Photo: Ojai Train at Devil’s Gulch

19 comments

Posted by Craig Walker on December 8, 2011

These pictures are from the book Southern Pacific’s Scenic Coast Line – A Color Pictorial by Tom Dill. They were taken by Stan Kisler.  “The last steam run up the Ojai Branch occurred on May 22, 1955.  This was an early form of “push-pull” operation with the 2771 on one end and the 2367 on the other as the special works up the steep grade on the big fill near Oak View.”

Thanks to Brian Aikens for this photograph!

Comments (19)

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Hartmann December 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Nice photos, Craig. This time of year, it would be great to find out a little more history about the Christmas Lanterns decorating the Arcade. I think they were made by Combs Welding sometime in the 1970’s and have been used ever since. They are timeless and unique to Ojai. Any more info on these you could share?

Craig Walker December 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Hi, Pat. Sometime in the mid-1960s my father led an arcade beautification project for the Ojai Chamber of Commerce. He was running the Oaks Hotel at the time, and was very involved in the downtown. As part of the arcade project, he designed the lanterns that now hang in the arcade at Christmas. Combs Welding built them from my father’s design. You may recall the balconies that were attached to the front of the Oaks at the same time. He designed those, too.

Drew Mashburn December 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Pat, Craig: A few days ago, my wife, son and I were driving in downtown Ojai. My wife (Kris) told me that she really likes the lanterns and their wreaths. I told her and our son (Forest) that, if I recalled correctly, that the lanterns were made by Combs Welding years ago. I’ll bet an article was done in the Ojai Valley News about them back when they were hung the first Christmas. I can’t imagine that an article or, at least, a photo was not done back then. Dick Payton is a longtime Ojai resident. I believe that he worked for Bert Combs for a number of years. Dick might be able to provide you with some information about the lanterns.

Craig Walker December 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Yes, they were built by Combs from my father’s design. Combs did a lot of welding jobs for my father. Wish I could pinpoint the date a little better.

Drew Mashburn December 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

The railroad was destroyed in many places by the heavy floods in 1969. In fact, no trains ever ran on the line again after those floods. When I was 16 years old, I had a Yamaha 80 motorcyle. This was in 1967 when I lived in Mira Monte. Several of my buddies (Doug Smelz, Mike Payton and others) had small motorcyles too. We used to ride our motorcycles to Devil’s Gulch to hill climb. In the above photo there’s a canyon in the front and middle of the photo. We used to ride at hair-raising speeds down one side of that canyon, then climb out the other side with the dust a flyin’! We would stop our bikes and take breaks on the top of the hill that’s to the right side of the photo. Often times, people driving along Highway 33 would stop in the large dirt turn-out next to Devil’s Gulch and watch us dare-devils. It was great fun! Over the years, the motorcycle hill-climbers began coming in droves. In fact, it got to be too big of a deal and quite noisy. So, eventually, the area was closed to the motorcyclists.

Kristine August 31, 2012 at 9:15 am

This is a GREAT photograph! I’m researching a bit of information on the railroad for a small section in my book. I found out that railroad line was originally constructed in the 1890s as the Ventura and Ojai Valley Railroad? Is this correct? The northern portion of the branch was abandoned by 1975?? Yet, as Drew said it was destroyed by floods in 1969, do you know for sure on that date? A large storm in February of 1962, filled the lake up, 53,000 acre-feet in five days! If anyone knows the exact year the railroad was destroyed, or the last train that ran on the trail, it would be very helpful.

Kristine August 31, 2012 at 9:20 am

I see that in the photo it says 1955 – The last train runs on the Ventura-Ojai rail line….Is that photo taken of the last train??

Craig Walker August 31, 2012 at 10:22 am

Kristine, why don’t you come down to the museum and go through the materials in the museum’s library? Best to call first.

