We hiked up the "right of way" right off where Maiden Lane and Rubio
Dr. Intersect. I was disappointed when after about 1/4 of a mile our path was blocked off
by the development of some new houses under construction. Since we didn't know at the time
of the right of way trail that hits Rubio Vista Road, and after some fence jumping, we
made our way up the no trespassing road where Camp Huntington used to be. Almost
immediately we scrambled down into the creek so as not to be trespassing on anyone's
The whole idea of going up there was to find the old incline and maybe climb it to the
top of Echo Mountain. Occasionally we would stop at certain points, and compare them to
the pictures we'd find in the book. We saw almost identical views from where we stood when
comparing the same shot form a camera taken back in the early 1900's. It really was a
In all my life, even as a Boy Scout, I had never seen the incline from the bottom. Only
from the top looking down. We eventually passed the spot where the pavilion had once been,
not realizing that it had been built on stilts. We went to the waterfall before realizing
we had passed the spot. Backtracking paid off for we used the guidelines and maps in the
book, which turned out to be a reliable source. When we finally discovered what must have
been the base of the Incline, Bill thought he saw a trail, and started to go up it.
Timarie and I stayed behind. It wasn't long before he called to us that this was the
trail- it had yellow ribbons marking it. So the three of us started going up the
switchbacks. The yellow ribbons really helped us stay on the proper path, because the
trail is not used much, and is not easily observed.
As we progressed up the mountain, it became obvious that we were on the right path
because we would run into old rails and rail ties When we came upon what was left of
MacPherson's Bridge it was a wonderment to look at the abutments that had been the base
for the bridge structure. I was amazed to be looking at these things, all the while
realizing that my whole life I had lived in this area, and never saw this remnant of the
old railway. It was almost like finding a new toy under the Christmas Tree.
The occasional yellow ribbons lead us up the trail in good fashion. It was later that
we learned that this was the original trail used by the mules taking materials and
supplies up to the top of Echo for building the structures. Paul Ayers had called me about
going up the following Saturday to work on finding artifacts and the Armature he had found
over the side. When I told him about our hike, he explained that he had gone up the day
before and marked the trail with the yellow ribbons. He wanted to establish the trail, and
by marking it clearly, even the casual, uninformed hiker would be able to follow the
proper course. What a coincidence.
We finally got up to Echo. It was a real hike. We were pooped. But what an
The advent of the twentieth century brought
many changes to people around the world and none greater than those right hear in the
Mass transportation was becoming more and more affordable for the common man.
Everything from the electric trolley to the automobile was proving to be more than a mere
passing fancy. People by the thousands were venturing out of their hometowns and cities to
take a look at the wondrous world around them. These people were from all parts of the
world and from every socioeconomic background.
Automobile mogul Henry Ford was not only
responsible for giving the common man a way to tour about, but was also one of those who
did the touring as well.
Henry Ford and wife Clara were among the richest people in the nation and took to
traveling around the world to view its great wonders. Mass production of the Model T in 1908 brought
millions of dollars to the Ford Empire and in 1914 the automobile assembly line was born.
Henry Ford was so proud of his accomplishment he decided to put the assembly line on
display for the world to view at the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915. It was a smashing
While on the West Coast the Ford family, accompanied by young Edsel
Ford, would visit places in Southern California such as Universal City, Cawston Ostrich
Farm, Catalina Island, and the Mt. Lowe Incline.
For many years the Ford family would return to the San Gabriel Valley as Claras
sister and brother-in-law lived in a craftsman styled home near the corner of Santa Rosa
and Alameda Streets in Altadena. George Brubaker and Eva Bryant Brubaker played host and
hostess to not only the Henry Fords, but Mr. And Mrs. Harvey Firestone (Firestone
Tires), Luther Burbank (botanist), Mr. And Mrs. (Commander) Sir Percival Perry, and Thomas Edison.
These well know figures were just like the rest of an emerging population, who wanted to
explore the world around them, especially wonders like the great Mt. Lowe Incline.
