Burbank Branch, Page 4

By | January 3, 2019


The Local crosses the Tujunga Wash on the Burbank Branch using a GP9 and F7 unit for that day. Jack Neville Photo

Occasionally, some disaster would befall the Coast Line and the branch would be pressed into service for the movement of mainline trains. I have some old 8mm movie footage of 4 unit sets of SD-9’s gingerly dragging long freights at 20 miles per hour over the 90-pound rail, and simultaneously tying up every grade crossing from Tujunga to Vineland! Other than these events, which were rare in the extreme, the only real excitement came from oddball loads like a pair of D&RG; narrow gauge cattle cars or a Western Airlines Boeing 737 fuselage consigned to Universal Studios for use in a movie, or changes in motive power like this GP-9/F7 lash-up crossing the Tujunga Wash

In 1964 a pair of D&RGW; narrow gauge stock cars were delivered to Universal Studios. They were offloaded to lowboy trails for the trip down Lankershim Boulevard to the studio back lot in Universal City. Jack Neville Photo More Pictures of the DRGW Stock Cars

With the advent of high school, my interest in the branch dwindled as new activities consumed me, and places like Tehachapi, Cajon and the LA Harbor District offered new rail venues to explore. The branch ran right past North Hollywood High, and from time to time the Local would pass by while I was out on the athletic field or sitting in a classroom on campus. The sound of the diesel horn blowing for the Colfax Avenue crossing would never fail to distract me from an instructor’s lecture. A similar relationship prevailed when I entered L.A. Pierce College. I would occasionally catch a glimpse of the train as it trundled down the private right of way along Topham Street or Victory Boulevard, while on the last leg into Chatsworth and the junction with the Coast Line at the west end of the San Fernando Valley.

In the mid sixties we were renting an apartment on Colfax Avenue near Burbank Boulevard. One day in 1965 I was driving home along Chandler Boulevard in my 50 Pontiac Streamliner, when I encountered a steam pile driver working on the bridge across the Tujunga Wash. At that time the California Division of Highways was extending the Hollywood Freeway (State Route 170 as it is now labeled), north to a junction with Interstate 5 in Sun Valley. They were running it right up the wash, and this necessitated moving the main channel to the east bank, and cementing in the watercourse in the same fashion as they had with the LA River, near Kester Junction in the early 1950’s. The pile driver was placing steel piles to support a small steel girder bridge that was to shortly replace the trestle. This pile driver, SP MOW 345, trailed an R-90 tender from some long vanished SP locomotive. I suspect that this may have been the last job for the old girl, before being consigned to the scrapper’s torch. I called my friend Chris, who was home on leave from the Air Force prior to shipping out for Vietnam, and he drove over in his 56 Ford and met me at the bridge. We spent the better part of an afternoon watching the MOW crew driving piles. Safety wise, things were still pretty relaxed, and we observed the action standing right along side the SP crew in the wash.

It’s 1965, and the end is near for the trestle, and perhaps this steam pile driver as well. Jack Neville Photo

The afternoon with the pile driver was one of my last real encounters with the operations on the branch. A full time job while attending Cal State Northridge, and a diminished interest in SP operations in general, kept me away from the haunts of my youth. SP changed the way they operated the branch, with the local no longer returning each evening on the same rails, and service declined as businesses shut down or moved away. I moved to Burbank where I purchased a duplex apartment building, but rarely encountered a train during my occasional drives down Chandler Boulevard to Lancer’s Coffee Shop, or Terry Lumber’s yard in the shadow of Burbank Junction. The last train I remember seeing consisted of just four cars trailing a faded, grimy, graffiti tagged GP-40-2 – and no caboose. Sometime later I read that a local politician was fighting use of the private right-of-way for a light rail line connecting Burbank with North Hollywood. It seems he was a jogger, and felt that turning the right of way into a bike and jogging path would better serve his need, and those of the citizens of Burbank. Only then, did I realize that another symbol of my youth had slipped away. I have a few mementos though. The Brownie box camera photos taken as a kid; a faded, water stained, hand drawn track plan of the North Hollywood yard, saved from the crew telephone box in the NH station after it closed down; a chunk of PE girder rail from the curve at Vineland and Chandler; and a piece of very light Krupp rail used as a flange way in one of the Burbank grade crossings.

Well, today the good news is that you can once more ride a red car around the big sweeping curve (albeit as a light rail vehicle traveling underground) and into a station at North Hollywood. The old wooden SP/PE station has been saved and is slated for restoration. Phil’s Diner is available for motion picture work, and I’m not “working that damn Local, wondering where my life went!”

The North Hollywood depot was used by the Hendricks Building Supply, for many years may have been the only reason it is still standing today. The white building seen in the distance is the former Safeway market. At the time of the photo it housed Olsen Electronics. When they vacated the building it became a Pep Boys store and auto service facility until it was torn down for the MTA Red Line Station. Jack Neville Photo

A Los Angeles bound MTA Red Line train rolls to a stop at the new North Hollywood Station. Jack Neville Photo

The above ground entry to the new station sits on the former site of the Blanchard Lumber Company. Jack Neville Photo

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Today the busses meet the Red Line trains in the parking lot on the east side of Lankershim. Jack Neville Photo