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 16, Number 2............................................................................Summer 2001


By Sue Kientz, SCSRA President

On August 3, SCSRA had further restrictions placed on its activities at Travel Town, and these new rules carry severe repercussions is not followed to the letter. I ask all associates who volunteer or even visit Travel Town to pay strict attention to these rules and abide by them, since the penalty to be imposed for not following them is that SCSRA will be thrown out of Travel Town immediately, its permit revoked.

No SCSRA Associate Can Come To or Be on Travel Town Premises after Park Hours

Travel Town has changed all the locks at the Museum and SCSRA nor any other of the volunteer groups will be allowed to have entry keys. By letter, the General Manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks Ellen Oppenheim declares that it is of the utmost importance that no SCSRA associate be on Travel Town property after hours, unless written permission is obtained from Linda Barth, our City representative, 48 hours previous to the date and time requested to be on Museum property.

What this means is, there is NO Friday training and NO Saturday after-park-hours training any longer. I have tried repeatedly to request resumption of evening training, but have been denied each time. Instead we must

Again, I can’t repeat enough that if anyone breaks this rule now, the SCSRA is ejected from Travel Town. No 30 day notice (as we have in our permit), but immediate removal. I have already protested this rule’s consequence as being too severe and preemptive, since once SCSRA publishes an important rule, if it is broken by an associate, the associate is supposed to be punished, not the entire group.

All Engine Brake Handles and Reversers Must Be Returned at End of Operations by 6 p.m. that Day

All of our access to the operating locomotives has been withdrawn. Our locks have been returned, and the engine brake handles and reversers have been removed. Therefore, each Operating Day, the Operations Crew must get the handles from Travel Town staff, and turn all handles by 6 p.m. that day.

I highlight that last part because, if any SCSRA associate fails to return ALL the engine and brake throttles by 6 p.m. at the end of any operating day, the SCSRA permit will be immediately revoked.

If you wonder at these severe penalties, know that these new restrictions have been imposed, not because SCSRA associates were found drinking or carousing at the park after hours; not because SCSRA associates were joy-riding the locomotives; not because SCSRA associates were doing anything other than trying to accommodate someone’s birthday.

Darlene Sexton’s birthday was on August 3, the day before Don Schuster was to take his hostler test. Darlene was going out of town for her birthday, but she wanted to make sure that Don got enough training to pass his test (he had missed passing the previous attempt). So Darlene and all the other usual training crew came to Travel Town on a Wednesday, rather than the usual Friday, since Darlene was under the (unfortunately mistaken) belief that Operations Training was allowed as long as conducted after park closure.

The truth is, a year ago I had to write a number of e-mails to get Friday Training Night reinstated. In July 2000, SCSRA was recovering from the LAST set of new restrictions imposed on us, after one of the training crew was observed moving Charley Atkins without a ground crew. Even though our Operating Superintendent reacting swiftly and that associate was suspended for six months from operations and training, Linda Barth chose to further clamp down on our activities by insisting that no train movements whatsoever could take place without prior written approval.

I obtained approval for Friday Training Night from Linda via e-mail. An Operating Bulletin was issued which announced the resumption of training, the new rule that only dispatchers and above could supervise train movements, and that two flagmen were required when a train crosses the pedestrian walkway. The bulletin did mention that training was reinstated for Fridays only. Unfortunately, that note did not reappear on subsequent bulletins, and so the firm requirement for advanced written notice for something like the unusual event of a training day switch was forgotten.

So Darlene and several other associates who conduct training arrived shortly before park closure on Wednesday, August 1, to train as they would have on a Friday. The Travel Town staff saw them arrive, and it wasn’t until they were fully involved in training when Sean Hilton, the Museum caretaker, approached them. He had called Linda and found that no one had obtained the written permission to train. Linda and Darlene spoke on the phone. Despite Darlene’s explanations, Linda insisted that training cease and the crew depart, which is what happened.

I learned of the incident that night and immediately e-mailed Linda, and the next day I sent Darlene’s report to her. I heard nothing, which I knew was a very bad sign. Late on Friday, I learned the worst: not only were we locked out of Travel Town gates and engines, but if we failed to follow any of the stipulated restrictions, SCSRA would immediately lose its permit. No 30 days notice, but instant ousting.

Yes, we broke a rule. Did it deserve such a harsh response, one that now puts SCSRA’s neck on the chopping block? Certainly not. It was a mistake. If Darlene knew she needed permission, she would have asked for it. Linda would have provided permission.