Henry Ford poses with the camera used to shoot
film about the Mt. Lowe experience for the FORD EDUCATIONAL WEEKLY. Looking on from
the left to right is one Ford's entourage, Edsel Ford, Rose Flint, her father, and Clara
Ford. Photo courtesy Michael Patris
Henry Ford had always been an imaginative tinkerer and admired the work that went
into the making of the incline. He would return many times between 1907, when his
sister-in-law and brother-in-law were married, and the late 1920s. The auto magnate
would marvel at the incline cars going up a 63% average grade for nearly two-thirds of a
mile. He wondered how such an engineering masterpiece could operate so flawlessly and
provide so much pleasure.
In the name of education, Ford sent camera crews to hundreds of locations around the
globe to bring an unfamiliar world to the eyes of young and old alike.
One of the first locations chosen for the FORD EDUCATIONAL WEEKLY was none other than
the great cable incline at Mt. Lowe. Ford himself came along on this particular trip,
giving Pacific Electric Patrons the wonders of the San Gabriel Valley and an arms distance
look at a world famous mogul enjoying a simple outing with his family.
Henry Ford always insisted he was a simple man; man of nature, bird watcher, and an
amateur astronomer. A far cry from his 1300 acre estate, "Fair Lane" (namesake
of his 50s and 60s automobiles) which in 1915 boasted a $1.9 million dollar
The powerhouse at Echo Mountain is said to have served as a model for his own
powerhouse at Fair Lane, the sole supply of electricity to run the massive estate.
Ford insisted his estate fit in with the surrounding landscape and that is just one
aspect he loved so much about the incline railroad. So little of the San Gabriel Mountains
were disturbed upon completion of the railway from Rubio Pavilion all the way up to Alpine
Tavern. The little white opera cars could be seen traversing the hill from time to time
and a few buildings dotted the top of Echo Mountain. Just enough to make the people down
below ask themselves what it must be like to go up the hill for a ride.
Although the Fords were on vacation all the gentleman wore dress shoes, suits,
and ties and dont forget your hat! The women still wore high top shoes and
There is no evidence that Henry Ford met Thaddeus Lowe, but the two pioneers had quite
a bit in common. Lowe made and lost several fortunes and died nearly broke trying to have
fulfilled his mountain railway dream. Subsequently he lost control of his trolley line by
the time Henry Ford had come to admire it. Ford had made and lost a few small fortunes of
his own trying to perfect an automobile fit for the masses. Both men were amateur
astronomers, naturalists, and visionaries. Both were dedicated family men. Too bad Ford
and Lowe hadnt met earlier. Perhaps Henry Ford could have altered local history with
his love for the Mount Lowe Incline and the necessary money professor Lowe lacked to
fulfill his mountain dream
The photographs included with this story have been documented by the Henry Ford museum
to have been taken during the winter of 1915-1916. The Fords commonly spent the
winter months in California sightseeing and visiting family.
On this particular trip Clara Ford brought along friend Rose Flint. Rose was married to
Dutee Flint, head of Ford Motor Companies New England sales office in Providence Rhode
Island. Her father accompanied Rose on this trip as it was frowned upon for a woman to
travel unescorted in that day and age.
None of the other people in the photograph could be identified, however owner of
Pasadena Ford, Lewis J. Hampton maybe among those photographed as Hampton and Ford were
long time personal friends.
The Cawston Ostrich Farm in South Pasadena
was one of the more unusual sites visited by people from the world over, like Henry Ford.
This piece was written by friend
Michael Patris. Michael is one of the most avid collectors of Mt. Lowe memorabilia
on the scene today. Michael has been featured in collector magazine and lectured on
Mt. Lowe for various groups. Go to a paper, rail, postcard show, or antique meet
today and chances are you'll bump into him, I do all the time.
