From Point A to Point B (and Point C): The Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale Railway, 1889-1890

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As Los Angeles began to emerge from its relatively isolated state after the Civil War, one of the obvious keys to its future was with railroads.  In the first period of significant and sustained growth, during the late 1860s through the mid 1870s, there was a modest, but important, start with the homegrown Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad, built with local funds and connecting the City of Angels to the harbor, which was soon to begin its own expansion that was also vital to the development of the region.

In 1872, after local pressure on Congress led to legislation forcing the all-powerful Southern Pacific to add Los Angeles to its line from the Bay Area to Yuma, Arizona and, eventually, points further east, negotiations (with F.P.F. Temple as an important local representative) with the SP included a deal to have county voters decide on whether to give the rail giant a subsidy and control of the Los Angeles and San Pedro.

Los Angeles Times, 11 July 1889.

This arrangement, approved that November, also provided for two additional local lines, one from south Los Angeles into what later became Orange County and another into the San Gabriel Valley, including through Rancho La Puente with a stop at the Puente station opening early in 1874.

Wishing to have some independence from the monopoly of the Southern Pacific, Temple and other local figures organized the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, which was to go through the San Gabriel Valley, up Cajon Pass and all the way to Inyo County, where a silver mine boom (Temple and his bank, Temple and Workman, were heavily invested at Cerro Gordo in the mountains east of Owens Lake, later tapped for the Los Angeles Aqueduct.)

Los Angeles Herald, 4 November 1889.

The L.A. & I., which “captured” Cajon in a surveyors battle with the SP, could not develop without outside capital, so Nevada Senator John P. Jones, who also had silver mining investments along the railroad’s line as well as a half-interest in a new seaside resort town called Santa Monica, became the majority investor.  Temple, who was president of the company shifted to being treasurer, yielding the top office to Jones, who insisted on a line to Santa Monica first and which was completed in fall 1875.

A few months later, the Temple and Workman bank collapsed during an economic panic and the L.A. & I. could not survive.  Naturally, the Southern Pacific stepped in to relieve Jones of his railroad and resumed its monopoly for almost another decade.  In late 1885, however, a new competitor arrived, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, with a direct transcontinental line that opened the floodgates for settlement and development during the famed Boom of the Eighties, during which William Henry Workman, nephew of Homestead founders William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste, was mayor.

Herald, 25 January 1890.

The boom led to further railroad development, including a couple more in the San Gabriel Valley, including the San Gabriel Valley Rapid Transit Railroad and one represented by tonight’s highlighted artifact from the museum’s collection, the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale Railway.  This latter line didn’t exist for long, but it was part of a fascinating area of regional growth and railroad development.

Known informally as the “Cross Road” because that was the surname of its prime mover, John Cross (1842-1911), a native of Michigan who was a captain in a Missouri cavalry unit the United States Army during the Civil War and then became a street railroad developer in Little Rock, Arkansas and Lexington, Kentucky.  Lured to Los Angeles as so many were, he came to the city in 1883 and built a fine home, Palm Place, off 3rd Street just west of the Crown Hill area discussed in posts on this blog .  Locally, he worked on a street railway in Santa Barbara and local lines such as the Los Angeles and Glendale Railroad (1887) and the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad (1890).

Nevada State Journal, 13 March 1890.

Joining him in the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale project was his nephew, Albert Cross, among other investors and the company formed on 30 March 1889, issuing its stock, like the example here, in a total of $200,000 with 2000 shares at a par value of $100 each.  The company then moved to build two lines, the main one into Pasadena up the Arroyo Seco, basically along where the Metro Gold Line runs today, and totaling 6.4 miles of standard-gauge tract and the second a 1.8 mile addition from Glendale, where the Los Angeles and Glendale terminated in March 1888, to Verdugo Park, in what is generally known as the Verdugo City area of an expanded Glendale.

There were a number of legal challenges to the firm as it worked quickly to secure rights-of-way, especially for the Pasadena line.  The newly incorporated town of South Pasadena, for example, included residents and property owners, including the well-known Benjamin S. Eaton and his son, who sued over the plans of the line as it was to run right through town.  Other suits were filed by ranchers in Pasadena, who were also not happy to deed over easements to the railway.

Times, 26 March 1890.

Despite these obstacles, the company persevered and was able to complete its lines, with the one to Pasadena opening in mid-March 1890.  A dedication ceremony included the presence of Governor Robert Waterman (his name may be familiar for the main thoroughfare named for him in San Bernardino) and Lieutenant Governor Stephen M. White, a former Los Angeles lawyer and soon-to-be United States Senator, whose role in the “Free Harbor Fight” that led to Los Angeles Harbor being the chosen site for federally funded improvements over the Southern Pacific’s plans for Santa Monica, made him locally famous.  Some 2,000 persons took part as steam-powered trains ran from the terminus near where the Arroyo Seco meets the Los Angeles River into Pasadena.

One of the outgrowths of the opening of the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale Railway was that the Santa Fe’s control of charges in the northern San Gabriel Valley was challenged, leading to lower rates for fares and shipping.  The railway was also touted as an easy way for residents of Los Angeles to access Pasadena and the San Gabriel Mountains, through the scenic route along the Arroyo Seco.

Los Angeles Express, 29 November 1890.

Cross, however, decided to effect a consolidation within nine months of opening and the Los Angeles and Glendale and Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale companies merged with the new Los Angeles Terminal Railway later in 1890.  There was a Pasadena Railway Company organized in 1887, during the fevered days of the boom, with one of the investors being Chicago map mogul Andrew McNally and another George G. Green the later owner of the famed hostelry the Hotel Green and namesake of the Pasadena street.

This localized line then became part of the larger Los Angeles Terminal Railway project, with the “terminal” element dealing with a extension to the harbor and Rattlesnake, or Terminal, Island.  When the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale opened, there was much rumor-mongering about purported plans to extend the line (this was also the case of the Pasadena Railway Company from its end in Altadena) all the way to Salt Lake City and connect with the Union Pacific’s main transcontinental road.

This Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale Railway Company stock certificate is in the Homestead’s collection.

It was not until Montana copper mining magnate and U.S. Senator William Andrews Clark created the Los Angeles, San Pedro and Salt Lake railroad that this dream was realized and with a much different route.  The “Salt Lake” as it was known went north from the harbor to Los Angeles and then turned eastward through the lower San Gabriel Valley, running directly south of the Homestead (with the SP line just north of the ranch) and to points beyond.  Salt Lake Avenue in the City of Industry was named for the rail line it paralleled, though the Union Pacific now owns that line and the SP one.

Meanwhile, Cross remained in Los Angeles and was the builder of a railroad from Ventura to Ojai and an electric road from Vallejo to Napa in northern California.  At his death in August 1911, he was working on an ambitious project to build a line from Los Angeles to San Francisco and he was interred at Rosedale Cemetery and remains (!) a long-forgotten but important figure in local railroad building.

Times, 6 August 1911.

This unused certificate is an interesting representation of a crowded field of rail lines that existed in the late 19th century Los Angeles as the region rapidly grew and railroads crisscrossed the area to provide transportation improvements as part of that development.


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