It rather seems to me that SCSRA is being manuevered into a position where just one tiny transgression by one associate can immediately and legally remove us all, and might even enable the City to seize any assets we could not remove on the spot.

As this goes to press, I await an answer to a rebuttal letter I sent to Ellen Oppenheim, regarding the penalties involved. More than a week has passed since the letter was received, with no word.

Unless the letter from Ms. Oppenheim can be rescinded (or at least the penalties made more reasonable in case rules are broken), we must be exceptionally careful when at Travel Town. I implore all SCSRA associates to please be sure that you follow to the letter these new restrictions, so that SCSRA’s assets are not threatened by an immediate ejection. Thanks in advance for your full cooperation.


By Sue Kientz, SCSRA President

As many of you know (or can guess from the cover story), these last several months have been harrowing. There have been some very bright spots, however, though none quite bright enough to be the light at the end of the tunnel! Here’s a recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly:

Permit Extended — Our Interim Permit was extended on June 28, just two days before it ran out. The extension is on the same terms, which means it is 30-days revocable and ends on December 31, 2001.

Linda explained that the City needs more time to review the permit, that in fact no permits were looked at yet, since there is some overall review going on of the relationship between the City and its volunteer groups.

Train Shed Delayed Again — The latest update is that construction will not begin until early 2002. The last set of bids expired and so the bidding process was to be repeated. For us, this means that Caboose Train Operations will continue through 2001 and not be interrupted by Train Shed construction just yet.

Annual Dinner a Success — The Annual Dinner filled one of The Smoke House’s meeting rooms with fun, laughter, good food, cool prizes, and many deserved awards. Read the Annual Dinner report on page 7 and see the photos on pages 4 and 5.

Track is Not Dead! — SCSRA has been actively looking at new track venues, to volunteer our track department. We have pursued several leads, and one promising opportunity is down in Fullerton, where an upcoming railroad museum is in the works. SCSRA has met with the Fullerton Railroad Plaza Association and discussed the possibility of helping them and the City of Fullerton build some track. Stay tuned for more on this exciting development!

Associates Respond to Last Issue — After reading the last issue of the Headlight, quite a few associates as well as members of the general public sent in letters and e-mail of support, encouragement, and advice. Some who read the “Long and Winding Story” on the website wrote and thanked us for being so frank about our situation. One man expressed that there are those in the Museum community who feel that “this can’t happen to them,” and that’s just not true. Another asked for a copy of our Code of Conduct, to use as a model for their own volunteer organization.

Associate Paul Nelson became interested in what other associates felt about recent events, so he offered to conduct an associate’s poll. All current associates will receive a questionnaire in the mail, to then send back to Paul. Results will be published in the next issue of the Headlight. Paul even visited us at August Operations, enroute to his vacation. Thanks, Paul, for a really excellent suggestion and for offering to make it happen!

State Demands Financial Reports — We narrowly averted serious penalties from the State of California’s Registry of Charitable Trusts, when that bureau demanded seven years of income and assets reporting forms, all the way back to 1994. Luckily our treasurer Mike Vitale stepped up and filled out all the forms needed (over 80 pages!), and we got them in before the 30 days expired. If we had missed that date, $800 in fines would have been levied personally against SCSRA board members and officers! Mike, can we ever thank you enough?!

But the fact is, none of those forms is required to be submitted by us usually, since SCSRA does not take in enough donations or have enough assets to be required to submit the form. But if they request us to submit those forms, we must comply. If a member of the public requests the forms, we also must comply. In fact, coincidentally (or not), Greg Ramsey made a formal demand for a few of those forms, two days before the Registry of Trusts sent their demand letter.

Recruitment and Fund-Raising Efforts Launched — Undaunted by adversity, however, SCSRA looked for new associates by holding “JPL Weekend” at August Operations. Employees and contractors working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were invited to “see what it takes to be a REAL engineer” via postings to one of their internal electronic bulletin boards. Cab rides were offered to anyone who sent in an RSVP. About 15 groups were escorted on Charley, and other JPLers who had not reserved just enjoyed caboose rides and talking to our associates about our activities.

We also expect to submit applications for several local grants, to get funding for M.177 moving again.

What it all boils down to is, we must remember that we are the SCSRA, not the TTRA. We exist independently from Travel Town. While we have enjoyed 15 years of volunteerism here at the Museum, we must broaden our focus. We must finish M.177 or at least fund its completion. We must grow strong as an organization of individuals interested in railroad, not just the railroad that exists within Travel Town.


