Sunday, November 21, 2010

Industrial Might: The City of Industry, Cal. and Shepherd Air Field

The 605 Freeway at Whittier near the Rose Hills Road exit provides a mighty repose.  It is the Quinn dealership of Caterpillar equipment and construction machinery.

Quinn is situated in the City of Industry.  The city meanders from the east and has progressively taken up the land along this area, particularly for the proximity to the railroad line.

A view east to the Puente Hills in the background.

The tracks to the north, with an ensemble of palm trees.

Before Quinn arrived in 2003, the location belonged to Shepherd Machinery Company.  W.W. Shepherd operated the Shepherd Tractor and Equipment Company in Los Angeles, having been in business since 1924.  A new facility was constructed in 1955 on a 34-acre area in what used to be the Whittier area.  Back then, the company distributed Caterpillar, John Deere and allied machinery.  In the 1950s Shepherd also had another facility in Lancaster (which was still in operation in 1996.)

The company expanded again in 1983 at this location, adding two more buildings.

As late as 1982, this site was still considered a part of the Whittier area.  The City of Industry had not yet reached this far southwest.

Shepherd Field

The Shepherd family maintained a 2,400 feet landing strip here.  It was a private field used for the company's two planes and one helicopter.  Sources on the web state that the family commuted between L.A. and Santa Barbara.  After the aircraft was sold, the field was closed, and the hangar was removed as late as 2003 or 2004.

A news article reported in 1964 that general use air fields in metropolitan Los Angeles had dwindled.  The El Monte Airport was in jeopardy of being converted for residential developments.  The Shepherd Field was cited as a rare air strip.  Even after the late 2000s when the Shepherd Field no longer existed, small aircraft mistakenly still made landings here!

Rail tracks looking south.  To the right here was where Shepherd Field existed.

These days, year after year, the original raised platform continues to showcase a yellow Caterpillar -- a vignette of industrial might, strength and patriotism.  During the holiday season, decorative lights drape the machine.

Update Jan. 13, 2013: The cool CAT is gone. The building was demolished in March, 2012.  View two dramatic clips on YouTube:

Clip one
Clip two

The business is still on their expansive compound but they have other plans for this portion.

Below shows the progress near the end of 2012:


  1. I drove by there many times when I worked in City of Industry from the mid 70's to the mid 80's and I was not aware that there was a landing strip in the area. Learn something new every day! a.l.

  2. I went to school with Wendell Shepard, son of the Shepard in charge at the tractor dealership. He had said they gave him a hotel for a birthday gift. Later when I realized their family owned the dealership I could see that may not have been too far fetched. This was all back in the late eighties in grade school. I often wonder what happened to Wendell now that we're adults.

  3. Dear Anon.:

    Interesting. I guess a hotel is the perfect gift for the person who has everything...

    Thanks for sharing.

    (BTW the late eighties was NOT that long ago...)

  4. Worked at Shepherd from 86' - 95'. There was a dirt field on the other side of the airstrip that could be used for testing equipment. You were allowed to cross over the airstrip at one designated location that was concrete. It was made clear to all new hires, if you ever took a piece of equipment on the asphalt runway, you could go & pick up your last paycheck!!!

  5. Thanks, Anonymous, for sharing your past experience at Shepherd's. Check out YouTube and search "Quinn Cat Construction" where you will find 2 short clips on the destruction of the beautiful 1950s building. Looks like Quinn is constructing a new building because there is a sign near the freeway exit "Quinn 2013". Right now there are tall mounds of dirt, gravel or something.

  6. I went to work for Shepherd Machinery in 1965. I was 35 years old at the time and was hired as Assistant Service Manager. Bill Shepherd was the owner of course and he was a bit weird as I recall. I can remember being put in charge of fill dirt that was being brought in to the area adjacent to the freeway. It was to be 18 feet deep and Shepherd Road was to be placed on top when it was finished. In the process, one of the dump trucks unloaded a big rock and when Shepherd saw it, he called me on the phone and told me to meet him out there. Our shop foreman went out with me and he got fired that day because he told Shepherd the rock would make good base material. Shepherd told me to move the rock over behind the airport hangar. We ended up using a brand new 657 Scraper to get it where he wanted it.

    My boss's name was Jim Miller and he took me up in one of the small planes. It was my first time in a plane and very scary for someone who had never flown before. There were some crazy things went on with the airfield. Shepherd bought a new plane, a jet, and could not get authorization to fly it because the runway was too short. The runway ended right at the freeway and he had a bend put in the runway that followed alongside the freeway so that the runway length met specs. He also had a ramp built at the other end of the runway so that he could get a downhill start with the jet. I watched as he took off with the jet for the first time and it just cleared the freeway. After all that, he never kept the jet.

    In 1970 I was promoted to Parts Exchange Manager and had charge of all the exchange parts. I left Shepherd in 1972 and went to work for Otis Material Handling as Manager of Parts and Service.

    There were other happenings with Shepherd that were too numerous to I call the pom pom event where I had done a 20 page spread sheet report for him and he had cut all of the columns out and then phoned me and told me to get up to his office. When I got there, he had what appeared to be cheer leader pom poms in each hand and he wanted me to put them back the way they were. OMG !!!

  7. It's so amazing for me to read your article on how eccentric Bill Shepherd was. I can certainly agree with you. I worked at Shepherd Machinery for 13 1/2 years, starting in the mid 1960's. I was a Data Entry Operator, working with Norm Edgerton, Mary Little, Sandy Suddeth and Emmy Hoy. I remember leaving our little place one day and heading up past Doris Hunt's office to see Maxine Rodgers in purchasing. I passed Bill in the hall right as he was firing the mail delivery girl for her slip showing. Holy, I thought, don't get on his bad side! YIKES!