Burbank Junction Tower and the Branch
By Bruce Petty
Our family home was located on Chandler Blvd. along the Burbank Branch of the Southern Pacific railroad. During the early 1950's I went to Edison Elementary School just a few blocks west of my house. Once in a while on my way to school I would see a diesel switch engine with caboose heading towards Burbank from Van Nuys to pick up their cars for their days work. I remember seeing an 0-6-0 type, steam locomotive with cars slowly heading west towards Van Nuys. By the early 1960's I would stand in my front yard and photograph the freight cars and did get a few shots of a Baldwin AS-616 that was used as the branch line power at that time. I think living next to this branch line turned me into a railfan, didn't know anyone else at that time interested in trains.
Shown here is a selection of Freight Cars, Caboose and a Passenger Coach photographed 1963 that rolled along the Burbank Branch.
One day, mid 1950's, I rode my bike eastward following the branch line, I was about 10 years old and out exploring the world. I soon discovered where branch line joined into the Southern Pacific's main with a Wye and the Burbank Junction Tower could be seen further north up the track. I remembered this tower from when I was really little, Burbank Blvd. had crossed the tracks here before the overpass was built. My parents car would stop at the crossing gates and a Cab Forward type steam locomotive would speed past with steam condensate swirling around the wheels leaving me in some form of railfan shock. Spent a better part of my youth up in the tower watching the trains pass and watching the business of railroading. One of the towermen was a model railroader, he would work on his HO scale models at the desk when things were quiet. The towermens work was to throw the Crossover Switches and type Train Orders for outbound trains from Taylor Yard heading westbound towards the Coast or San Joaquin Valley lines. He would hang the Orders on one of the Pickup Posts located on each side of the double track main line. I really wanted to work as a tower operator, but by the time I was old enough, the old Burbank Tower was gone.
Here is a picture of Burbank Tower in the 1930s with Southern Pacific's, Owl Passenegr train just a few minutes away from Los Angeles.
In 1966 a freight train wrecked at at the tower. This is the wreck photo that I had taken the day afterwards.
Shown on these two pages; Historic Burbank Branch with photographs of some of the industries in 1974 and a list of industries served during 1981, and from our new book, the text, Early History of the Burbank Branch .
I live in Dunsmuir, California and have been building my HO layout that models after the Burbank Junction Tower and Branch. Its a shelf layout, 23ft long, Sun Valley is at the west end and the Wye at the east with the Burbank Branch line beginning to head around the room. Here are a few pictures of my Los Angeles Model Railroad layout.
Even Ansel Adams took a Daylight Passenger Train Daylight Passenger Train photographed 1940 at a road crossing with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank in the background.
Remember the last steam train operating in Los Angeles County? It was the Crystal Springs Southwestern Railroad, narrow gauge train at Griffith Parks, Travel Town operating in the mid 1950's. There was only about 1/4 mile of track to run on. As I recall the operation had to be shut down because some union was not running it.
Wes Clark, lived about a mile from my house, he tells a great story on his website about what it was like growing up in Burbank in the 1960's, Wes Clarks Avocado memories