Modeling the Los Angeles River

Using the LA River as a fascia.

by Bruce Petty

The Los Angeles River meanders along side SP Taylor Yard's engine facility.

Part of my growing up years in Los Angeles was riding my bicycle along the concrete LA River channel, this was always a fun way to spend an afternoon. Later during my 20s and a Southern Pacific train buff, two friends and myself drove up the LA River in my old pick up truck in order to gain entry to the Taylor Yard engine terminal. This done by driving up the slope of the concretebank with my two friend in the bed of the truck for added traction weight. I have fond memories of those days and now model parts of the LA River on my layout.

The police usually gave chase to keep people driving in the concrete river bed.

This is a scene from the movie THEM!, as a police car heads up the river channel.
Along the LA River channel ran the Southern Pacific, Santa Fe, Union Pacific and the Los Angeles Junction Railroad.

One thing you will see along both sides of the River are the cast iron drainage covers of all sizes.
From the earliest time I can remember as a child, is seeing the Five Cat Faces painted on the iron castings.

These swinging iron covers keep the river from back flowing and kids from exploring.
The castings have a cat head shape and folks like draw cat faces on them, they can be seen looking eastward from the I-5 freeway in Glendale.

I built this brass master pattern so it can be copied using a white-metal casting process.
Below are the casting made from the master pattern.
To get some of these castings, check the parts list for Showcase Miniatures menu under Century Foundry, part #2184.

The cat heads were used to model as part of an LA River model scene.

Here is shown how easily a corrugated cardboard model was built in a few hours with staples, masking tape and a little Latex flat indoor paint. Most of the time was spent painting and weathering to look like the river's concrete. The spring clamps make it easy to move to another location on the layout or into storage.

Remember the 1950s movie "THEM!" that had giant ants in the LA River? I used volenteer Carpenter Ant for this scene. Enjoy!

Burbank drainage channel in runs along side the SP main line as the Burbank Branch crosses the channel heading westward.

The idea for one side of the vertical channel wall concrete used as the Fascia. One eighth thick Masonite is painted concrete color with indoor flat Latex.
Concrete joint lines are made with a fine line pencil and finished with a Latex brown wash for weathering.

Here is another giant ant (big plastic one), making its home in one of the drain pipes.

This junction drainage following the prototype that ran under the tracks in the same place.

Car Chase On The LA River!
Watch this exciting chase scene in the Los Angeles River. This clip was taken from the October 11, 1972 episode of Cannon.

Below is a Youtube posting of a northbound San Diegan train ride over the new fly-over bridge and along the old Santa Fe tracks runing on the west side of the LA River looking eastward at UP trackage. I don't know who's video it is, but this really nice clip shows the detail of the concrete river bed and auto bridges. So sit back and enjoy the ride to the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal and turn the computer sound on.

At the end of this video are more to pick from about the LA River.

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