The Headlight
Southern California Scenic Railway Association, Inc.

The mission of the Southern California Scenic Railway Association is to provide and administer volunteers and to raise and manage funds to focus public awareness on Southern California rail history and promote railroad safety
Volume 17, Number 3Fall 2002


Again this year SCSRA supported our friends at the California State Railroad Museum Foundation by providing retrospective film screenings for the second annual "Movie Railroad Days" celebration at CSRM's Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. This year we screened a newly-acquired 35mm print of Dodge City, a 1939 Western filmed on the Sierra Railroad and starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

On Friday, September 27, Tim Dulin and I loaded the 35mm portable projection and sound equipment into my truck and drove to Jamestown, arriving in the late afternoon. Pete Scott of CSRM had arranged for the screen and a riser for the projector, and we completed the equipment installation late that night, with wonderful support from Pete and the Museum staff and volunteers. We did the sound alignment the following morning, completing the work just before park opening at 10 a.m.

Then, to everyone's surprise, the special effects professional, who was to have made a presentation showing how the action comes to life on the big screen, had to cancel, so CSRM's Paul Hammond selected a video in the museum store to replace his "act." The selected video provided an excellent history of the Sierra's film career and made a wonderful introduction to the four screenings over the weekend of Dodge City.

We provided copies of an original poster (pictured at right) for the feature film that were displayed adjacent to each of the doors to the "Carriage Room" The Carriage Room, by the way, was renamed "Railtown Theatre" for the weekend.

We also provided a short subject, Laurel and Hardy in "Berth Marks," and a preview trailer for the Marx Brothers' Go West.

In addition to the above activities, there were steam train rides, roundhouse tours, recreated vignettes of the actual filming of scenes from movies actually filmed on the Sierra (including Go West), musical groups, handcar rides, antique cars and food and drink concessions. Dozens of Railtown volunteers in period costumes greeted guests and added immeasurably to the ambience.

The CSRM folks were, as always, wonderful hosts, and Tim and I had a great time. But, more importantly, Museum visitors had a wonderful time, and the SCSRA was proud to have been a part of the weekend's activities. After the last show on Sunday, we disassembled and packed the equipment, and on Monday morning loaded it onto the truck and returned to Southern California.

See more photos by Tim Dulin. For further information, visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park Events.

CSRM Foundation's Paul Hammond and SCSRA's Gordon Bachlund contemplate the final projection setup late Friday night. Photos by Tim Dulin


by Gordon Bachlund, SCSRA President

My first order of business is to thank, from the very bottom of my heart, outgoing President Sue Kientz, whose tenure was unquestionably the most eventful in the Association's history.

God bless you, Sue. You are the greatest!

My second order of business is to thank Sue for agreeing to undertake the responsibilities of Vice President and Board Chair. In the former capacity, she will continue to be the SCSRA's point of contact with the City of Los Angeles and our only remaining permitted Travel Town project, the M.177, as well as help propel us toward our new opportunities with the FRPA, and in the latter capacity she will keep our meetings on track as well.

These things having been said, I'd like to address our progress at Fullerton:

In closing, I am grateful to Ted McConville who has graciously agreed to lead our future Fund Raising efforts, and to Tim Riley who has agreed to assist. We need more volunteers to assist with fund raising. If you can step up to the plate at this pivotal time in the Association's history, please let Ted or me know. Of course, there are ways that everyone can assist.

Many large corporations, both large small, have programs that match gifts made by employees to charitable organizations. As a federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, the SCSRA qualifies as a recipient of matching gifts. In the past, a number of our members and friends have taken advantage of these programs that match gifts from a low of 50% of the dollar value of their gift to a high of 200% of the dollar value. Some corporations cut checks on a monthly basis, while others write checks only at the end of the calendar year. To learn if your employer offers a matching gift program, simply contact your Human Resources Department. They will furnish the required matching gift forms and other information. Matching gift programs are often available for retirees, wherein the retiree's volunteer hours may qualify for a monetary match.

The other type of gift I'd like to talk about is the "in-kind" gift. In the past such gifts have been in the form of tools, equipment, supplies and services. When we receive an in-kind gift, we acknowledge it with a letter or form that documents and describes the gift for the donor's income tax purposes. We do not place a value on such gifts, as the IRS Code requires that the donor set the value. A unique, let alone timely, in-kind gift would be the use of a theatre auditorium eight times a year or so for our special retrospective film screenings.


