Sunday, November 28, 2004

Speeding trains are nothing new
By Emanuel Parker
Staff Writer

SOUTH PASADENA -- The saying the more things change, the more they remain the same, applies to the situation in South Pasadena with regard to trains.

While the Metro Gold Line is the target of noise complaints today, in 1904 it was the Santa Fe Railroad and the Pacific Electric Railroad cars being blamed for speeding and noise.

A headline read "Santa Fe Trains Run Too Rapidly' and the accompanying story read:

"At 2:12 o'clock last Friday afternoon a west-bound freight train drawn by engine No. 228, passed through South Pasadena at a very rapid rate, crossing Meridian and Center streets at fully 40 miles an hour. This reckless running of trains through the business center of South Pasadena must be stopped in some way, or it will result in a wholesale killing at the crossing of the Pacific Electric Railroad.'

In nearby Garvanza, across the Arroyo Seco, that prediction proved prophetic. A Santa Fe train traveling at 30 mph struck an auto and cut it in two, scattering pieces of the rear along 60 feet of track. There was no mention if anyone was injured or killed.

The electric cars also drew complaints from passengers. A rider wrote:

"It is a nerve-racking experience to me to have to ride even a few blocks for if the car does not have a square wheel, some part of its anatomy is almost invariably so misadjusted as to make the most heart-rending and nerve-racking screeches and grinding.'

When a Pacific Electric car sped through South Pasadena on New Year's Day without stopping to pick up passengers, the South Pasadena City Council decided to act. They ordered the city attorney to come up with a speed ordinance and to investigate reports of speeding Pacific Electric trains.

The ordinance required cars to stop at all street crossings, to keep a regular schedule, prohibited freight cars passing through town, and fixed the South Pasadena-Pasadena fare at five cents.

Pasadena officials also were concerned about speeding trains and adopted a resolution requiring Pacific Electric cars to run no faster than 4 mph at the intersections of Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks and Raymond avenues. Speed was limited to 6 mph in the city's center and 12 mph elsewhere. Sid Gally, a Pasadena Museum of History volunteer, researched this story.

-- Emanuel Parker can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4475, or by e-mail at

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