Today is National Train Day. National Train Day was started by Amtrak in 2008 as a way to spread information to the general public about the advantages of rail travel and the history of trains in the United States. Amtrak stopped recognizing National Train Day after 2015 due to their own budget cuts, but many people still recognize National Train Day as a way to celebrate our rich railway history.
I can’t let this day go by without recognizing and bragging on the railroad industry legacy in my own family! The handsome devil pictured on the left is my paternal grandfather, Richard Sachse. He was a smart dude. He was born in Germany 1881 and studied engineering there (received degrees in civil engineering from the University of Dresden and structural engineering from Hanover University), but came over to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen soon after the turn of the century.
He began service with the California Railroad Commission as an engineer in 1911 and by 1914, was appointed Chief Engineer. His most impressive contribution to the railroad industry was his extensive work related to the planning and building of Los Angeles’ historic Union Station. If you’ve ever been to Union Station in Los Angeles, you know what a beautiful art deco, mission revival gem the building is. But I’m talking about something deeper than the architecture.
As Chief Engineer of the California Railroad Commission, my grandfather was charged with solving the transportation problem that was growing more and more dire in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Downtown traffic was increasing (car ownership was becoming more common), streetcars and interurbans stalled in the congestion, and the city lacked a plan for improving its public-transit facilities. The result was an investigation and report (nearly 600 pages) called “Report on Railroad Grade Crossing Elimination and Passenger and Freight Terminals in Los Angeles.” (You can still get a copy of the big ol’ report on Amazon!) The report dealt with grade crossing elimination, a proposed union passenger terminal, freight movement, and electric interurban transit solutions. Also involved, of course, was all the related change required for reconstruction and new construction of city streets, viaducts and bridges, and city-wide planning as a whole. The work includes many historical photos, renderings, graphs, and statistics involving the traffic and transportation problems of Los Angeles in the 1920s. The Union Station opened in 1939.
I found this wonderful footage of the opening day at Union Station at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Archive. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Toot toot! Happy Train Day!