To Echo Mountain
My very first introduction to the Angeles National
Forest was the Sam Merrill Trail at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena. My brother and
neighborhood friends would typically just walk up Lake Avenue from our home just below
Woodbury Road. Sometimes wed get a ride, and then wed hike up what seemed a
tremendously long and tiring trail to Echo Mountain. In fact, the trail is probably not
even three miles, but back then, with the switchbacks and dryness of summer, it seemed as
if we were entering a different time zone, as if we were going into the past.
Finally at the top, we never had a shortage of things to see and things to do. And
remember, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Echo Mountain seemed much more wild than it
is today. Back then, the visitors were fewer, and there were no interpretive signs for the
tourists. We would carefully walk amidst the many yucca plants, trying to determine the
exact dimensions of the old hotel and other buildings. Once, my hiking partner Joe Sierra
and I spent the afternoon discovering about pine nuts. We had seen pine nuts from the
store, and wed eaten them, and so when we found a huge pine cone from one of the old
trees on Echo Mountain, we decided to figure out how to get the seeds. The cone we found
was huge, but not fully mature, so the scales were closed. We just took a rock and
gradually broke open the cone, bit by bit, while the thin-shelled black seeds fell out,
one by one. We thought they were delicious!
On clear days, we had that incredible vista and could actually see the two peaks of
Catalina Island. In fact, regardless of the air and smog conditions, we often ended our
trip by sitting atop the old cement staircase just looking down at the sprawling city to
the south. It gave us such a superior view, such a lofty vantage point that we felt truly
set apart, as if the city we were looking at below was something other than our home. It
was this very loftiness that gave rise to so many of our philosophical discussions about
the nature of life and the eventual result of overpopulation.
Gradually, I would visit Echo Mountain in every season, at all times of the day and
night, in rain, snow, and heat.
Echo Mountain used to be a great spot to view the fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Weve begin our hike in the late afternoon, view the fireworks
and have a meal, and then get back to Altadena around midnight.
Ive very much enjoyed early morning summer
hikes up the Sam Merrill Trail, viewing the many flowering plants along the way, flowers
that are only seen after a wet spring, such as the miners lettuce, and monkey
flower, and Indian paintbrush and many other delicate flowers. To me, in those early
mornings with dew on the spider webs and a bit of fog still in the air, the trail and the
surroundings were sacred land. They were a place of mental and physical development, and a
time where I could find my spiritual roots.
I have only traveled up the path of the incline to Echo Mountain on a few occasions. My
friend Daniel McPherson first showed me the way, and we saw many of the wooden foundations
of the incline, and even some of the old rails. Though eroded in sections, we were able to
hike most of the old route starting from Rubio Canyon all the way up to Echo Mountain.
I have lost count of how many times Ive been to Echo Mountain because I have been
there so many times. It was like my backyard. And since leading hiking classes for
Pasadena and Glendale City Colleges, I have taken hundreds of students there and
encountered many others there on the top.
Two interesting encounters come to mind.
Once, about 13 years ago, my hiking class and I met a man at the top who said he was
there to win a bet. He was apparently skilled in primitive fire starting, primitive
weapons, shelter making, and generally seemed to know how to live off the land. When we
met him, hed already made a dozen or so arrowheads from the broken glass scattered
around Echo Mountain, and hed made arrow shafts as well. He said he was going to
make a bow soon and use them to capture some of his meals. Hed planned to close in
that old huge fireplace and use it as his shelter for the following week. For fire, he
said hed use a bow and drill. I was impressed. He said he had to stay there for 10
days with only what he carried in -- which was just his clothes and a knife -- and if he
came out OK, hed win the bet. (I dont recall what hed win). Since I
wanted to know the outcome, I gave him my magnesium fire starter and my business card in
exchange for his promise that hed contact me when he got out and tell me how it
went. I never heard from him.
