December 14: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1952:  Griffith Park’s Travel Town is dedicated.

The museum documents the history of railroad transportation in the Western United States between 1880 and the 1930s, with particular emphasis on railroading in Los Angeles and Southern California.

The railroad museum portion contains 43 full-scale railroad engines, cars and other rolling stock.

Travel Town is well known for the Melody Ranch Special, a miniature train once owned by Gene Autry.  Visitors can purchase tickets to ride the train around the museum grounds.

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1963:  Five lives are lost and 277 homes are destroyed when the Baldwin Hills Reservoir dam fails, releasing 250 million gallons of water onto the surrounding neighborhood.

Local television station KTLA, already a pioneer of live on-the-scene television coverage, used an airplane to cover the disaster from the air.

While common today, this was perhaps the first such live aerial coverage of a breaking news event.

On the ground, fast action by Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority bus operators receives praise from locals.

Within three hours of the first signs of disaster, LAMTA had developed a plan for diverting bus service around the area, broadcasting rerouting over radio and television stations and through press releases.

The event occured on a Saturday and “one of the biggest shopping days of the year.”

A detailed analysis of LAMTA’s emergency response to the dam failure’s flooding as well as bus operators’ eyewitness accounts and tales of rescue and heroism can be found in the January, 1964 issue of The Emblem, the LAMTA employee newsmagazine.