PART ONE: How It All Started

Reprinted with Permission by The Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant, Strasburg, PA

The paralyzing blizzard of January 1970 had gripped the picturesque Mill-Bridge Craft Village of Stroudsburd, PA. Under the off-season veil of white, the museum’s founder and president, Donald M. Denlinger, was content to wait out winter’s worst, glad for the respite from the hectic toils of summer which annually brings tourism into full blossom at Mill-Bridge.

Living and working with the Amish and Plain folk, Denlinger gained an insight to their habits and customs. It was this rare insight that enabled him to become the text author of the unusual book, The Gentle People.

Throughout the grounds, all was hushed. Craft display areas artistically abuzz in warmer weather with demonstrations by Plain Folk and Amishmen milling, spinning, making funnel cakes, fudge, painting toleware, and making brooms were now in a state of blessed hibernation.

One phone call later and Denlinger’s winter wonderland would be transformed into an arena of desperate and bewildered frenzy.

“Hello, is this Mr. Denlinger?” the voice on the line demanded. Assured that it was, the unidentified caller stunned his party with a firm demand. “When are you going to move your cabooses? We have a freight shipment to go into those tracks tomorrow and you’ll be charged dimerrage for every day they sit there after today. We want them moved this afternoon.”

Cabooses? Oh no, it couldn’t be. I wasn’t serious. I didn’t really want them. My bid was just in fun (and long forgotten as it was placed some 6 months earlier).

Those were a few of the more rational responses which fought their way into Denlinger’s throat but he voiced none of them. He had, after all, placed a half-hearted bid on 19 of those 25-ton hulks of rolling stock after being dared to do so by an old school chum whom he had met by chance during a tour of Mill Bridge. The friend egged Denlinger into bidding on the graveyard sale with the taunt, “You’ll figure out what to do with them if you get them.”

Despite the fact that Denlinger had submitted a laughable bid calculated to be $100 less than the scrap value of the 950,000 pounds of steel which the 19 N-5 cabooses represented, he had become, like it or not, owner of a grimey fleet.

Denlinger’s face must have showed the shock of the phone call. His wife Lois asked, “Who was that and what happened?”

His reply was, “I’ll have to show you. You would never believe it if I told you.” He convinced his wife to brave the snowstorm and accompany him to the railroad siding in Paradise.

Lois, after looking at the snow covered string of cabooses, remembered that she had married him for better or for worse and at the moment, things could hardly be worse.

That was the beginning ... but only the beginning of the heartaches and red tape.

He soon learned why they call cabooses “grimeys” — dirty, windows broken, rusty, kerosene-soaked floors and all dead weight.

The first problem was what to do with 475 tons of steel in a blizzard. Denlinger needed a siding long enough to accommodate his string of cabooses. He found it by probing in the 12 inches of snow with a shovel, trying various places where he was advised that one might be, like a prospector hunting buried treasure. He found a siding just one mile back track from where the cabooses were sitting. Physically exhausted, he called the Penn Central office at Lancaster to engage an engine to pull them to the siding. As a rank neophyte in railroad rules and Interstate Commerce, he ran headlong into the uniform freight classification #10, item 81370, which states that the minimum hauling or billing is 75 miles per caboose, even though they were to be moved only one mile.

The Penn Central picked up the cabooses with an eastbound section (they were to be moved 1 mile west) and for days Denlinger frantically phoned the railroad offices in Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia, trying to locate his cabooses. In February he received a call from a feed mill in Gordonville, PA, advising him that the string of cabooses mysteriously arrived on their siding.

While Denlinger’s foundlings enjoyed the temporary haven, he wrestled with the problem of what to do with them.

He recalled seeing a caboose used as a tourist information center but that was only one. He had nineteen. He gave some thought to renting them as campers at his Mill-Bridge campground, but that seemed impractical. It was about this time he first thought of converting them into a motel along the busy Route 30 East or better yet along the Strasburg Steam Rail Road.

Before the first step could be taken, Penn Central notified Denlinger of another railroad rule: no privately owned cars may sit on railroad property without a formal lease. The cabooses had to be moved within 24 hours. Result: another waybill at a minimum of 75 miles per caboose (item 81370).