On another occasion, our entire hiking class had finished lunch on one January
afternoon. It began to snow! I was surprised that it would snow at such a location, but we
marveled in it. As we were departing, a woman and her girl scouts came by and asked if we
had any matches. "No, I never carry any," I told her. She said they were out on
the third day of week-long backpacking trip and ran out of their book matches. She said
they got moist and were all used up. I was a bit amazed that anyone would depend on book
matches, and I gave her my magnesium fire starter and a quick demonstration. With that
tool, shed have no problems, except for the snow, and we quickly departed. (I never
heard back from her either. Fortunately, I never read about her and her girls in the
The Echo Mountain area is really one of the great historic spots in the Angeles
National Forest, as well as a good spot to study the flora, fauna, and to view the city.
Always play it safe and carry a canteen of water, a magnesium fire starter, a good knife
(such as a Swiss Army knife),
and tell someone your itinerary. A good local trail book is John Robinson's
TRAILS OF THE ANGELES.
Nyerges' latest book, ENTER THE FOREST, about the Angeles
National Forest, is now available. He is also the author of GUIDE TO WILD FOODS, and
TESTING YOUR OUTDOOR SURVIVAL SKILLS. His books are available at all Sport
Chalet stores and via Shcool of Self-reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041. A copy of
his class and outing schedule is also available from SOS, or on-line at
of our readers
On New Years Day I decided to take the trek up
the fire road to Dawn Station and then hike into Millard Canyon and on to down to the gold
mine. Even in those early morning hours the drone of dirigibles were present while they
floated above Colorado Blvd vying for position above the Pasadena
Rose Parade. I counted at least five in their number. Before long another peace
breaker came onto the bright blue canvas above me spewing clouds of white graffiti from
its tail. This buzzing biplane wrote out STAR NEWS in giant white letters for all
who would wrench their necks to see. Another message of the day was 007,
the message getting much better reviews than the movie itself in my book.
Once at the Dawn Station site, I took a break in the shade at the foot
of the trail to the gold mine and hoped my dreams to get the structure rebuilt would go
through. The seed had been planted early in 1997 and brought up again in October 1997 on a
workday on Mt. Lowe. The SMLHC liked the idea of having a rest stop half way up to the
tavern for hikers and bikers and for me especially the structure would just about complete
my Dawn Mine experiences.
Forest Service Volunteer John Harrigan measures and sets
stake for the Dawn Station waiting structure, while Lee Varnum looks on.
After an orange slice or two I took off down the "Trail to the Gold Mine."
The trail was a bit airy in parts complete with washouts, rockslides, and the occasional
fallen tree trunk but before long things were going quite well. One particular item of
interest; along this trail is the artists vantage point of the beautiful painting of
Millard Canyon hanging in the Altadena Library. On this day one could see down the
length of the canyon and all the way out to the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles. On to
the gold mine I went, stopping briefly at the home site of the Ryans, owners of the
mine in much earlier days. I sat on the peninsula their house was built on and just
listened for a while to the sound of the water falling over a small four-foot fall. I
passed on visiting the mine. After all six times last year was enough.
An hour later I was above Millard Falls hearing the echoes of dogs barking and hikers
laughing in the spray.
January 10, 1998 the SMLHC went up to Inspiration Point to repair
shingles that had blown off the shelter. Despite the drenching rain storm the night before
four volunteers showed up to work. Besides the roof we also secured the flag pole along
the little trail to Easter Rock and then hauled rock down to the Dawn site for another
days work there. Brian, John, Jim and Jake did the days work.
December 1997 Thanks to photos provided to me by Charles Seims and one in
my own collection taken by Ralph Melching, our own SMLHC member John Harrigan
was able to put together a fantastic set of plans to work from for rebuilding the Dawn
Station waiting structure. In January 1998 two nice donations came in from Alpine
Division Scale Models and Tim Friend. Thanks a lot fellas!
Site for the proposed Dawn Station Waiting
structure. Photo taken January 1997.
January 24, 1998 members of the SMLHC, Brian Marcroft, John
Harrigan, Scott Nielson, Lee Varnum, Bill Crouch, Kent Hamel, and
Jake Brouwer measured and than leveled out the platform area for the Dawn Station. It
was a good 5-hour workday and a lot was accomplished.
