Chaffey High School and the Community
A resource for history, news, and events surrounding the Chaffey Community.

 
Losing Track 1998-1941 Tracing the past; eyeing the future (Turning those old rails into new trails ) Sunday, September 13, 1998 
Daily Bulletin 
By Krystn Shrieve 

Photos by Jeff Malet
Staff writers Ted Gotsch, Kevin Smith, Ann Griffith and Monica Rodriguez contributed to this story.

 
 
Hundreds of drivers thump-thump across a pair of train tracks sunk into the pavement on Milliken Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga without ever pausing to wonder about these rails to nowhere. 

The tracks are all that remains of the Pacific Electric rail line whose right-of-way cuts through the Inland Valley from San Dimas to Rialto.

THEN A Red Car makes a stop in Upland  in the 1930s just east of Euclid Avenue        
In the last decade, the rails were ripped out, leaving city and county officials with the problem of what to do with the barren strip land left behind. All are contemplating variations of the same concept - turning those old rails into new trails. 
 
NOW Jill Eagle, 36, of Rancho Cucamonga  jogs the old Red Car route. The area's first electric rail line - called the Ontario & San Antonio Heights Railway Co. - ran north and south on Euclid Avenue beginning in 1895. 

Residents of the Alta Loma area of Rancho Cucamonga later clambered for an electrified rail line of their own for the transportation of passengers and fruit. 

 
A newspaper article more than 25 years ago reported that the Pacific Electric railroad came to Alta Loma and on to Rialto largely through the efforts of Capt. P.A. Demens, president of the Citizens League of Alta Loma. 

Piotr Alexeitch Dementieff Demens, a member of a noble Russian family, had settled in an area called Iamosa whose name was later changed to Alta Loma. The railroad was about to extend its line to San Bernardino. Demens and members of the league raised $19,434.42 to purchase a railroad right-of-way in Alta Loma in 1912. 

Piotr Alexeitch Dementieff Demens,  a member of a noble Russian family,  had settled in an area called Iamosa whose  name was changed to Alta Loma. The railroad was about to extend its line to  San Bernardino. Demens and members  of the Citizens Leaugue raised $19,434.42 to purchase a railroad right-of-way  in Alta Loma in 1912.  

Louis Michael Ledig was a member of that citizens league, which was made up of farmers who wanted to ship their oranges, lemons and grapefruit on the train. Ledig's grandson, Harry Ledig and his wife Patricia, both 76, said their family paid $15 per acre on their 90-acre citrus farm to help raise the money. Harry Ledig was originally from the Alta Loma area. Patricia Ledig was originally from the Etiwanda area. The couple now lives in Upland. 

"If the group hadn't done this, the line would have stopped in Upland," said Patricia Ledig. "The trains never would have come to Alta Loma or Etiwanda." 


The Pacific Electric line was touted in advertisements as the "World's Greatest Electric Railway System" with 2,700 scheduled trains daily throughout Southern California in the 1920s and 1930s. The system, which was largely abandoned by the late 1950s, once boasted more than a million miles of track. 

A train schedule from 1938 shows that passengers could travel from Fontana to Union Station in Los Angeles over the Inland Valley line in an hour and a half. 

Virtually unnoticed amid the growing threat of World War II, the railroad quietly canceled its entire Los Angeles-to-San Bernardino Red Car trolley line in November 1941. The next day, trolleys were replaced by a fleet of 28 buses. 

Harry and Patricia Ledig of Upland hold  a historic document pertaining to the  Pacific Electric Right-of-Way Commitee.
* Phillys Jeanne "P.J." Clark is the fourth of seven generations raised in the Etiwanda area of Rancho Cucamonga. She remembers her father riding the Red Cars to business school in San Bernardino before he joined the military in 1914. Her mother rode it to Claremont High School. 

"Lots of people in Etiwanda did their shopping in San Bernardino and they went by train," Clark said. 

Clark, 78, remembers taking regular trips to San Bernardino with her friends Shirley Shepherd and Lois Jones. The three girls, about 12 or 13 at the time, would get their hair curled, eat at the lunch counter at Harris' department store and then go to the movies. 

She remembered that when the train pulled into the old Etiwanda station the conductor would call out, "Windy Wanda" - because it was always windy in Etiwanda. 

"The upholstery was red, like red velvet, and the back of the seat was on a hinge so you could face either way depending on which way the train was going," she recalled. "We almost always got a drink of water from a fountain that had tiny paper cups." 

Clark married her husband Jim in 1940 - just before some of the lines were discontinued. She followed him as he traveled during the war. She never rode the Red Car train again.* 

The old Red Car line is now owned by the San Bernardino Associated Governments. Yvonne Hester, spokeswoman for the council of governments, acknowledged the multicity agency plans to hang on to the land, which is about 20 miles long and varies in width from 50 to 100 feet. 

"We don't have any plans to sell the property," Hester said. "But there are some little bubbles, or access pieces, that are not part of the actual corridor. SANBAG would entertain offers on those sections."  * In some spots today the strip of land that stretches across Rancho Cucamonga looks a little like a dumping ground for trash, eucalyptus stumps and ratty furniture. But some areas still reveal subtle hints of the rail line's history. There are old abandoned loading docks in areas that were probably stops along the route. 

Wrought-iron barricades block access to bridge No. 5259. The now-rickety wooden bridge used to support the trains over Day Creek east of Milliken. 

Then there's Alta Loma's faded packing house, which was used to ship lemons and other citrus during and after World War II. The oldest of the four buildings on the 4.2-acre site was built in 1914. Today the buildings are unsafe - wooden floors have buckled, roofs have holes. The city is contemplating demolishing the once-vital operation. 

