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Streetcar to the Sky: 1913

Streetcar to the Sky: 1913

Mount Lowe, California, circa 1913. "Electric car at Ye Alpine Tavern, Mount Lowe Railway." This Swiss-style chalet in the San Gabriel Mountains was the upper terminus (elev. 5,000 feet) of an 1890s scenic and incline railway that started in Altadena, with streetcar connections all the way to the main terminal at the Pacific Electric Building in Los Angeles. The railway and associated resorts, including the 70-room Echo Mountain House, were gradually obliterated by fire and flood until, by 1940, nothing was left. Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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Present Day Funiculars

It's a shame this streetcar line is long gone, but there are still some very spectacular funicular style rail trips available. I would be very remiss if I didn't mention the Lookout Mountain Incline in my old home town of Chattanooga.

Great hike

I grew up in Sierra Madre in the 1950s early '60s. The roadbed of the railway was one of my favorite hikes, even found some spikes on occasion. The river rock foundations were still there at the hotel; a great place to camp for the night and a rad view. I still fantasize of time traveling back and taking the rail trip to Mount Lowe.

A campground now

Did an overnighter there with the Boy Scouts recently. The old right of way makes for an easy grade.

I tried to replicate the location of the historical photo.
Mine is the blue tent.


Bare Naked Bulb

Love the light bulb in the trees, so simple yet so definitive.

Raise a glass to Mount Lowe

There's some Mount Lowe Railway memorabilia at a little bar in Altadena called the Rancho, on Lake Avenue.


BrookeDisAstor mentioned the movie Sunrise. I own the DVD of Sunrise, which is a remarkable film and I remember the scene where Janet Gaynor takes the trolley running through the woods to go into the city. According to IMDB, the film was shot at three outside locations: the Columbia River in Oregon, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, both near San Bernardino. But of those two locations, only Lake Arrowhead had a Pacific Electric line nearby. So not the Mount Lowe Line, but somewhere similar.

Civil War aeronaut

Thaddeus Lowe, who incorporated the railway and is the mountain's namesake, had been a balloonist during the Civil War as an observer for the Union. His daughter, whose name I'd have to look up, lived into the latter part of the 20th century. She was an accomplished aviator and is recorded in recent history in "The Right Stuff" as proprietor of the Happy Bottom Riding Club, the bar that stood near the end of the original runways at Muroc/Edwards AFB. Then she was known by her married name Pancho Barnes, and it may have been one of her rental horses that broke Chuck Yeager's rib the evening before he flew the X1 to Mach 1.

The Great Circular Bridge

Please post some views from the "high" side, a favorite of the postcard makers- lots of air below the car. Another favorite was taken from the opposite side of the canyon at the bottom of the incline, plus apparently group shots were taken of each incline carload an sold s souvenirs to the passengers- I'm told this is available today at amusement parks where the water toboggan plummets near the finish and most passengers are screaming. [and apparently young jaded women lift their shirts]

I camped there

As a Boy Scout growing up in nearby La Canada Flintridge, we used to hike to the top of Mount Lowe and camp at the ruins of the old hotel. The view of Los Angeles at night was spectacular!

When a fire damaged the trail to the top, my Eagle Scout project involved rebuilding the upper portion. We lugged a wheelbarrow and all the tools up to the top to complete the job.

Fond memories! Thanks.

Mount Lowe rail trail

Does the right of way still exist?

Just wondering.

Sort of reminds me of the trolley to Glen Echo Park in Maryland, although more dramatic.

Trolleys are making a comeback. That's nice, but they are pretty useless.

I thought of "Sunrise" as well

Generally in Silent Film circles known as one of the best silent films ever made. When I saw this picture I immediately thought of that movie. I thought at the time it was unusual to have a trolley in the woods like that. Understanding the budget of a 1927 movie, I figured they would not have built that trolley and track just for the film. Just wondering if it really was the same trolley from the movie.

A boring place perhaps

but I bet the ride getting there would have been a blast!

Very Peaceful.

Oh, I would love to have been there. Just looking at pic relaxes me.


Funny this is posted today! I happened to catch part of a silent movie recently on TCM called "Sunrise" and wanted to see the rest of the film. I got it from Netflix and watched it yesterday. There is a scene where Janet Gaynor is running from George O'Brien and hops something that looks just like this going through the woods and up into the mountain. I'll bet it was this trolley line. Oh, and I would highly recommend the movie - it was great and I usually don't like silent movies.

Stars and Stripes

I also remember saluting the 48 star flag. Lets not get too upset about this, had this picture been taken 2 years earlier, in 1911, we would have seen a 46 star flag and 4 years before that, in 1907, old glory showed 45. I was always a good history student but grammar and punctuation were a problem, mainly because of run-on sentences.

My Stars

It all depends on your perspective. With my little hand over my heart, I pledged allegiance to a 48-star flag on many a morning in grade school. I'm not used to the newfangled 50-star flag yet.

Can't be all that great

This young lady doesn't seem too thrilled by the experience. And what's the streak in the background? Gauze curtains, smoke? A ghost?

[It's a flutterby. - Dave]

Mount Lowe video

I first became interested in researching Mount Lowe after discovering a photo, of a lady standing near some oak trees, labeled "On Mt. Lowe" in my late Aunt Mary's album. (This is the same Aunt Mary featured in my brother tterrace's photos.) There were cousins in Los Angeles, and Aunt Mary apparently went by train to visit them often. It would have been in this era. Anyway, my searches have found many links to info about the mountain and the railway. Here is a video from an old film clip.

Born Too Late

Hardly a soul can still be alive who rode the Mount Lowe Railway, especially in its golden age. It must have been a magical trip. The links tell the main story; other sites show open cars stopping to let riders admire the fields of poppies adorning the open plains in the spring. California mountains in the summer can be somewhat parched, but still refreshing compared to the warm stagnant air of the basin. The Tavern evidently preserved as many oaks as possible, with their small crackly leaves and hard acorns. Regrettably the enterprise never really covered its costs and succumbed to a series of disasters before I was born.

It was a rather long trip, taking several hours each way. I, like many, regret the passing of the trolley cars, but old timetables show that it took well over two hours even to run the 50-some miles from central LA to Huntington Beach, and the tracks could never achieve the coverage of even a mediocre bus service.

Shows amazing history.

Although obvious, it seems incredible to see the flag only having 48 stars! Very interesting.

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