By then Denlinger was getting sick of the whole thing. But he remembered that while circumstances seemed humanly hopeless, there is a someone above who specialized in human impasses, someone who, when we get to the end of ourselves, will direct circumstances ahead of our mortal minds limited ability to comprehend. Already a church-going Christian, Denlinger recalled a bit of Scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

His faith stirred very much to life as a series of miraculous circumstances enfolded. You be the judge in the following sequence.

Denlinger dug out of his attic a little Marx train caboose from a tinplate railroad set he owned as a boy, tucked it away inside his coat, and headed for one of the major banks in Lancaster. Self conscious of his pocket treasure, he declined the receptionist’s offer to take his coat. He was determined not to unveil the toy caboose until he had to.

He was granted an interview with one of the banking executives. It was not easy to bare the worthless toy caboose before the executive, but Denlinger, mindful of the stakes, risked embarrassment by displaying the miniature car on the large walnut desk.

Denlinger explained that he had purchased 19 of these and would like $185,000 to renovate them. The banker, somewhat astonished, asked if they were HO or standard gauge. Denlinger was quick to point out that he was referring to real cabooses of the 25-ton variety. Before he was able to continue his tale, the banker decided that another financier should share this story. The president of the bank himself was summoned to join the meeting and Denlinger was asked to repeat the story told to the loan officer. Before long, the president called a halt and ordered still another banker, this time the commercial loan officer, to sit in. At this point Denlinger began to fear that the next people to join the conference would be wearing white jackets and he could be sped away to a nice quiet “home.”

After Denlinger had revealed his entire plan, discussed his projected needs and projected income, the gentlemen were so impressed that Denlinger was allowed to take his leave not only free of strait jacket but with a substantial advance.

Next Issue: The Story of the Red Caboose Motel continues with Denlinger’s next problem: where to put his Caboose Motel? The problems, and miraculous solutions, keep coming and will all be recounted in the next installment. Until next issue, see The Red Caboose website

M.177 Project Meeting

Saturday, September 15, 2001
9 a.m.
Travel Town

Tasks needed to get the restoration back into high gear will be reviewed and assigned. We need your help! No experienced needed. Come on out and see what you can do for M.177.


By Jerry Price, General Superintendent

During the past quarter we gained one new associate, Jamie Rhea of Glendale, who became associate no. 323. Welcome aboard, Jamie! Make sure you introduce yourself around next time you are at Travel Town.

Recruitment of new associates has not been easy, I will grant. With the uncertainty surrounding our permit renewal and other events, it has been hard to talk positively about our experience at Travel Town with prospective volunteers. But that is just what we have to do. The more SCSRA associates we have, the stronger our organization will be. And that strength will help us down the line, whatever the future may bring.

Uncertainty did not stop President Sue Kientz from conducting a mass e-mailing to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory prior to Operations Weekend in August. Sue announced via a general JPL newsgroup and on several JPL list servs that August Ops would be “JPL Weekend.” The event promised cab rides to all JPL employees or contractors who would RSVP to her e-mail address. About 15 small groups were given rides in Charley, totalling around 50 visitors. Other JPL visitors showed up and enjoyed just talking to our associates and riding the caboose train.

Maybe you have an idea for recruitment! Operations is the perfect time for people to come see why it’s great to be an SCSRA associate — we not only get to work around trains, we operate trains! Do you know of a group who would like to be invited to a “special” operations day or weekend? If so, send your idea to SCSRA Dispatcher and we’ll see what we can arrange.


By Gordon Bachlund, Mechanical Superintendent

Doodlebug Notes — Tim Riley, Don Schuster, and the writer examined the M.177’s power truck to determine what we would need to do to utilize one of the flatcar trucks as a “shop truck” under the front of the M.177 to make it moveable to accommodate Train Shed construction, and to obviate the risk of damage if a seismic event caused the car body to shift off its temporary cribbing. In addition, the writer polled several other museums for suggestions. This plan is on hold, however, as the Association treasury cannot afford the required crane rental and the City is not of a mind to assist at this time.

In the last issue we spoke of plans to make a goodwill payment to Access Electric Motors, the firm that is holding the main traction generator and exciter generator, and to request a new quotation for rebuilding the generators. Again, the Association treasury cannot afford to make payment at this time. Additionally, the City has advised us that they will be taking over all arrangements with Access Electric, so the Association is out of the loop.

