Pasadena is a Great Rail Destination

Story and Photos By Noel T. Braymer

Most modern train stations are little more than parking lots with platforms far away from someplace people want to go to. Your busier stations are transportation centers with good connections to other trains and other travel modes like bus and rail transit. Few train stations today are destinations. People often travel for fun to go to places that are interesting with things to see and do; not because they have to go there. More people will ride the train when it is the best way to go to popular destinations.

Great rail destinations are places that developed around their train stations. In Southern California I can name towns such at San Juan Capistrano, Clairemont, Fullerton and the City of Orange where their old train stations are near or in the heart of the historic part of town. Another city like this is Pasadena.

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A typical street in Old Pasadena 

Pasadena today has light rail service on the Gold Line which runs every 6 to 12 minutes most of the day from Los Angeles Union Station between Pasadena and East Los Angeles. The right of way of the Gold Line between Pasadena and Union Station was the old route of the Santa Fe Railroad for the Super Chief to Chicago between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. With connections at Union Station from Amtrak, Metrolink plus the Red and Purple Metrorail lines, there are many places to get to Pasadena by rail.

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This  was the route of the Santa Fe Railroad in old Pasadena. The Gold Line in downtown Pasadena was built under the right of way.

For most of the first half of the 20th Century, Pasadena was an affluent and pleasant place to live and visit. It was well served by the Santa Fe Railroad where many passengers from the east stayed at the nearby luxury Hotel Green. Pasadena was also a major market for the Pacific Electric Interurban Railroad. Henry Huntington, founder of the Pacific Electric built his mansion near Pasadena in San Marino.

After World War II Pasadena went downhill. Even though the first freeway in California was built between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles, cars were not kind to Pasadena. Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley in general became known for high smog levels trapped by the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. This plus new housing and buildings near the freeways lead to many people moving away. The old turn of the 20th Century brick buildings in downtown Pasadena lost tenants and in the 60’s and 70’s were rundown and underused.

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Something new in Old Pasadena is this diagonal crosswalk where all the cars stop and people cross in any direction.

In recent years this has turned around. Downtown Pasadena is now called Old Pasadena. Old Pasadena has now become a hip place to hang out. Air quality has improved greatly since the 60’s and 70’s. Younger people are moving to urban areas to drive less as traffic becomes more congested and driving more expensive. The opening of the Gold Line makes it easier to get to Old Pasadena. With limited and often expensive parking and congested freeways the trains is often the best way to get to Old Pasadena.

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A recent photo of the restored former Santa Fe Station in Old Pasadena

There are 2 Gold Line Stations that serve Old Pasadena. The Del Mar Station is south of Colorado Blvd which is the main street of Pasadena and site of the Rose Parade. At the Del Mar Station is the old Santa Fe Station which has been rebuilt and is today a restaurant. Come hungry when you go to Old Pasadena because there are many places there to eat and drink. The area around the Del Mar Station has also seen much recent redevelopment with the opening of the Gold Line. Also near the Del Mar Station is the Castle Green a surviving piece of the old Hotel Green which has been restored as condos. It is often used now by Hollywood for filming and for wedding receptions.

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The view of the old Santa Fe Station in Pasadena from the Del Mar Gold Line Station.

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The Memorial Park Gold Line Station in Old Pasadena. 

Memorial Park Station is the next station just north of Colorado Blvd and is in the heart of Old Pasadena. On one side is Memorial Park which is a major city park in Pasadena. Just down the way from the Station is the impressive City Hall of Pasadena. At the station is a major housing complex built as part of the Memorial Park Station.Walking in almost any direction from the Memorial Park Station are old restored buildings along tree line streets with over 200 specialty shops and over 100 restaurants of every style of cuisine.

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This is  the northern part of a map of Old Pasadena from the Old Pasadena Website. Click on image to enlarge

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This is the southern part of the map of Old Pasadena

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