Saturday, Dec 14, 2002

Social 5 p.m., Buffet Dinner 6 p.m., Movie and Short Subject 7:15 p.m. at
Sue Kientz/Ron Baalke Residence

Buffet Dinner is Fully Sponsored by SCSRA

Gordon Bachlund will screen the movie A Christmas Story and a movie-history short, after which all are invited to stroll down nearby Christmas Tree Lane with its huge Deodar Trees alit with hundreds of colored lights
RSVP by December 10
Hope to see you there!


by Sue Kientz

This past quarter a number of different events were planned, and all came off quite well.

In August, we had our Steak Fry at my home in Pasadena. The weather was not too hot, the hot dogs and steaks were, and everyone had a great time. I didn’t get any photos of the event, as I was not the most active hostess that I have been. At the time, I was still recovering from a June operation (I wasn’t even back to work until the end of August).

Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone felt neglected, and the loosely-organized Steak Fry was actually a good departure in that most people got a chance to talk at length with each other and a few FRPA guests who also came to the event.

In September, we had another Movie Night courtesy of the SCSRA Movie Crew of Gordon Bachlund, Tim Dulin, and Jim Hoffmann. The feature was Whispering Smith Speaks, accompanied by the short subject “Railroadin’” starring the Little Rascals.

Photo by Elliot Alper

Both films were delightful. In the short, the Our Gang kids play in a runaway train, which none of them knows how to stop. Due to the state of sound recording technology in 1929, and the fact that this short survived as a 16mm early television comedy while the original 35mm elements are long lost, some of the dialogue was a little difficult to hear, but that did not detract from the joyful mayhem.

Whispering Smith Speaks was a real treasure. A very rare railroad classic is based on a story by Frank Spearman, the movie is about the son of a rich railroad man who wants to prove his own worth, apart from his father. The son, Gordon Harrington, Jr. (played by George O'Brien), is known as "Whispering Smith" because he lowers his voice when angry. He leaves town and becomes a track walker, working for a lovely female boss, and as you can expect, a strong attraction develops between them.

This suspenseful story had loads of neat railroad action and was filmed on an elderly shortline in Northern California and locally on the SP. We saw classic steam power including Southern Pacific Northerns, cab forwards and other wonderful sights of a bygone era.

Realize that this wasn’t a film you could see on AMC or Turner Classic Movies. The film print we saw is one of only three known to exist. In addition to the SCSRA Archive print, one resides in the archives of the George Eastman House, and one in the archives of the National Railway Historical Society. Our print is suffering from the onset of acidosis decay, which will make it unprojectable within a few years. We hope to preserve it, when funds are available, by making an archival negative and striking a new 35mm print for future screenings.

By the time you read this, our November Event will probably have passed, which had to be changed from a Movie Night to a Video Night because of scheduling problems with some of our Movie Crew. The new plan is to screen the video The Belles of St. Trinian’s, the first movie of the St. Trinian’s series, so that in February 2003 we can better enjoy its train-themed sequel, The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery. The latter film is another print that may be one of very few left in existence.

Besides thanking our Movie Crew for their always exceptional efforts supporting these events, I must thank Gordon Bachlund for his wonderful program notes, which I have mercilessly cribbed in the writing of this article. Thanks, Gordon!


By Tim Riley, Safety Officer

To start off, I'm pleased to report that there were no injuries or safety violations reported during this quarter.

My main focus this past quarter was to start research and development of a new Safety Manual for the association. The manual will be full of reference materials and is intended to ensure that all associates have access and are introduced to safety related reference materials while volunteering for SCSRA projects and events including sections on General Safety, Maintenance of Way and Operations. This manual is also intended to establish a new way for associates to report Safety Issues/Concerns and ensure that all persons participating in future SCSRA activities are given a higher level of safety by use of newly developed forms and use of emergency and non-emergency contact lists (Pecking Orders).

A closed Safety Meeting was conducted on September 21 with representatives of different departments in attendance. Those in attendance were given a brief overview of the purpose of the manual and through discussion, assisted in development of a revised outline of what the manual should contain along with how the manual can be integrated into different work areas of the association. This included development of both the Long term and Short term goals for the manual itself and SCSRA Associate Safety in general. It was agreed upon by all department representatives that closed Safety sessions should be conducted at regular intervals throughout the year for status reports and discussion on integration of this manual into all current and future work areas within the association.

