“What I See While Riding the Gold Line Train”

What I See While Riding the Gold Line Train

By Nicole Murph; Written on July 18, 2010

Leaving home…    

Top Floor of Parking Lot at Sierra Madre Villa Station. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

I love trains. Sometimes I take the train to go to work, visit a friend, attend an event, or go to school. Lately I had to take the train to school.  As I look out the window, there are moments and sceneries throughout the trip that stick with me.  Right now I am on the Gold Line train going towards Atlantic in East Los Angeles. My destination stop though is Union Station. From there I can connect onto the Red Line towards North Hollywood and from NOHO I can connect to the Orange Line.

Photographed by Nicole Murph

Metro Gold Line Train at Sierra Madre Villa Station. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

When I am riding on the train, especially above ground, I love to see the changing landscapes from Pasadena to Downtown Los Angeles. I am traveling through suburbia East Pasadena to the metropolitan West Pasadena, going through downtown Pasadena and riding alongside Arroyo Parkway to South Pasadena’s quaint Mission Street.

Immediately from there, the train begins to travel through Highland Park. At the border between South Pasadena and Highland Park, I look below and see the back of a brick building where I used to work at, a small environmental lab called LA Testing. It is no longer there.  The parking lot is empty and half the building’s windows are boarded up. Afterwards, the train is traveling on its own bridge allowing us to have a birds’ eye view of the Highland Park area as well as the Old Pasadena Freeway going right through it.   Once the train is on street level, it continues at its usual speed and then slows down in the residential area of the city. The train then speeds up as it comes closer to Mount Washington. Between Highland Park and Mount Washington, I observe closely the obvious and not so obvious influences of the Arts and Crafts Movement embedded in the area’s residential Craftsman and Victorian homes. For those who do not know, the Arroyo Seco areas of Highland Park, Mount Washington, Cypress, and Garvanza are a huge Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

As the train gets near the Southwest Museum stop at the base of Mount Washington, I look up and see the Southwest Museum‘s bell tower resting on top of the mountain. As the train follows along the base of Mount Washington, I really get to see some original Craftsman and Victorian homes. One of the homes that stand out to me is a semi-large Victorian home built during the late 1890s.  The home’s entire structure is made out of redwood which is good. Termites hate redwood.  Not a lot of homes today are built using redwood because it can be expensive to obtain partly due to the preservation of the redwood trees.

I learned about this particular home when the house was on sale in 2005. My Mom, a real estate agent, had a client wanting a Victorian home to live in and use for her event planning business for weddings, quinceaneras, and so forth.  I assisted my Mom searching for properties for this client and I learned a lot about the HPOZ, Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena and the influential Arts and Crafts Movement in architecture and design in these areas. To view the property was by appointment only and the listing agent was bombarded by calls from other agents, buyers, and lookie-loos wanting to see the inside of the home.

At the time, the inside of the home was quaint and maintained but the outside needed a lot of work. The home is beautiful but the fairly, dull white paint was chipping a lot throughout the exterior of the home. Since then, the new owners restored the outside of the home just right for a 1890s Victorian home. They used a light forest green paint as the primary color and maroon paint to accent some of its unique Victorian features. The train passes this home every time after it drops off and picks up passengers at the Southwest Museum stop.

The train moves on as it parallels Marmion Way. It stops at Heritage Square/Arroyo station.  After the train drops off and picks up passengers and leaves Heritage Square/Arroyo and before it arrives to the Lincoln Heights/Cypress station, the train passes a junkyard full of cars and some other miscellaneous items.  What always catches my eye is a small, portable UFO space ship attached to one of the cars.  Most of the time I see it there, but there are times I don’t.  When I don’t see it there, I think the owners of the junkyard have either gotten rid of it or someone got it.  But then the next time I’m on the train and it passes by the junkyard, I see the UFO space ship. For no apparent reason, I’m happy to see its still there.  After the train stops at Lincoln Heights/Cypress station, it makes its way to Chinatown.

Along the way, the train travels over the Los Angeles River in all of its concrete form, decorated with graffiti or paint (to cover the graffiti) and the water traveling through it.  In a short distance away, next door to the Los Angeles River, I see a train yard where one area is for housing and maintenance of train cars and buses and another area is for train tracks leading to Union Station.

As the train continues on, the train yard is still present on my right hand side, but on the other side, instead of theLos Angeles River, I can see the park that the city of Los Angeles created a few years ago. At the moment a portion of it is being renovated again.  I read somewhere the city developers are figuring out ways to develop this area to be more residential and business friendly and possibly an arts district mixed with the industrial landscape. The park is a beginning.  It is not exactly New York City’s Central Park in terms of size and landscaping, but it is a large park and right now for downtown Los Angeles, it’s a start. These past few years downtown Los Angeles has been cleaning itself up, attracting residential friendly businesses and converting older, historic buildings to condos and apartments, rather than demolishing them in order to help preserve the city’s architectural history. As a result, people are calling downtown Los Angeles their home.