The reason for the financial shortfall is (1) the unexpected crane rental last year when Bryan’s jacking effort went awry, and (2) the need to begin repayments of the principal sums on the loans that were made by two associates for the final payment for the Winton engine rebuild. The associates who loaned the money have been more than patient, and we are morally obligated to settle these loans pursuant to the loan agreements.

The association is embarking on a concerted fund raising effort to mitigate the shortfall, and the next issue should have more details.

Diesel Shop — We are grateful to Tim Riley for spearheading preventive maintenance on CS&CV No. 1 during the past quarter. Meanwhile, the City has removed the padlocks on both diesel locos, and has assumed custody of their operating handles, so there is some doubt as to our further obligation to maintain either of them.

Battery Servicing — Replacement of the caboose batteries is being investigated. With the aforementioned financial shortfall, we are pursuing several avenues to acquire donated batteries.

We must not fail to mention our gratitude to Yuasa Exide for the present batteries that have lasted well over 10 years. These donated batteries were designed for a working life of five years, and their time in storage at the manufacturer’s warehouse was such that they could not have been sold as new since they could not have been guaranteed the full five years. This says volumes about our battery maintenance program!


By Sue Kientz

On July 21, about thirty associates and friends of SCSRA met at the Smoke House in Burbank to attend the Annual Dinner Meeting, to socialize, have fun, win prizes, and reap deserved awards for years of service or accomplishments beyond the call of volunteerism.

The Smoke House was a perfect choice for this year. We could get away from all the negative aspects of struggling with Travel Town issues, and just focus on SCSRA and what our associates have accomplished. I only regret that many could not attend because of vacations and other committments previously planned.

After our delicious meal, the awards program began. Dan Price and Jeff Barrow began with several “special” awards which they called the Goober Awards. To Jim Vicars and Gordon Bachlund, they presented the “Most Hats Worn” Award, for both being named on the Headlight masthead the most times. To Darlene Sexton went the “Loud and Obnoxious“ Award for, well, being loud and obnoxious (but in the best way, they insist). To Tim Riley went the “Fork Lift Engineer” Award, for pulling the forklift out of the gravel using the locomotive. And one final Goober award went to Gordon Bachlund, which was more of a reprimand for not wearing his Trademark orange shirt on Saturdays anymore.

Then the SCSRA Service Hour Awards were presented. Three 300-hour awards went to Tim Riley (586 volunteer hours), Mike Flaherty (353 hours), and Charity Lawrence (309 hours). One-thousand hour awards, given by the City of Los Angeles, were sent by mail to Alan Weeks (1,005 hours) and Andy Evans (1,042 hours), but their achievement was also recognized at the dinner.

Finally, this year’s Ridenour award was presented to Jim Vicars. A long-standing associate (no. 35) with over 4,000 hours of service to the SCSRA in many capacities, including Operations, Board Member, CFO, etc., Jim recently "came to the rescue" in sorting out our current financial position and has worked well with people past and present to do so (most recently with Mike Vitale, a "newcomer" who has been extremely helpful). For these reasons, Jim was the excellent choice for the Ridenour 2001 award, for he surely has been a model for others to follow.

Jim unfortunately was in New Mexico and not at the dinner, but weeks before I had casually obtained from him the name and phone number of his hotel, and so before the evening was out, we called him via cell phone to wish him congratulations. The entire room cheered him long distance, long and loud.

Jerry and Dan Price then totally floored me with a surprise of their own. They ran out of the room and returned with a gorgeous floral arrangement of red roses and white carnations, and a plaque which Jerry read aloud. It recognized all the efforts I have made over the past year, in the face of our increasingly troubled relationship with the City of LA, and also recognized that I carried on, even as my father declined in health and then died in June. I was deeply touched by this gesture, and for a moment I wasn’t sure I could move on to the rest of the program! My most heartfelt thanks go to Jerry, Dan, and all those who thought of such a supporting gesture. I truly appreciated it.

