Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Day, Another Marsh and/or Train Thing

I think we may be getting into a rut, LOL. We live a stone's throw from Ballona Marsh, but today I tried to take Jackson down to Madrona Marsh in Torrance. Sadly, the gates were closed and locked for the holiday. We'll visit sometime next year for proper walk around the loop and visit the nature center, but in the meantime we had a very nice picnic and chatted up a lovely family (hi, Betsy-Anna-Dana-Sergio!) who were also out enjoying the sunshine and amazing weather.

On the way back home I spotted a sign pointing to the Lomita Railroad Museum, which I'd just been reading about while trying to sort out which Torrance park to visit today. If you'd asked me 24 hours ago, I couldn't have told you where to find Lomita on a map (I'd probably have pointed to somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area), but apparently it's a tiny landlocked working-class city just north of the Palos Verdes Peninsula between Torrance and the Harbor Gateway section of Los Angeles. And in the middle of Lomita, there is "a diamond in the rough," to quote the girl who sold me my ticket. I've never even heard of the Lomita Railroad Museum before this weekend, but it was wonderful, not to mention orders of magnitude nicer, more informative and more entertaining than Travel Town in Griffith Park. It's on a much smaller and more toddler-appropriate scale than Travel Town, the equipment is accessible and well-maintained and it was just a real treat!

I don't think there's much else going on in Lomita besides the Railroad Museum, so they have signs directing traffic toward it from all directions. (For that matter, no one would ever find it in a million years without the signage, because it's on a tiny lot on a totally unremarkable side street in a residential area in Lomita.)
The museum building proper, which was nicely decorated for the holidays, is a replica of a 19th Massachusetts train station, and you have to ring a doorbell at the gate to be buzzed in. Behind the gate is an early 20th century steam engine, a lovely old caboose, a handcar and a semaphore. Outside the gate is a more recent Santa Fe Railroad caboose and a giant water tower like the ones that would have been used to cool a steam engine.
The inside of the museum is filled with railroad geegaws and historic replicas of all kinds. They have a wonderful collection of railroad lights on the wall, telegraph stuff, signs, paintings and prints, a replica of the first steam engine (the Rocket), a sample of coal like that which would have fired a steam engine, and just a bunch of really well-labelled and arranged railroading paraphernalia. Jackson, of course, was drawn to the Thomas train table next to the gift counter.
Kids can climb on both the caboose and engine, and both were wonderfully equipped with stuff! All the gears in the engine were labelled, and the caboose (which was apparently both the office and quarters for the train crew) had vintage sinks, stoves, a bathroom and everything.
Engineer Jackson.

I made Jackson sit on the cowcatcher for a photo despite the fact there was a clearly visible sign saying "Keep off!" Ahem. 
Across the street from the museum proper (which costs $4 for adults and $2 for children over two) in one direction is a small park with a cattle car and a tank car, and in the other direction the modern-ish caboose.

"Open! Open! Open!"
I am totally over trains, and I really had no intention of doing another train thing today or any day soon, but the Lomita Railroad Museum was actually a perfect way to spend the afternoon and we'll definitely go back in a few years when Jackson is old enough to appreciate it even more. Happy holiday weekend everybody!

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