Railroads & Locomotives History Everybody’s railroad station

Everybody’s railroad station

By David Lustig | July 10, 2024

Glendale, Calif., has subbed for passenger stations everywhere else in the country

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Glendale railroad station

black and white photo of railroad station
The Glendale station from trackside looking north towards Burbank. With Hollywood’s help, the building has the station stop in dozens of states. Three photos, David Lustig

The former Southern Pacific railroad station at Glendale, Calif., has always hidden in plain sight as the typical railroad station for countless movies, television shows, and commercials.

Physically convenient to the majority of “Hollywood” studios and in a good area with nice surroundings, it gives the entertainment industry a great bang for its buck when the scene requires a train station. If the setting is supposed to be Moline, Montpelier, or Ash Fork, studio sign painters quickly put up the proper city on the signboard. Once in a while it got to play itself in television episodes of Perry Mason and Highway Patrol, and was mentioned by name.

black and white train close up
The round-end observation on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.

This railroad station was built by Southern Pacific in 1923 in what is now known as the California Churrigueresque style of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Just north of the railroad’s massive Taylor Yard complex near downtown Los Angeles, and at the southern throat of both the Coast Line and the San Joaquin, it has always been a busy place.

SP passenger trains such as the Coast Daylight, Morning Daylight, Noon Daylight, the San Joaquin Daylight, and numerous nameless locals frequented its platform. In between, every freight train that used the line passed within its shadow. For many years, it even had an active team track.

black and white train with people nearby
With a pair of leased Southern Pacific EMD SDP45s for power, in the summer of 1971, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight has just left Los Angeles Union Station for the run up the coast to Northern California.

Today

Today it is owned and operated by the City of Glendale. Although it no longer provides the multitude of services it did in the past — like a staff to punch your ticket — it stands today, in excellent condition as a well-maintained monument to passenger train service in the railroad’s glory days. It was rebuilt by the city in 1999 as a symbol of what Southern California passenger railroading could be.

Now part of the Glendale Transportation Center — officially known as the Larry Zarian Transportation Center — passengers head trackside to ticket machines near the three-track mainline when they travel. Tickets can be purchased for Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliners, covering the coast south to San Diego and north to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo, or the Metrolink commuter agency with trains to and from Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, as well as communities on the Ventura County Line.

It is also a stopover for local bus lines, Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Service. Amtrak’s daily Coast Starlight used to stop here but today it is one of the few passenger trains that passes the station without even slowing down.

If you are in the Glendale area, go to 400 West Cerritos Avenue. You will not be disappointed.

Note: Glendale is a great place for railfans to spend countless hours watching an endless parade of SP freight and passenger trains, especially in the warmer summer months.

3 thoughts on “Everybody’s railroad station

  1. Living here in Burbank, I have been to the Glendale station many time. Love that facility. Stupid me, though, forgets my camera every time I go.

    San Juan Capistrano is ALSO quite the attractive station, as are San Diego and Union Station here in Los Angeles.

  2. Yep, a great place for trains as I recall from back in the 60″s, fine story David, Thanks for bringing back good memories.

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