Somehow I did recover from that wonderful shock, and began distributing the door prizes. Here are the lucky ones who won door prizes this year:

Door PrizeDonated ByWinner
A Door! With pictures of our first female engineer, Darlene SextonSue KientzDarlene Sexton
Caboose Fridge MagnetSue KientzDan Price
Trolley Toothpick HolderSue KientzBob Bennett
Video: Steam Across the Pacific NorthwestPentrexSharon Price
Magazines: Four Headlights (electric trains)Sue KientzTim Riley
Book: Steam Passenger Service Directory, 1967Sue KientzJoyce Barrow
Book: So. California's First RailroadSue KientzCharles Forsher
Book: The Train Watcher's Guide to North American RailroadsSue KientzTom Graham
Book: Diesel Locomotive RostersSue KientzSue Schuster
Video: Above 3751 Over CajonPentrexMary Jo Hurdle
Book: The Locomotive that Baldwin BuiltSue KientzElliot Alper
Book: Growing Up with Trains, ISue KientzRon Baalke
Book: Growing Up with Trains, IISue KientzJane Rector
Book: Santa Fe by Narrow Gauge, the "Chili Line"Sue KientzJerry Price
Book: Railroads Vol. 1 in Early PostcardsSue KientzCharity Lawrence
Book: Highball: A Pageant of TrainsSue KientzMike Vitale
$25 Cert. for Train ShackPrice FamilyGordon Bachlund
$25 Cert. for Original Whistle StopThe Original Whistle StopJeff Barrow
2001 Dinner CertificateSCSRATom Graham
Train filled with Ghirandelli ChocolateSue KientzDennis Pisala

Thanks to Pentrex, The Original Whistle Stop, and the Price Family for their donations. Also a big thank you to Gordon Bachlund for arranging the Ridenour plaque and the update of our Ridenour Honor Roll plaque, and to Ted McConville for creating the 300-hr award certificates.

And if you’re looking at the prizes donated and wondering if I was unloading my train book collection, not at all. My boyfriend Ron and I go regularly to Pasadena swap meets, and I keep a lookout for old train books, magazines, and other interesting railroad-related items. As you can see, I had been very successful of late. (Imagine what I kept for myself!)

I'm so glad everyone had a wonderful time. Check out the pictures on the SCSRA website or come see the fun for yourself and attend next year!


By Gordon Bachlund

Many of you attended our 24 retrospective movie screenings at Travel Town over the past years. Our very first movie, on October 1, 1994, was a 1932 railroad action thriller, "The Phantom Express," and the program included a classic Betty Boop cartoon, a short subject called "Chasing Choo-Choos," and the initial episodes of a 1932 John Wayne railroad serial, "The Hurricane Express." During subsequent screenings we presented all twelve chapters of the serial.

We began these screenings with technical assistance from Jim Hoffmann who provided, along with his services as projectionist, a pair of Bell & Howell "auditorium style" 16mm projectors and a portable sound system, and our first two shows were outdoors using the writer's 14' wide "lace and grommet" screen, erected by Greg Gneier, Nancy Gneier and Brad Slosar on a pipe frame provided by our ASRA friends.

Later, this pipe frame and screen were installed the Exhibit Hall by Greg and Brad, and before long Greg added black masking and Tom Graham constructed a faux "stage," complete with dimmer-controlled foot lights and built-in accommodations for speakers, with help from Dan Price and Jeff Barrow. By then, the writer had purchased a pair of Eiki 16mm "auditorium style" projectors with xenon lamps.

We began by renting movies, cartoon and short subjects, the rental fees being shared by SCSRA and ASRA. However, it soon became evident that films could be purchased on the collector's market for not much more than the going rental cost. Thus, I began to collect public domain railroad-themed movies in 16mm, and later in 35mm. I wanted the Travel Town retrospective shows to replicate the neighborhood movie house experience of the 50s, something with which many of us could identify, so I included preview trailers and posters in my collecting goals. We secured permission to utilize a part of the transportation collection, a horse-drawn dray in the Exhibit Hall, as a seasonal "projection booth." Picture, if you will, a wagon not unlike that used in Laurel & Hardy's "The Music Box" with 16mm or 35mm projection equipment where the crated player piano was loaded in the back. Curious, corny perhaps, but functional.

Refreshment service was not overlooked. Greg and Yvonne Ramsey set up and operated a snack bar for every show, and an intermission trailer after the short subjects invited attendees to "go out to the lobby and get ourselves a treat!" After an intermission, we screened preview trailers and a cartoon, followed by the feature.

A new Associate, Tim Dulin, who worked as a technician for a large theater chain, became involved with us in late 1997, and, with the generous support of his management, during the following year we upgraded our screening capabilities at the Museum to include 35mm projection with Dolby stereo and surround sound, and we screened our first feature in 35mm, "The Great Train Robbery," on March 27, 1999.

