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SCV Historical Society | Screening and Presentation of ‘Southland’ Video on Southern California Railroad Scene

Uploaded 12/07/2018

Screening and Presentation of ‘Southland’ Video on Southern California Railroad Scene

The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society hosted a free screening of “Southland: A Video Presentation on the Railroad Scene in Southern California 1950-1976” at the old Saugus Train Station on Saturday, November 17. The video is based on the color book that features the photographic work.



‘Some railfans wish they lived in southern California. Others were fortunate enough to have been born there. Tom Gildersleeve, Gordon Glattenberg, and the late William H. “Hank” Mills are among the latter.

The photographic trio began their exploration of the Southland in the early 1950s, when profound societal and technological change began to sweep the Golden State. Beyond the Technicolor dreams Hollywood was sending around the world, citrus groves were steadily giving way to industrialization and suburban sprawl. An expanding web of freeways was turning trolleys into antiques, while colorful new diesel locomotives steadily took the reins from steam’s iron horse. Transition was in full flower, providing the authors with intriguing subject matter cast against a wide array of dramatic settings.

At a time when most photographers documented the industry in black and white, Gildersleeve, Glattenberg, and Mills made Kodachrome their film of choice, opting for a medium that could realistically capture the full palette of their surroundings. Popular publishing was predominantly a monochrome enterprise, providing few opportunities for color shooters beyond slide shows at private homes and railroad club meetings. It would be the mid-1970s before new technology allowed all three of the authors to reach a wider audience.

The decision to concentrate on color photography might be construed as an act of faith, with little reward beyond the satisfaction of a job well done. As this volume will attest, that faith has been rewarded on a grand scale. Some 345 color images invite inspection, the majority of them being published for the first time. Focusing on the years between the mid-1950s and late 1960s, Southland takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour of the region between Bakersfield and the Mexican border. Six chapters and eight detailed maps, with comprehensive captions by award-winning photojournalist Ted Benson, convey the excitement of Southern California railroading in the golden age of Kodachrome.

Over 250 action-packed pages depict the full sweep of activity, from Santa Fe Alco PAs and Union Pacific gas-turbine electrics battling Cajon Pass, to Southern Pacific 4449 in the days when the famed steam locomotive was just another Daylight 4-8-4. Red and yellow trolley cars thread the bustling streets of Los Angeles, contrasting with trios of GP9s roaming the wilds of Carrizo Gorge. From busy double-track mountain main lines to thrice-weekly locals in the Mojave Desert, there’s something for every reader in the pages of Southland.

The book beautifully covers Bakersfield to San Diego and Needles to Los Angeles with 345 images. Tehachapi, Cajon Pass, Beaumont, the Surf Line, LA Basin, and the Mojave Crossing are all given their due. Besides the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, you’ll find highest quality photographs of Pacific Electric Red Cars and LA Railway Yellow cars. Images of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern, Kaiser Steel railway with old Baldwins and shiny red GEs share space with narrow gauge diesels at Plaster City and the GE Aerotrain in Pasadena.’



Tom Gildersleeve was born in 1937, entering the world in Orange, California, and growing up in nearby Santa Ana. Smitten with steam, the 13-year old received an Argus C-3 for Christmas in 1950. A week later, he was photographing SP cab-forwards at Indio. Photography was his primary interest, however. It was 1956 before Gildersleeve began concentrating on the vanishing world of steam locomotives. Following a chance encounter with Hank Mills on a June 1963 excursion, the two wound up aboard the same flight to Denver three months later, where Tom was introduced to Gordon at a National Railroad Historical Society convention. The three became fast friends, and joined forces upon returning to southern California, spending the next few years collectively and individually expanding on their coverage of the ever-evolving local rail scene.
“At the time I got into serious photography it never occurred to me that I was recording history,” Tom recollects. “I just wanted to save those memories.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1937, Gordon Glattenberg grew up attending Hollywood High School “encountering zero celebrities in the process.” An early railroad interest prompted visits to SP’s Glendale depot with his parents during World War II. Studying mechanical engineering at Caltech in Pasadena introduced Gordon to photography in 1955, along with other railroad enthusiasts, and his first fan trip, a steam excursion to Indio behind SP locomotive 4436 in February 1956. Post-graduate explorations of Cajon Pass resulted in a lifelong friendship with Summit operator Chard Walker. An infatuation with the desert, coupled with the joy of discovering new locations, led Glattenberg to specialize in action scenes, frequently under the most demanding conditions. When gas-turbine electrics returned to Union Pacific’s California lines in 1962, Gordon confronted summer temperatures of 114 degrees in a non-air conditioned automobile to document the rare locomotives in their last operations west of the Overland Route main line across Utah and Wyoming. “Railroading has always been an outdoor activity for me,” he notes, “something that got you out in the countryside.”

(c)2018 SCVTV
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