I will continue to keep you posted on status of the manual in future reports.


Story and Photos by Charles Forsher

Mr. Flaherty, fellow member of the SCSRA in good standing, paid me a surprise visit one Saturday afternoon. I had been planning to go to Movie Night with Elliott Alper around 5 p.m., but I cancelled. Funny how another ride showed up anyway.

Mr. Flaherty and I first proceeded to visit Bob Bennett’s boxcar, again covered with grafitti, from the vantage point of the paved-over tracks of the old Air Line. Then we went to the industrial section of Culver City, to view the site of Hal Roach Studios.

When Mr. Flaherty first suggested this, I responded with the opening bars of the Little Rascals’ theme. Little did I know that the same, yes the VERY SAME theme would greet us as Movie Night opened.

Also of interest to both of us: an almost complete loop for spotting freight cars that was still functional when I worked for the Sand Dollar Press, was close by, so I revealed its remnants, gone with the abandonment of the Air Line save for a stretch of forgotten track. Alas, Sand Dollar Press folded not too long afterwards. The boss, a retired college professor, moved to northern California.

Next we went to visit the site of the filming of the Music Box, where Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy struggled to move an upright piano up impossibly long stairs. We managed to find the bottom, the top, and I snapped a photo of what may have been the fictional house at the top which in the 1930s had a pond in front of it.

Then it was off to Union Station. The Gold Line’s tracks have reached the Terminal, and the distinct passenger platform is finished. Down below, the entrance to platforms one and two have been reopened on the left side of the concourse, but I think it will lead to an elevator. Next we followed the new light rail lines’ viaduct through a ground level maze of abandoned tracks, thence to the L.A. River, crossing one of the fine old concrete bridges and, by way of Rail Fan Line Feelers, we found the future Gold Line’s right-of-way, formerly the Santa Fe line into Pasadena.

Somehow we ended up getting a great view of the span over the Arroyo Parkway, catching up with the new tracks and the now fenced-in section where our Doug Stephens took his historic photographs. (Charles is referring to Doug’s picture making it into the Pasadena Star News. Doug was photographed while taking a photograph of the Gold Line trains arriving for the first time. Ed.)

The Gold Line cars are distinct. Shorter bodied, articculated, and with total dark green streamlined front ends. They are possibly made of a heavy glass that brings to mind the distinct curved glass in the Huntington Trolley Cars.

All of this took us so close to Altadena, that it seemed a snap to find good old Santa Rosa Avenue, and therefore the Movie Night event. I had not noticed before that Santa Rosa Avenue does not go very far. I was familiar enough with the Lake Avenue to Woodbury to Santa Rosa way of getting to Movie Night, but I was all turned around at the location where Mr. Flaherty finally decided to lunch at, around the corner of Fair Oaks and Sierra Madre (I believe). I was confident enough, however, to figure that by heading toward Mount Lowe which loomed ahead, we’d at least run into Lake Avenue.

But Mr. Flaherty had other notions in mind, and made a left turn along Sierra Madre, where there is what appears to be a lone trolley wire pole, broken at the top, but still in place on the now grass-covered right-of-way.

This took us on a course that was around the base of the mountain range, and had me all turned around some more, yet brought us remarkably close to the Kientz residence.

Mr. Flaherty then chanced on a residential neighborhood where the street numbers, at one point, matched 1952.

“We’re too far east,” Mr. Flaherty announced at length and headed south, to Washington Blvd., and to a parking lot of a church.

Out came the maps. By now the sun was setting, and neither of us could read the small street names.

“Isn’t Sue’s house in Altadena?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Mr. Flaherty acknowledged, and at least he knew which way to read a map.

So we resumed our trek, the sun vanishing as we headed west. And at length we crossed Lake.

“We have to turn around!” Mr. Flaherty turned right at the next intersection, and I do not remember what street it was, only that we mercifully ran into Woodbury and turning right again, found our destination.

