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.