To make way for the coming Route 30 freeway, Rancho Cucamonga's historic Isle house was picked up and moved. The blue-and-white two story home rests on blocks in the middle of the railroad right-of way-on the west side of Etiwanda Avenue. City and historical society officials are trying to find it a permanent home.  * Officials of cities along the rail line have a vision of making it vital to the community again. 

Plans to turn Rancho Cucamonga's 7 1/2-mile portion into a trail have been on the books since 1981. 

Dan Coleman, the city's principal planner, said the City Council has formed a "Rails to Trails" subcommittee. Discussions are still ongoing with SANBAG over possible use of the right-of-way. 

"We are looking at hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails," Coleman said. "But we don't have a time line. We're still just in the talking stages." 

Mayor Bill Alexander, a member of the subcommittee, said he envisions the trail being like a miniature park where people can walk and talk. Mile markers would help chart the progress for fitness gurus on exercise programs. 

Safety and privacy, Alexander said, will be the city's main concern. 

"If people are walking and bicycling we will have to be sensitive in those areas that border private property," Alexander said. "There is also a possibility for equestrian trails. It adds to ambience. I love to see horses because it makes this place look homier."  * The city of Upland, at one point, has discussed turning the area into bicycle lanes - complete with bike racks, drinking fountains and rest areas. Upland Community Development Director Jeff Bloom said the city leases a small portion of the property from SANBAG for $1 year as a parking lot for the Coy D. Estes senior apartment complex on north Third Avenue. 

Mayor Robert Nolan said the city would like to use the five-mile section of the line that runs through Upland for a bicycle path. 

Plans for a bike path from Arrow Highway to Euclid Avenue, a portion which crosses no large streets, were temporarily shelved by the City Council in 1997. 

Upland Councilman Tom Thomas, a bike enthusiast, said the project is pricey because of all the cross streets. However, the plan remains part of the city's bicycle and pedestrian master plan. 

"They're eventually going to have a light rail line there, but it won't be in my lifetime," Nolan said. "We've been maintaining the property and clearing the weeds. All we'd need to do is put some blacktop down and go at it." 

THEN Refrigerator cars like these carried fruit from  the Inland Valley over the Pacific Electric Line.   NOW This bridge over Foothill Boulevard in  Rancho Cucamonga is a remnant of the raail line.  
* Recently, Fontana released its proposed parks, recreation and trails plan. The proposal, which includes the railroad right-of-way, hinges on permission from SANBAG. Fontana city officials have talked to the agency about using the land and have received what they call an "encouraging" response. At this point no formal agreement or proposal has been reached. 

The city's parks commission will consider the proposal, which includes other trails, expanded recreation programs and new parks. The issue will then move through the Planning Commission before the City Council starts its review.  * In Rialto, part of the old track is still in use. The Orange County Lumber Co. on West Rialto Avenue uses it daily to bring in lumber from Washington state on box and flat cars. 

"The track basically stops at the yard," said Rick Hormuth, the company's president. 

He said his business has used the track since it moved to the city from Santa Ana more than three years ago, and before that, another lumber company used it for the same purpose. Hormuth said his company has no plans to stop. 

With much of the right-of-way in use, Bob Bartlett, the city's director of redevelopment, said there are no plans for the remaining section north of Rialto Avenue where the track has been pulled up. 

But there are reminders in Rialto of the line's more glorious past. The city's original train station on Riverside Avenue, built in 1914, is now a restaurant called the Spaghetti Station.  * Near the western terminus of the line in Los Angeles County, the tracks are now part of Metrolink. 

Today Claremont, Pomona, La Verne and San Dimas are working on a joint project that would use the land along the tracks as one leg of a regional bike path. The trail is about six miles long through the four cities. 

With the financial help of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the cities have joined forces to develop a plan for part of the Santa Fe rail line. The idea is to transform part of the rail right-of-way into a path that could be used for bicyclists, walkers, roller skaters and others. 

Claremont city planners are considering moving its section slightly north onto the old Pacific Electric right-of-way. About one mile of the trail would follow the Pacific Electric line, which once ran down First Street. The tracks and ties no longer exist. 

Lisa Prasse, Claremont city planner, said the city is thinking about incorporating the entire trail into what will eventually be the Village West development.  Route to trails Image by Chris Marich/Daily Bulletin This is the route of an old and abandoned rail line that crossed the Inland Valley. City and regional officials are considering the railbed for possible bike or hiking trails  or even a reogional transportation corridor. *  The old right-of-way is a bit threadbare these days. But it has a future and even a few ghosts from the past.The old Etiwanda station, which was turned into a lumber yard 40 years ago, still stands grandly on Etiwanda Avenue. Today the sign outside reads El Dorado Wood. 

Jesus Loria, who has owned the lumber company since 1983, said that aside from a photo of the old station on the inside wall there is only one hint that trains used to be a part of daily life in that area. 

That, he said, is the shadowy figure of a ticket-punching ghost who has been seen wearing a black hat, suit and bolo tie.  - Photo Illustration by Glen Freidman The old car and the new contrasted. At the left is the Etiwanda station  today - now a lumber yard - while at the right is a train from an early 1940s photo. "There was a lady who used to work for me who saw the ghost a couple times," Loria said. "One time I came into the office and she was crying. I thought it was just her imagination but you never know. 

"Sometimes I stay here pretty late at night hoping he'll show up again so I can see him with my own eyes." 

 
 

 

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