Railroad Heritage at Crowell Library Monday

Wendell “Mort” Mortimer, president of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation, said he inherited his lifelong enthusiasm for all things railroad from his father.
“He took us around to see all of the trains, the street cars, the urban cars,” Mortimer recalled in a phone interview last week.
Now, with a lifetime of research and interest on his résumé, Mortimer enjoys sharing the passion that has driven him. His next stop will be before the San Marino Historical Society on Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Crowell Public Library.
With him, he’ll bring a collection of historical photographs — many a century old — showcasing the glory days of the railroad in Los Angeles County and its influence on the communities, San Marino included.
“Most of these are 100 years old,” Mortimer said. “These are steam trains and urban cars that don’t exist anymore. Many of them shaped the way our communities look.”
The clearest example of that in San Marino, where Mortimer has resided for 50 years, is the median dividing Huntington Drive into two one-way streets. That median once housed the fire engine-red street car so depicted on the mural adjacent to the San Marino Fire Station.
“They really helped dictate where the businesses landed,” Mortimer said on the rail’s influence in its heyday.
Mortimer grew up in South Pasadena and made his name as a lawyer after earning degrees from Occidental College and USC’s Gould School of Law. He also served as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge for 12 years and currently serves on Occidental College’s board of governors.
More locally, Mortimer attends San Marino Community Church and is a past president of San Marino City Club. The aforementioned street car mural has Mortimer’s fingerprints, too — he advised the artist on its rendering and donated relevant wood samples to ensure the artist had the correct colors.
Preceding his talk, Mortimer said he’s gotten a lot of phone calls expressing either excitement at attending or regret for being unable to listen in. Los Angeles, long infamous for infuriating automobile traffic, has started reviving its interest in the rail, Mortimer said.
“That’s definitely the trend,” he said, pointing out the Metro Gold Line’s recent extension along the 210 Freeway to Asuza. “It’s expensive, but it’s getting a lot of riders. It’s a good thing because the freeways are already overburdened.”
Taking the metro to work, to Mortimer, had an air of romantic nostalgia to it. At least, it sounded more relaxing than sitting in traffic.
“You could just sit back, close your eyes, read the paper, catch up on your mail,” he said.
For his talk, Mortimer has prepared a slideshow with a swath of the photographs he was able to unearth through virtue of the Railroad Heritage Foundation.
“We have 12,000 or 13,000 pictures,” he said. “I kind of knew where the ones I wanted to look at were. I was pleasantly surprised at how many there were for San Marino. The pictures, as far as I know, haven’t seen the light of day since they were taken.”

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