Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Railroad Traffic In Montebello and Commerce

Montebello shares its western and southern boundaries with the City of Commerce.  A rail line flows through southern Montebello before entering industrial Commerce.  This image was taken at Olympic Boulevard, looking south on Montebello Boulevard.

This shot was taken July 31, 2010, and I was headed north on Montebello Boulevard, waiting patiently.

Rail cars move through the overpass above Telegraph Road, near Atlantic Boulevard in Commerce.  This vantage point is at the intersection called the mix-master.

East Los Angeles Train Station

About 25 yards east of the mix-master is the former East Los Angeles Train Station.  (This photo was taken July 31, 2010.)  The following photos of the train station were taken in 2001.

Located at 5480 Ferguson Avenue, the station was opened on May 15, 1929 by the Union Pacific Railroad.  Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was hired by the railroad to design the building.  He was also the designer of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, built in 1927.  Some of the features of the hotel also appear in the East Los Angeles Train Station, including heavy beams painted in bright patterns.  The exterior of the station had a cameo appearance in the 1946 film The Postman Always Rings Twice.  This station ceased operation in 1971, and the building was designated a Cultural/Historic Landmark of the City of Commerce in 1990.

At the time this photo was taken, the Central Market owned the land where the train station sat.  Currently, SEIU Service Employees Local 121 has its headquarters on the grounds at 5480 E. Ferguson Drive.  (Credit to S. Kato for updating me about SEIU's location.)

2003 Train Derailment

(This photo was taken July, 2010.)
It was upon this overpass at Garfield and Ferguson that I witnessed mashed up railcars in accordian-like fashion Sunday evening June 22, 2003.  I had been out of town, and I later heard the news that 31 runaway freight cars began in Montclair, loaded with lumber and paper, gained speeds of 70-86-100 miles per hour, before Union Pacific officials intentionally derailed at Track 4 in a Commerce neighborhood about half a block to the right of this picture.  The incident occurred Friday, June 20th, when Union Pacific officials determined the only option was to cause a derailment.  The aftermath, at 11:58 a.m., was the load of lumber exploding at Davie Avenue, impacting four homes, with a dozen people injured, though thankfully without fatality. 

A couple of years later, Davie Avenue was renamed Miracle Place.

The area along ground-zero of this 2003 mishap received a soundwall between their houses and the tracks.  Pictured is Nicola Avenue, an adjacent street to Miracle Place.


  1. My dad says he came home by train and arrived at the ELA train station when he was in the service in the 40s. I feel sad when I see the condition of this station. I have utilized the Glendale and Fullerton stations and they are nicely restored and kept up.

    1. My parents and I moved from North Dakota to East Los Angeles in July 1946. I was 12 years old. We arrived at the East Los Angeles station.

    2. My grandmother visited every year. She took the train from ELA Station, where traffic was light and boarding was simple

  2. I tried to find the station on Google Maps (May 2015) for 5480 Ferguson Avenue, Commerce CA 90040, and see nothing but single story buildings and parking lots.. I can't find anything on searchs as to whether the building is there still.. have found pics July 2014 - had a chain link fence around it, was in bad shape but looked restorable. Can anyone confirm whether the building is there?

  3. It should still be there. The station sits on private property, separated from the street by a deep parking lot, therefore Google cannot get close to the station.

  4. Station is still there.

  5. Just pass by today and saw the train station. What a awesome and historical landmark. Hope some day it's back in business. It's sad to let it go. East LA history just like the golden gate theater on Whittier and Atlantic which is now a CVS. Love both buildings

  6. I hear you, Anonymous. Thanks for reading my blog!