Charles, don't ever get a car, but keep taking pictures. Ed.


by Sue Kientz, SCSRA Board Chairman

Looks like one of the challenges of leadership is, once you accept such a role, it’s damned hard to slip away into the background! Or so it seems to me, who hoped to take a long rest, hopefully on a desert island somewhere where everyone spoke only Hoopah Hoopah and no one ever heard of a train. Nevertheless, I am deeply honored to serve as SCSRA board chairman. These are big shoes to fill!

One change I instituted right away — no more mailed board meeting reminders or board packages. All is now handled by e-mail, and board packages are delivered electronically. Since everyone involved in the board meeting has e-mail accounts already, it was an easy decision. And this saves money, paper, trees, and my time and effort. It’s a new century, baby!!

At the regular board meeting in October, three new board members were elected: Jim Hoffmann, Greg Smith, and Mike Vitale. Congratulations and welcome to the board! (In Greg Smith’s case, it’s welcome back!)


by Gordon Bachlund, Chief Mechanical Officer

Doodlebug Notes — With Train Shed construction at Travel Town continuing, access to the M.177 is restricted, so no work is ongoing. Only time will tell what level of effort we can maintain during the months following Train Shed completion. Doug Stephens, as M.177 Project Manager, is continuing to keep a sharp eye on the motorcar, and I am most grateful to Doug for his continued enthusiasm.

Cabeese — The cabooses are being relocated by the so-called "City volunteers" as they deem necessary, but without prior notice to and permission from SCSRA. When we left them, they were filled with SCSRA property and secured with SCSRA locks. Hopefully, they have not been perturbed by the "City volunteers."

Miscellaneous — There are prospects in the wind for mechanical work at Fullerton, and these will be reported upon when and if they become firm.


From Associate no. 40 Paul Nelson (Alton, CA):

An editorial appeared in the winter issue of The Headlight. I no longer have the issue at hand, so I'm going on recollection.

As I recall, the editorial offered a hypothesis for the motive on the part of the City to get SCSRA track and other materials out of Travel Town. That hypothesis was that the City never really intended to construct the Zoo Line. (Perhaps the Zoo Line idea was developed as a public relations gimmick: a lot of hype at little if any expense.)

At this point I'll enter my own extrapolation of events. The City was caught off guard when the SCSRA took the construction ball and ran with it. We were unexpectedly successful, gathering materials and forming an enthusiastic track gang. When the SCSRA said "When do we start?," the City, knowing the real answer was "never," had to scramble. The City could not fall back on the usually safe "When the budget permits" fiscal explanation. No. The City was offered free labor and equally free materials to initiate and (one would think) complete the job.

Without going into a conspiracy mentality I'll suggest the City decided the best way to handle the situation was to make life difficult for us for some period of time. When things deteriorated enough the City would simply demand that the SCSRA remove all track materials (and anything else the City wanted to eliminate) from Travel Town. And, oh-by-the-way, let's wrest track maintenance away from the SCSRA so the labor force has nothing to do and disappears.

I actually think this could be a viable scenario. And given the lack of explanation from the City for our treatment it's as good as any. If my hypothesis is correct, the treatment we received from the City is our own damn fault. I submit that if the SCSRA had kept to its original mandate to attend to the M.177 we wouldn't be Travel Town pariahs. Our Maintenance-of-Way department would have been assigned one function: keep enough track in shape to operate within Travel Town.

At this point I'm going to hear the same old story about keeping the weekend volunteer force happy by letting them do what they want. No deal this time. This philosophy has failed. I obviously don't know what percentage of the weekend workforce participate in M.177 renovation versus other activities, but I can guess: low.

I was a regular Saturday volunteer back in the mid-to-late 1980s. I remember what the M.177 looked like then. The passenger and baggage compartments were completely raw (i.e., unrestored). The engine was out, large components were detached and Chell Hurdle was sandblasting some of them. The only restored area was the bathroom in the rear.

When I visited Travel Town in August of 2001 and received a tour of the M.177 I was frankly shocked by the lack of progress in the interior compartments. (Remember, I'm looking at the M.177 about 12 years after I moved out of the region.) Oh sure, the front was painted, the engine was in place and the engine compartment the darling showpiece. But the rest was unchanged. What bothered me the most about the lack of progress is that interior compartment renovation is a labor, not cost, intensive activity. The SCSRA has far more labor than money. It was nice to get the engine completed but that was cost driven. I think that in the same amount of time the labor driven interior compartments would have also seen some effort, if not been completed. I saw none.

