Major Winter Storm Fells Giant Oak; Mainline Closed

A 50-year old California Oak toppled across our mainline during fierce winter storm.

LA Live Steamers just weathered another set of heavy rain and windstorms, which caused flooding, landslides, tree damage and a sinkhole. The three storms set records for cold weather, rainfall and snow. Flashflood warnings were announced on all media, including cell phone alerts. Winds howled through the passes and the park, with gusts reaching 60 mph at times. Snow fell in La Crescenta, Agoura Hills and foothill communities; 24 inches of snow accumulated in the San Gabriel Mountains and 93 inches at Mountain High.

A 50-year old California Oak toppled across our railroad tracks, barely missing a full-sized semaphore signal, and grazed our caretakers’ caboose. A caboose window was knocked out, but the rest of the structure was left unscathed. No one was hurt.

The giant oak just missed damaging our full-sized vintage semaphore
Our Santa Fe Caboose sustained only a broken window when the oak landed in its garden.

The remainder of the 100+ trees on our 13-acre facility held their ground, thanks to regular tree care maintenance by trained professionals and our vigilant Club members.

Flooding occurred in the meadows west of the bridle path/fire road, creating temporary lakes in the park picnic area, and under our 68-foot long O’Brien-Moore Bridge. (See drone photos.)

Intense downpours created a temporary lake in the west meadow under the railroad bridge. Drone photo by Zak Holman.

The hillsides on the east portion of our facility held up fairly well, with only a couple of moderate landslides.

The south hillside adjacent to our Club’s Mountain Division line, along old Crystal Springs Road. Drone photo by Zak Holman.

The winds rearranged the three shelters on our maintenance-of-way tracks; some equipment was overturned, but not badly damaged.

Heavy-duty vinyl shelters blown askance in the maintenance-of-way pit. Photo by Zak Holman.

The waterwheel drain at the summit of our Mountain Division line performed properly, due to a recent cleaning, and the adjoining hillside held firm.

Nelson Summit: The water repository below our waterwheel stream performed well. Photo by Zak Holman.

On the westend large sinkhole appeared under a section of track that, happily, is not often used. It is a mystery where this hole came from, but we have no lack of dirt from recent slides to fill it.

A mysterious sinkhole formed on the west end along the seldom-used Smith Valley Line.

On Friday, March 3, our professional tree contractor will cut up and chip the fallen oak. At that time we will be able to assess any damage done to our tracks and small signals. This tree was planted in the late 1970’s by one of our founding members, Gordon Sherwood, in memory of his father. We plan to save a piece of the trunk and create something with it to honor the Sherwoods.

March 2022: The towering California Oak, originally planted by founder Gordon Sherwood in late 1970’s.

A special workday is slated for Saturday, March 4, when our members will convene and clear away dirt and rocks from our tracks, fix the caboose window, repair signals and rail, and clean up any other vestiges from the storm.

Small signals still standing after mighty oak falls on our mainline track. Minor repairs needed.

Whether trimming trees, repairing track, updating signals, or operating Sunday trains, member and public safety are always our first priority.

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