Drew Mashburn September 1, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Kristine:

I was a senior at Nordhoff High School in Ojai in 1969 when Ventura County was hit with very severe rainstorms. I know for a fact that the storms washed out several of the train trestles that year and the train never ran again, at least, on the northern portion. Southern Pacific Railroad owned the line. They removed sections of the track during the period from 1969 to 1975. Maybe even later. I began my careeer as a Park Ranger with the Ventura County Parks Department on Aug. 26, 1974. I don’t recall the exact date, but the Parks Department acquired the abandoned section of railroad from it’s terminus in Ojai (just east of Bryant Street) to just south of Foster Park. This was probably in the 1980’s. Park Rangers began patrolling the old railbed during that time because of motorcyles being driven loudly on it and annoying adjacent neighbors, people illegally dumping trash, and many other violations. Over the years, the Parks Department developed the railbed into what is now the Ojai Valley Trail. Former Ojai Valley News owner/publisher Fred Volz was an avid hiker and was instrumental in getting the railbed converted to the bicycle/equestrian trail it is today. He elicited the assistance of Ken McDonald (State of Ca. Assemblyman and, Ventura County Board of Supervisor) in order to obtain funding to make the trail a reality. I’m certain that this is in back issues of the Ojai Valley News and other local newspapers. By the way, the City of Ventura developed the old railbed from Foster Park to Ventura and they administer that trail which is called the Ventura River Trail.

Good Luck on your research,
— Drew

Nina Jo Smith December 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I think I remember the last passenger train coming to town. Was this the 1955 steam train or was there a diesel that stopped in 1958 or thereabouts? I’m guessing the later trains were primarily for produce, though I think I recall deliveries to the lumber yard. Anybody know?
Thanks,
Nina Jo

scott eckersley December 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I came to to the valley in 1967 and seem to remember that train parked at the old packing house in downtown Ojai, loaded with oranges…or am i imagining this?

Craig Walker December 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm

The caption is referring to the steam engine. I believe that the train was discontinued after the 1969 floods.

Drew Mashburn December 7, 2012 at 6:02 am

Nina Jo, Scott:

I remember seeing the train stopped at Bunce Brothers Lumber Company (now the Rotary Park at the “Y” intersection). I’m uncertain as to when passenger service ended, but I don’t recall ever seeing it in my lifetime. I’m and Ojai native and was born in 1951. Since I came on the scene, the train was used primarily for hauling citrus out of the Ojai Valley. The packing house used to be on the east side of Bryant Street. The train depo was on the west side of Bryant Street.

Choo, choo to you!
— Drew

Drew Mashburn March 6, 2013 at 9:08 am

All:

Obtain a copy of the recently released “Ojai Quarterly” (Spring 2013), then go to page 118 for a very informative Holly Roberts authored article titled, “ALL ABOARD … THE OJAI EXPRESS”. On page 120 in the lower left-hand corner is a 1899 photo of the Devil’s Gulch Railroad Trestle. This trestle was replaced by the big earth-fill on which the train is riding over in the two photos posted by Craig Walker above.

Best,
— Drew

Mitch Mashburn March 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

When I was 10 yrs old my family moved from Ojai to Mira Monte. That would have made it 1963. I remember hearing the train whistle as it passed thru the different intersections . Now as knowing who the last passenger was on the train……maybe me . I used to jump it on the caboose and ride into town. Until I got caught!

Kristine April 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Love all the comments, Craig- yes I have been to the Libary, so much fun like a puzzle to be solved! Drew – what great info, thanks! I only needed just a bit of info about the train. I would love to use this poto posted, yet it is from a book. 🙁

brenda tallant January 18, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I remember that train I lived in Foster park and then oak view and later mira monte. From the 1945 to 1980. And saw a lot of changes . And remembering the train having some close calls with people crossing the tracks. I remember one lady telling me she had just crossed over when it swooshed by. Shaking her auto. And yes the gulch. My younger brother rode there quite a bit. He loved it.

Nina Jo Smith September 22, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Working on a song about that last 1955 steam train right now.

Nina Jo Smith September 22, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Working on song about that last steam train right now.

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