I submit that not only has the diverse workforce philosophy failed, but has been detrimental to the still espoused primary goal of renovating the M.177. It's time the Board wake up to this and take corrective action or give up on the M.177.

And here's another thought: Has it occurred to anyone that the lack of progress on the interior is why the City wants us out? This explanation is far more likely than the Zoo Line thesis.

No matter what the explanation is, I suggest the Board take one of two actions:

  1. Approach the City. Offer to return to Travel Town and work exclusively on the M.177 and provide operations manpower if the City wants it. No track, no Charley, no steam, no cabeese, no nothing. (Since the cabeese apparently belong to us, give them to the City.) Only the M.177 and operations.

    "What?" You'll say. "If we mandate work on the M.177 we won't have a volunteer force!" We don't have a volunteer force NOW!

    Does anyone work on the M.177 these days? What has the SCSRA got to lose?

  2. Officially adopt a new policy that states that the SCSRA is abandoning the M.177 as a project and is going to move on in other directions.
As a member I suggest option 1. It's becoming increasingly difficult to accept the direction the Board is taking the SCSRA. My goal is to return to Travel Town and the M.177. We need to go THERE, not to Fullerton.

Sue Kientz responds:

Paul, thank you for your letter.

As to your hypothesis about our troubles, the idea of us railroading the City into the Zoo RR doesn't hold up when you consider the time period of events. The Zoo RR was in the Travel Town Master Plan for years and years. It wasn't just our idea, and the effort heavily interested the City enough to have them give LALS special consideration in their lease if they would allow the Zoo RR passage through that property.

Also, focussing on the M.177 exclusively as a project would be much more attractive if access to M.177 was not so difficult as it is during the current construction. Also it would be more attractive if the atmosphere at the park were different (as in, I brought my Mom over there a few months ago and she was taken aback at the people who walked past me without greeting me or answering a greeting. We were treated like pariahs. Most uncomfortable.) And lastly, it would be possible to make that our only focus if we did not have such promising activities and people who actually appreciate us, in Fullerton.

Along with others like Gordon who remember you when you were here physically, helping with M.177, I truly value that you have stuck with SCSRA all this time, even while living farther away. You must appreciate, however, that you do live far from the fray, and may not really understand all that we have been going through. I myself had to be convinced that there was a real problem, when this whole thing began. I went to meetings with the best intentions of getting things straightened out, and I soon learned that this was not other people's paranoia or imagination, that there was something going on that was making us undesirables. But there's only so much we can print in the Headlight, to make others understand.

Perhaps you are right about the lack of progress on M.177, that that influenced the City about us. We are actually trying to get back on track with that project. But I see no reason to limit ourselves to just that project, especially when the associates here in the area are very excited about our Fullerton plans. We are the Southern California Scenic Railway Assn., not the Motorcar Group or Travel Town Assn. We can be bigger than we have been, especially with our alliance with the FRPA.

Don't think your support has been in vain. Things are happening, but I can understand how you may feel dismayed at the last year or two. So am I! It's been an awful year, and I have tried so hard to do the right thing by SCSRA, that it's been a strain on my family life and my health. So have others. We aren't making any money here. The people who are volunteering are trying to do something good for others, and to preserve the trains.

In the long run, this time will seem just a turn of the corner. Hope you can hang in there with us while we make this turn, because things are really looking good down the line.

From Associate no. 241, Charles Forsher:

It has come to my attention that some controversy has arisen over parts of my Caboose speech (printed in the Spring 2002 Headlight as “History of the Caboose”).

So to clarify two points of the speech:

2003 SCSRA/FRPA Calendar of Events

is published quarterly at Los Angeles, California, and is the official publication of
P.O. Box 39727, Griffith Station, Los Angeles, CA 90039-0727
(323) 667-1423 and via the World Wide Web at

A California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, Incorporated January 4, 1984
IRS Tax Exemption No. 95-3947766

Editor: Sue Kientz

Any article or feature published in The Headlight may be reprinted in whole or in part provided that proper credit is given the source.





Associates with inquiries regarding project work schedules
may contact any of the above by leaving a message at (323) 667-1423.

Questions and comments to Sue Kientz, SCSRA Publications Manager