For a long time where the park is now, the land used to be empty space. On a seasonal basis, the entire space was used to plant and sell corn. Yes, corn, stalks of corn.  On the one hand, I think it’s good that the space is being occupied for the better rather then being run down and trashed. Yet, on the other hand, it’s interesting. I mean, you have this urban, downtown landscape and in the midst of it, you’re on the train and you look over to see a large field of stalks of corn planted and fully grown. This year, now that there is a park occupying a good portion of the space, nearest to where the rail tracks the Gold Line rides on and crosses over the Los Angeles River, there is a new batch of stalks of corn that have been planted and are now fully grown.  Whoever is in charge in planting the corn, will of course, harvest and sell it on location or sell it somewhere else. For those who enjoy playing Farmville on Facebook, when they see the corn will feel the urge to harvest for points and coins (a habit that is developed while playing the game).

The Gold Line train passes a historic, seemingly vacant, decrypted building with a printed sign on one of its walls that say: Capitol Milling Company est. 1883.  Immediately after seeing this building the train reaches the Chinatown stop.

Each stop is unique and what makes Chinatown stop unique from the onset is its architecture. The Chinatown stop itself is design in traditional Chinese architecture.  I can see an overall view of Chinatown, including Chinatown’s main plaza area. Below I can see Spring Street at College Street.  As the train moves forward, I look below to see the various shops, restaurants, and small markets in Chinatown.  I see three aged, modern big buildings. In one of them I can see the garment workers working inside with the windows open and the fans blowing. I can see some sewing machines, spools of yarn and thread and linen is all over the place. Next door are two vacant, dilapidated buildings with most of the windows broken and completely gone. I can see the walls inside have been heavily graffiti.

As the train sways around, the historic, former main Los Angeles Post Office in its massive Spanish colonial, Mission Revival style building comes into view a short distance away.  Right next door to it is the present day main Los Angeles Post Office built in a much smaller, box-sized, contemporary building. The post office is surrounded by its parking lot where the staff’s cars and post office vehicles are parked.  Dominating the landscape from a distance, I can see a fantastic view of Downtown Los Angeles with its cluster of tall tower buildings including the US Bank Tower in the center and City Hall. As the train slows down to prepare a stop at Union Station, looking down below I can see the vintage rail cars such as the Southern Pacific, Burlington, Pullman, Boston & Maine, Canada Pacific and the Patrón Tequila Express parked next to one another.

The train comes to a stop where passengers can see the back of Union Station, a 1939, mixture of Dutch Colonial Revival, Spanish Mission Revival and Streamline Modern style building.

Union Station in Los Angeles. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

Plaque at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

Interior of Union Station in Los Angeles. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

Here is where I get off the Gold Line and head downstairs to connect to the Red Line.

Going home…

At Union Station, it is busy as usual. People are waiting on the platform for the Gold Line train heading towards Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena or to the Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles to arrive. Its 8:45pm, dark outside, and across the way you can hear the clikity-clack sounds and the whoosh sounds of steam coming from an Amtrak train resting at one of the other platforms. You can also hear the screeching sounds of another Amtrak or Metrolink train hitting its brakes as it pulls into Union Station.

Gold Line Train Platform at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

Coming from Pasadena, a Gold Line train arrives on its way to the Atlantic Station. Some people get off and head downstairs. From there they can connect to their destinations via the various Metro and LA DOT Buses or connecting with the Amtrak, Metrolink, Red or Purple Line trains. While some people get off, a lot of people get on and the Gold Line train leaves towards its destination.  The platform for the Gold Line train is still busy with people talking, listening to music on their iPods, reading or just standing around quietly waiting for the Gold Line train going towards Pasadena. Every now and then, more people who just got off the Red or Purple Line trains are coming upstairs and joining the rest of us.

On one side of the platform, where the Gold Line Train to Atlantic comes and goes, I can see Union Station from behind, the Historic Main Los Angeles Post Office and various recently built condos or apartments. Where the apartments and condos are now, I used to see the mountain landscape from a distance. It was especially nice to see the sun set behind the mountains. But, that view got blocked by the apartments and condos. From a distance, up and beyond Union Station, I can see a portion of the cluster of tower buildings, including the US Bank tower.

On the other side of the train platform, where the Gold Line train heading towards Pasadena comes and goes,  I can see the other train platforms for the Amtrak and Metrolink trains. At the moment, most of them are empty. The only sounds coming from one of the platforms is a parked Amtrak and Metrolink train.  When I look further out towards my left, I can see the long platforms continue on to a certain point.  In between and beyond the platforms, looking from right to left, I can see the rail lines all leading too or leaving from Union Station.

Train tracks at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

Amtrack/Metrolink platforms at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photographed by Nicole Murph, 2011

The Gold Line train going towards Sierra Madre Villa arrives and I am going home.

Anyone who rides a train, especially trains above ground, depending on where you sit and which direction you are going on in the train, you will always discover something new in the people, objects and the various sceneries around you.


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