Railroads played a huge role in the development of the United States during the age of steam. At its zenith there were 265,000 miles of track in the U.S. And during World War ll the amount of rail traffic reached a high never reached before or since.
Much of this part of American history can be learned with a visit to the Lomita Railroad Museum. In 2017 the museum will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
We have been fascinated with railroads all our life. So it was a given that we would enjoy our visit to the Lomita Railroad Museum.
Tucked away on a side street just two blocks from Pacific Coast Highway this museum has a most interesting history. It exists thanks to Mrs. Irene Lewis who deeded the land it stands on and then set upon herself the task of creating the museum as it is today. Founded in 1967 the Lomita Railroad Museum is dedicated to displaying the "age of steam".
The Lomita Station is a direct copy of a 19th century Greenwood Depot at Wakefield, Massachusetts. The Locomotive at the museum was built in 1902 and was used by Southern Pacific Railroad until 1958 in Southern California. There are two caboose cars on the property for walk in viewing.
What we found so interesting here was the small items attached to railroading that we knew nothing about. Like Date Nails that were driven into new ties so it could be determined later what the life expectancy of the ties would be. Also torpedoes which were placed on the track by a flagman if the train stopped on the mainline between stations. These torpedoes were flares that exploded with a flash of light warning the engineer to slow the train and be prepared to stop.
Before radio communications the type of train was indicated to employes at night by lights mounted on the front end of locomotives, during the day by flags mounted near the top of the smoke box. Steam locomotive whistles in various sizes are on display.
The Lomita station also has a typical station agent's office and depot ticket office with telegrapher's key, station clock and additional paraphernalia of the steam era. The waiting room bench is from Omaha, Nebraska and was donated to Lomita by Union Pacific Railroad. Hand lanterns from the steam era, used for signaling the engineer, burned kerosene and are on display as well. There is also a collection of marker lights used on the rear of the train at night.
This collection demands some time to truly understand the steam era so allow plenty of time on a visit. There is a gift shop and an annex park which is available for private functions.
On our visit we were fortunate to have Alexander as our guide and docent and he was most knowledgeable and courteous which added much to our visit.
The Lomita Railroad Museum is located at 2137 West 250th Street in Lomita, Ca. 90717. Telephone 310 326-6255, web www.lomita-rr.org. The museum is open Thursday thru Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed holidays.
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