Travel Town (continued)
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There is an old adage--"Great oaks from little acorns grow," and never was a saying more aptly illustrated than in the growth of an idea in the minds of several officials and employees of the Park Department of the City of Los Angeles, into the Griffith Park area known as Travel Town.
In the spring of 1952, just four years ago, Charles Atkins, employed in the Maintenance Department, was down at Los Angeles harbor on park affairs when he noticed two small saddle tank locomotives in a storage yard there. These two little 0-4-0's had served for many years on a little know railroad on Catalina Island, where the City had quarried countless thousands of tons or rock, hauled it iin dump cars from the quarry to a pier, loaded it onto barges which were then towed to various harbor breakwater projects. When these jobs were done, the little engines were no longer needed. and so when Atkins saw them, they were ready to be shipped off to the steel mills for scrap.
Atkins thought how nice those two little pots would look in Griffith Park, perhaps at the miniature diesel railroad at the Los Feliz Boulevard entrance, on concrete pedestals, behind wire enclosures, but where children could se them. So he spoke to Orin Wennersten, Supervisor of Park Maintenance, and he told Atkins to see William Frederickson, Jr., Supt. of Recreation for Los Angeles.
Frederickson liked Atkins' idea fine, but he suggested that first they get in touch with Ward Kimball, owner of the private railroad known as the Grizzly Flats, in San Gabriel, and see his layout do that they might pick up some ideas for the park. Kimball showed them around, and suggested that instead of fencing in the engines, they make it possible for children to climb into the cabs, play engineer or fireman, ring the bell, and have a wonderful time just pretending. Kimball commented that in all the years the Grizzly Flats had been in existance, his children and their playmates had spent countless hours playing on the engines and cars, without getting hurt or seriously damaging the equipment, and also keeping out of Betty Kimball's way! The trains did not have to run; that was not neccessary, for imagination brought to life the inanimate engines and cars, even though they were in an enclosed shed. Kimball felt that several engines of fairly good size would be a great attraction in the park, and with this in mind, Frederickson and Atkins contacted the three trunkline railroads in Los Angeles, asking for the donation of any old locomotive they might have around, of a size suitable for a children's playground in Griffith Park.
Kimball had suggested that perhaps the Southern Pacific would be willing to donate a narrow gauge engine, No. 17, which was being used is a steam boiler at Salem, Oregon, but the S.P. informed them that the engine has been scrapped in April, and it was too late to save it. But the S.P. offered an alternative, Engine 3025, the last "Atlantic" or 4-4-2 type on the system, which had arrived in Los Angeles from Tuscon to be cut up for scrap. Without too much thought of the tremendous job of hauling a 110 ton engine through the streets of Los Angeles, the offer was accepted. The 3025 was given a thorough cleaning at the Alhambra Ave. shops, and was prepared for it's trip to the park. The rods, cylinder head covers, running board trim, and many other parts were chromium plated, and the paint job was probably the finest it had recieved in it's entire service. When it was turned out, it looked like a new engine, and on September 19, 1952, it was formally presented to the City of Los Angeles at the S.P. shops.
While 3025 was being painted, Charles Atkins had the job of finding ways and means to haul the engine and tender to the park, and this proved to be a bigger problem than promoting the engine. The Belyea Truck Company, which specializes in hauling power transformers and other heavy machinery was approached, and while they had never hauled a steam locomotive heavier than some of the Virginia and Truckee eight wheelers belonging to Paramount Studios, Jack Belyea said that he was willing to try. The nearest convenient loading point for the engine was the upper end of S.P.'s Glendale station platform, but Belyea worried about whether or not the bridge across the Los Angeles River on Los Feliz Blvd. could withstand the combined weight of the tractor, trailer, and it's 110 ton load. The city engineers were consulted, and they approved passage of the engine over the bridge, so the 3025 was towed to glendale and there loaded on a many-wheeled trailer, with the tender on another, smaller one.
There was insufficient space at the Los Feliz entrance of Griffith Park to properly exhibit the engine, so a piece of land at the north end of the park, near the Riverside Drive bridge over the river was selected as a good spot. This section of the park had been assigned for years to the Bureau of Water and Power, and a pumping station there having been abandoned, it was no longer in use. Covering seven acres, with many fine trees near the borders, this land is bounded on the north by Hollingsworth Drive, and on the south and west by Crystal Springs Drive. A section of track donated by the Southern Pacific was erected near on ecorner of the pumping station, and the 3025 was set down there by Belyea after an easy and uneventful trip from Glendale.
At first, there were few visitors, but after a stairway had been constructed to the cab platform of the 3025, the word got around among the children in the neighborhood, and perhps timidly at first, they came in ever increasing numbers on weekends, or afternoons after school. The clamor of the constantly ringing bell brought complaints from a residential district across the river, so a hard rubber clapper was installed, and the bell made just enough noise to sound authentic. The new parking lot built near Crystal Springs Drive saw more and more cars parked there, and parents came from far and wide with their children to see the shiny new locomotive there.
In the foreground is the Union Pacific diner, while on the left are three of the engines. The phony diamond stack on the Shay has been removed.
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