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Friday, October 30, 2009

It's the end of the line for Taylor Yard

The last remaining major repair shops and sheds at Taylor Yard, the once bustling freight train yard that sprawled along the Los Angeles River near Cypress Park, have been turned into piles of rusting metal scrap. In the last few months, nearby residents - and those farther away in the hills of Mt. Washington and Silver Lake, have watched crews demolish and dismantle the large maintenance sheds at the historic rail facility. But Union Pacific did not consider any of the buildings at Taylor Yards historic.

Railroad spokeswoman Lupe Valdez said the buildings at Taylor Yard, which has not been used in many years, were torn down to lessen the need for 24-hour security at the 42-acre property. City and state officials have talked for years about buying the former Southern Pacific yard for parkland - the new Rio de Los Angeles State Park was once railroad property - but budget problems have stalled that proposal. "We would love to sell it," Valdez said of the property. "That's what our hope is."

Angelino Heights resident and railroad enthusiast Kevin Kuzma has been watching and photographing the demolition of one of the reminders of the city's industrial past. He has written a story about the yard's history and significance:

By Kevin Kuzma

Demolition is nearly complete on a pair of Elysian Valley’s largest landmarks. Crews are making quick work of the massive metal buildings built to service the locomotives that once assembled and led Southern Pacific freight trains in and out of Taylor Yard.

The taller Back Shop building is the older of the two. Built in the early 1930s (along with the long-gone Taylor roundhouse), this building once housed a full service repair shop where heavy repairs could be performed on the era’s steam locomotives, including Southern Pacific’s distinctive - cab-forward - locomotives designed to haul trains over the steep grades of Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The more sprawling diesel shop complex was built in 1949 and was considered the finest such facility in the world at the time.

Many of its early work force were ex-Navy veterans of World War II who applied their knowledge of diesel ship engines to the rapidly expanding fleet of Southern Pacific diesel locomotives. During its heyday of the 1920s through the 1960s, more goods came into Los Angeles through Taylor Yard than trucks and ships combined. Trains were noisily assembled and disassembled 24 hours a day using Taylor’s innovative - hump - yard, a myriad of sorting tracks featuring a small hill which freight cars were pushed over to coast onto the appropriate track. Such humps were to became a standard feature at most modern rail yards.

Taylor Yard was a major employer in Northeast Los Angeles, with some historians estimating that 75% of Cypress Park families had someone working at Taylor Yard in its heyday. In 1973, Southern Pacific opened its new West Colton Yard in San Bernardino County. Over the next 10 years, much of Taylor Yard’s freight work was shifted there, while most locomotive repair work remained at Taylor Yard’s shops. In 1996, Southern Pacific was absorbed by Union Pacific and in 2003, the Union Pacific ceased using the old shop complex entirely.

Today, the land where the shops are located is known as Parcel G-2 in Taylor Yard planning documents. With the demolition of the Taylor Yard shop complex, the only surviving piece from Taylor’s glory days is the 1932 Dayton Tower, moved about a mile from its former site, just north of where the 5 Freeway crosses over the Metrolink yard. Much of the rest of the yard has already been redeveloped into the Rio do Los Angeles State Park, Metrolink’s service facility, warehouses and a LAUSD high school at the yard’s north end.

A slice of the former Taylor Yard is favored as a route for California’s proposed High Speed Rail. There have been some recent rumblings from a few area residents who are concerned about the possible noise that such a train might generate, though the high-speed electric trains are certain to generate far less noise than the clanging freight trains of old. Who knows? After a trip to China as scrap, the old railroad shop buildings might return as tracks for the new high-speed line, becoming part of a new chapter of Los Angeles railroading at Taylor Yards.

Related sites:
*Taylor Yard Map
*Taylor Yard parkland


  1. We ran some photos of the destruction over at LA Creek Freak: www.lacreekfreak.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/photographing-nearly-demolished-taylor-yard-rail-facilities/

  2. THANK YOU, so very much for this information on Taylor... As a former rail fan, I remember rubber-knecking to see it in the 1980s from the 110 North to 5 junction once you exited the tunnel, with the long lines of Diesel locomotives off in the distnace. I recently wondered if the Rio De Los Angeles project was on the same property or how much, etc., and your blog and other sources has cleared this up! Thanks
    J. Goodman