The last movie so screened was "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" on April 15, 2000. Why "last?" A conspicuous lack of support from Travel Town administration, along with additional impediments imposed on after-hours access to set up the equipment, as well as Travel Town's failure to advertise the last two screenings to our members, effectively stifled the joy of arranging for and setting up these screenings, and resulted in our ending our traditional "movie nites."

In the meantime, how many of you know about a veritable Los Angeles institution, a movie venue that has specialized in screening vintage films since 1943, including pictures featuring railroads like "The Phantom Express?" That venue was The Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles and, despite its name, it was also home to classic "talkies."

The Silent Movie Theater was the project of John and Dorothy Hampton, and they built their little theater from the ground up. It operated continuously for 36 years until 1979 when Mr. Hampton fell ill and passed away.

The Silent Movie Theater was re-opened in 1991 by Lawrence Austin, a film buff and collector, and it thrived once more until the night of January 18, 1997, when Austin was shot and killed in a bizarre murder plot worthy of Hollywood at its seediest.

Late last year The Silent Movie Theater opened again under a new owner who made some changes including converting the original owner's apartment into a lounge and adding a patio. Projection capability includes both 35mm and 16mm and the theater boasts an organ for authentic accompaniments of silent flicks.

So, while the Travel Town "theater" may be dark, consider visiting The Silent Movie Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Ave. (just south of Melrose Ave.), Los Angeles, phone (323) 655-2520. It's open Friday through Sunday weekly.


by Dan Price, Maintenance of Way Co-Superintendent

Congratulations! The SCSRA Maintenance of Way Department successfully completed its most ambitious track project this quarter on time and on budget. This project has paved the way for the start of both the Train Shed and the Zoo Railroad projects, both major keystones of the Travel Town Master Plan. Additionally, the outpouring of volunteer workers has saved the City of Los Angeles tens of thousands of dollars in construction expenditures.

Sadly, the above is satire, nothing more than the fiction of an imaginative writer. The stark reality is that summer 2001 marks a sad point in time for the SCSRA's MofW Department. This was the projected completion date for the work described above and more. Almost all of the track at Travel Town would have been repaired or rebuilt. This would have been a colossal improvement in the basic infrastructure of the museum, and would have been of little cost to the City. However, rather than openly accepting this offer of assistance, Ms. Barth chose to stonewall the MofW Department's efforts of submitting proposals. Ms. Barth also chose to prohibit the SCSRA from performing any track work, construction or repairs.

Track 7, the track that must be rebuilt prior to Train Shed construction, still sits without any work having been done to it. One can only assume that instead of having the SCSRA rebuild this track at little cost, the city has wisely chosen to spend tens of thousands of tax dollars having it rebuilt as part of the Train Shed project.

Work on the Tail Track has progressed steadily. As noted in last quarter's report the track leading to the Tail Track from the museum was realigned under the supervision of Ms. Barth. Work was performed by a railroad contractor and was paid for by the Travel Town Museum Foundation/ASRA. This work was also to have been part of the above project and would have saved TTMF/ASRA thousands of dollars for use elsewhere within Travel Town. However, their project is unfinished as we are still awaiting the removal of a mountain of earth. This pile, in the middle of the Restoration Yard, remains from the construction.

Work has also progressed on the Tail Track right-of-way. The city has completed a substantial amount of earthwork in the area. Survey stakes have also been placed, ready for work to start. While Ms. Barth has in the past verbally assured the SCSRA's place as the Zoo Railroad's builder, it is now unknown who will work on this project. This is because the SCSRA has, in essence, been told our help is no longer wanted on the Zoo Railroad. As a result, it can be assumed this will become a substantial financial burden on the taxpayers of Los Angeles or on TTMF/ASRA.

Unfortunately, our sad tale does not end here. Ms. Barth has recently forcibly entered our MofW tool shed and removed tools purchased by the City. She initially requested to meet with members of the SCSRA MofW Department to witness the removal. However, she decided to remove the tools on her own and on a day no representative of the SCSRA could be present. Access was gained as our MofW lock was recently cut off and replaced with a City issue lock.

I deeply regret to say this may be the obituary for "Our Gang," at least at Travel Town. We have been barred from doing what we love and excluded from planning for the future in areas we know best. The Zoo Railroad, once ours for the building, has been ripped away by Ms. Barth and her followers. I wholeheartedly thank everyone who has contributed to the Maintenance of Way Department. Through the perspiration of dedicated volunteers we have accomplished many great things during our time at Travel Town, and for that we can be proud.

2001 SCSRA/ASRA 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