San Fernando Valley, the epilogue

By B. Smith (all photos by author)

It has occurred to me that I haven’t said anything about how SP operated the branch.  I wish now I had paid more attention to this aspect.

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SP’s Burbank station on the Coast Route.-–©photo B. Smith

Growing up in Van Nuys I’d hear the train as it passed the Sepulveda Dam Recreational Area (then the Sepulveda Flood Control Area) as we lived two blocks north of where I took the photo of the track by the old barn.  For many years corn was grown in the Flood Control Area.  But by the time I’d get on my bike and get to where I could see the tracks the train was well out of view.  For a time in high school  where we waited for the school bus to take us home after school (My family now lived up in the hills over looking the Valley) was across the street from the Encino team track and if the local was running later than normal I would catch it there.  The baseball fields where I played little league were located on the old RKO Ranch movie lot denoted on the Encino map and I’d see the train there, although baseball games were on evenings or weekends and the train rarely ran then.  One Saturday though the train did come and two girls had walked out on the long bridge spanning the Los Angeles River.  Our field was the closest to the bridge.  Someone shouted here comes a train and the game stopped as parents rushed to the bridge to warn the girls who just made it off the bridge in time.  I don’t remember the train sounding its horn or slowing down.  And yes, I too was guilty of walking across that bridge a time or two.


Tail track of the Chatsworth wye, with spur to the only ready-mix concrete plant along the San Fernando Valley Branch still getting rail shipments.-–©photo B. Smith

The trains I saw were almost always running east to west, from North Hollywood to Canoga Park.  From the maps (see post of December 13, 2015) you can see the majority of the switches would be trailing point with this direction of operation.  Cars going to the few facing point switches would be dropped into the spur using the flying switch technique.

Site of SP’s Chatsworth station in May,1972.  The two story station had stood by the tracks on the far side of the three palm trees.  Nearby is where the San Fernando Valley Branch rejoined the Coast Route. It was from this location on September 12, 2008, that a Metrolink commuter train departed, ran a red signal, and collided with a UP freight.  View is looking north toward the Santa Susana Mts.-–©photo B. Smith

The San Fernando Valley has an Anheuser-Busch Brewery and had, until 1992, a General Motor’s Assembly plant just north of the Van Nuys airport on the SP (now UP) Coast Route.  I believe the local for the branch began there where it gathered the cars for the day’s run, ran east on the Coast Line to Burbank where it then entered the wye for the track to North Hollywood.  After working its way through Van Nuys, Encino, Reseda/Tarzana, and Canoga Park, it would rejoin the Coast Route in Chatsworth and run east back to the yard by the assembly plant and call it a day.

SP beet train about to enter the first tunnel through the Santa Susana Mts. as it leaves the San Fernando Valley on the Coast Route.  May, 1972.-–©photo B. Smith


It was around this curve where the Metrolink/UP freight collided in 2008.-–©photo B. Smith

There was one time a derailment on the Coast Route at the north end of Van Nuys airport that closed the line for a day or two and all SP freights had to divert through the San Fernando Valley Branch.  It must of created some backed up auto traffic in the valley as these long trains, and there were quite a number in those days, made their way along the line at maybe 20 mph, not sure what the track speed was, but it wasn’t fast.
This concludes this series on San Fernando.  We hope it triggers pleasant memories for some of you and great modelling references for others.  Thanks to B. Smith for sharing his great research, personal recollections and awesome photos!
Click on the below links for the previous posts in this series–

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