A reminder to all Mt. Lowe and Thaddeus Lowe collectors. DONT GIVE UP! There
are items to find around nearly every corner, just be aware and LOOK. In January I
came up with a Civil War book from 1895 that had two pictures of Lowes balloon and a
full-page picture of Lowes gas machines. ($15.) Also found were a Scientific
American 1893 with a description of the new Scenic Mt. Lowe Railroad and a narrative about
its power sources. ($5.) A brochure of the Alpine Tavern found on the WWW. ($8.)
February brought to the Southland a good deal of rain and a wonderful covering of snow
on Mt. Lowe. A few trips were made up to the Dawn Station waiting structure site and a few
more donations trickled in.
On February 16, 1998 the San Gabriel Valley Tribune did a nice piece on our
plans for the Dawn structure. Shortly afterwards donations came in from Fred and Edna
Smith, Victor McVey, Joseph and Wanda Drown, Geraldine Davis, and Dave
and Lisa Lewis. Thanks!
March was pretty quiet as far as news goes. Michael Patris notified me that he was
asked to host the opening ceremonies for the Collectors Convention in Pomona in June 1998.
Michael will also be lecturing on collecting Mt. Lowe memorabilia.
Collecting Mt. Lowe
memorabilia can be a fun and rewarding hobby and take it from me, it does not take a rich
man to do it. You just need a love of Mt. Lowe and the willingness to hunt for your
treasures when ever you can.
stereo card from the Keystone view company offered people from far away lands the
opportunity to see the Great Incline in a three dimensional way. An American pastime way
before television was to pass view cards around the room oohing at the wonders of the
Some things can run into some big dollars like glassware and signed
documents but some of the neatest finds might run only a few dollars.
The stereocard shown above ran only $12. in an antique store in
Ventura. A month ago my wife came up to me after poking around the Cal Poly Swap and
handed me an old piece of paper which turned out to be a program for the Ladies Auxiliary
of Railway Conductors which included the Echo and Mt. Lowe Divisions! The item was only
ornate Jade green dish features the Great Incline and the surrounding area in white
relief. From the Michael Patris collection
Original photos turn up from time to time in old photo albums
that can be found at estate and garage sales. These pictures can be bought for a few
dollars but are worth much more to the collector. I have found a few neat photos and
postcards in those big boxes that people put out for you to rummage through. Quite often
they have no idea what is in the box.
The Great Incline which is the subject of this issue can be found on
nearly everything imaginable. Ive heard tell of hand held fans, watch fobs, orange
crate labels, lantern slides, playing cards, pewter cups, and much more. How about the
little white creamer Michael Patris and I just missed a few weeks back at the Orange
Empire Railway Museum Show? You just never know. If you have a computer be sure to check
out auctions as items have turned up there also. Just get out there and look.
||Collectors souvenir spoons sometimes feature the Great Incline on
the stem but most often and most collectable are spoons showing the Incline in the bowl as
shown here. There are said to be in the neighborhood of 100 different Mt. Lowe spoons.
we are in the spring of 1998. If you were living in 1938 you may recall the extreme
weather of that year that wiped out much of the railroad. I wonder what they called the
storm back then?
This issue introduces us to the Great Incline, probably the most
depicted site on the railroad. If youre not familiar with some of the facts about
the Incline the main article will fill you in, if you know all there is, hopefully the
presentation will be enough to interest you.
While putting this issue to bed I came up with at least five more
subjects to write about, adding to my list of around twenty-five. I realized I wanted to
know more about the Incline cars, sources of power, the powerhouse, the fires that plagued
the railway, and Charles Lawrence. To those of you that thought Id run out of things
to write about I say "raspberries."
Our summer issue will be based on flight. T.S.C. Lowes days of
flight that is and his granddaughter Florence "Pancho" Lowe Barnes. It should be
of interest to those unaware of the railways founder and his family.
Be sure to tell a friend about our paper. About 24 people have not
renewed for the new year and about 15 new subscribers have logged on so we are a bit
Enjoy the spring flowers.