As you look around our facility, most everything you see was built by members of the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum. We even planted the trees and the grass. The money to pay for the materials come from donations and through fundraising from our members and local businesses. The railroad is constantly being improved and enlarged.
If a steam locomotive is pulling your train, you will notice that the engine has a fire, smoke, and is actually running on steam. Our steam locomotives may be burning coal, fuel oil, or propane. The typical locomotive operates with about 120 pounds of steam pressure. Just like the full-sized engines, our steamers use lots of water and require constant maintenance and attention. The water used in the steam engines is specially treated by our water treatment system.
If a diesel-type locomotive is pulling your train, it is probably powered by a gasoline engine that is coupled to a transmission with a hydraulic drive. Some of our diesels are powered by electric motors, just like the real locomotives. These engines are very quiet and smooth running.
You may also see electric locomotives on the railroad. Most often, these engines are generally powered by storage batteries. Just like electric automobiles, they must be recharged when the batteries wear down. Our electrics may be models of trains operated years ago by Pacific Electric in Los Angeles, engines operated by major railroads, and even some that probably never ran at all!
The rolling stock that we use for your train trip is probably center bench cars or gondolas, both with a caboose. All of the cars use machined wheels that have flanges and tire profiles just like real trains. Trucks are made up of the wheels, axles, side frames and bolster. Most of the trucks on our rolling stock have ball bearings and functioning springs that carry the loaded cars. You may even see freight cars on some trains during your trip. These freight cars generally don’t carry passengers, and most have a working function just as the prototype!
Our railroad’s main line is about 1½ miles long. We have built and installed over 23,000 feet of track. We use steel rails. The ties we use are made from recycled plastic. Each section of track takes many hours to construct. Before the track is installed, the ground must be carefully prepared so that the track is level and straight. In addition to the track, we have two turntables, 44 steaming bays for engine preparation and maintenance, and two power hoists to raise and lower trains for storage or transit by car or truck.
A switch or turnout is a specially designed track that allows a train to move from one track to another track. On our railroad, there are over 80 switches and many of them are electrically operated. Our members build these switches using the same techniques used by full-size railroads.
For safety and efficiency, our railroad is controlled by a fully automatic, electronic signal system. The signal system detects the location of all trains and automatically controls the red, yellow, and green electric signals. Over 80 electric signals are installed throughout the railroad. The railroad is divided into areas or “blocks”. Each block is controlled by the nearby signals. Building and maintaining the signal system is a full-time job. We also have a restored railroad “high-ball” signal located near the Sutchville Station, and an operating semaphore signal located near the water tower along Zoo Drive.
BRIDGES AND TUNNELS
The railroad has over 395 feet of steel and concrete bridges. The 216-foot steel and truss bridge (O’Brien-Moore Bridge) located at the west end of the track was built with over 16 tons of steel. The center section of the bridge was constructed off site and transported to Griffith ark by truck. A crane was used to place the bridge on its concrete piers. The three concrete tunnels measure about 112 feet combined.
As you enjoy your ride through the park, you’ll notice 3 miniature towns, 2 water towers, a roundhouse, 3 train stations, a coal tipple (loading facility), 2 control towers and many other buildings and displays.
WALT DISNEY’S BARN
This is the actual barn that was in Walt Disney’s backyard in Holmby Hills, California. It was here that Walt, a member of LALS, had his workshop and ran the switches for his home railroad. The barn is open on the third Sunday of each month from 11am-3pm. The barn features displays of Disney, LALS and railroad related memorabilia. Guided tours are provided by members of the Carolwood Foundation.
STATIONARY STEAM PLANT
The Stationary Steam Plant consists of a 10 HP boiler operating at 150 PSI maximum. The boiler is fired with diesel fuel. There are seven operating steam engines. One is a steam powered air compressor weighing in the order of 3500 lbs., and was used in the oil fields in California. Another is a steam pump patented in 1872; the steam cylinder is on top and the pump on the bottom. One engine operates a can crusher and another a conveyor belt to transfer the crushed cans into a container. The largest vertical engine drives an overhead line shaft that in turn drives a drill press, a grindstone and a centrifugal pump that supplies water to a fountain. The engine ages aside those already mentioned are from about 1900, the 1920’s and probably the early 1930’s. The Stationary Steam Plant is fired up on the third Sunday of the month.
SANTA FE CABOOSE
Santa Fe 999355, is a steel CE-2 caboose built in 1929 as Santa Fe 1831, part of a Santa Fe order of 125 cabooses numbered 1750-1874. American Car & Foundry built this caboose; it was painted mineral red with white letters. Santa Fe 1831 was re-manufactured in 1969 with a new number 999355 and its current paint scheme. Santa Fe referred to their cabooses as waycars. This car ended its career in the early 1980’s working on a ballast train in the Cajon Pass. The car was retired in December 1983. It was set on display in December 1984. Today, this car is used as a caretaker’s residence. The caboose was repainted in 2007 using prototypical colors.
UNION PACIFIC CABOOSE
UP 25064, is a steel CA-3 caboose built in June 1942 as UP 3764, part of a UP order of 100 cabooses numbered 3700-3799. This was the first all steel caboose series built for Union Pacific by the Mt. Vernon Car Co. All UP cabooses up to this time had been made of wood and reinforced with steel. UP 3764 was repainted and renumbered in June 1960 into its current yellow, red and gray paint scheme from its original freight car red paint and white lettering scheme. This caboose was retired in March 1979. Union Pacific was contacted in 1980 to donate a caboose to Museum. This donation was set on display November 1980. Today, this car is used as a meeting and training room. The caboose was repainted in 2006 using prototypical colors.
UP BAGGAGE DORM CAR
Union Pacific Baggage Dorm Car 6009 was one of two Baggage Dorm cars built by Pullman Standard for Union Pacific in 1941. Its first number was LA 103 as part of the 1941 version of the City of Los Angeles train. Car LA 103 ran from Los Angeles to Chicago as part of a 14 car consist. It was remodeled in 1945 and again in 1947. LA 103 was then renumbered to CP 103 and assigned to the City of Portland train. The car was renumbered 6009 and placed in the UP general car pool. The car was retired from passenger service by May 1971, and was found in a scrap yard in Santa Fe Springs. The car arrived April 1986. Today the baggage compartment is used for the Museum’s workshop; the dormitory compartment is used for storage.
UP SLEEPER CAR
Union Pacific Sleeper Car 1209 (National Progress) was built in 1956 as part of a 15 car order in the (National) car series, 3 of the cars in this order were built for the Wabash. (8 of these cars exist as of January 2004) The Pullman Standard Company built the car. It is 85′ long and of the 6-4-6 class type of sleeping car. It had 6 roomettes, 4 bedrooms, and an open six-seat section. It was originally assigned to the City of San Francisco; it then ran on the City of Portland. This car was retired from passenger service by May 1971, and was found in a scrap yard in Santa Fe Springs. The car arrived April 1986. Today the car is used as the Museum’s official meeting car.