Monday, February 28, 2011

Union Pacific at the Port - Part 1

Land transportation is just as critical to a port's success as its waterways are, and one of the most common methods of shipping goods to and from the Port of Long Beach is by train. Now, mile-long trains have containers stacked two-high, but the history of rail transport and the Port of Long Beach goes back years before containerization to the earliest days of the harbor.

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, has kindly provided us with a selection of great photos of the port and Long Beach, mostly centering on the operations of UP and Pacific Electric, the old "Red Car" service.

We'll feature a couple of photos here now and again, plus you can look at all the photos here.

At the top, workers on Union Pacific equipment drop in the first rocks for the Long Beach Breakwater in the summer of 1925. This first breakwater jutted out from the western side of the mouth of the Los Angeles River and protected the entrance to the Port's main channel.

Below, two shots show how rail was integrated into the docks right from the beginning. The aerial shot shows UP train tracks running up to berths at the Port of Los Angeles in 1925 or 1926. Below that, a 1960 photo shows a closer view of rails and cars on a pier at the Port of Long Beach.

Rail is even more important today; the Alameda Corridor, which opened in 2002, moves containers to go by rail to yards near downtown Los Angeles, minimizing traffic impacts by eliminating road crossings. On-dock rail also helps reduce pollution by reducing truck trips to and from the Port.

Part 2 of this post will feature a detailed history of the Union Pacific's early involvement with the Port of Long Beach.

If you have stories or photos you'd like to share, please leave a comment or use our Share Your Memories form to get in touch with us.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Three homes for the Port

Second Port admin building

Since the early 1930s, the Port of Long Beach has called three buildings home.

The first administration building was at 130 S. Pico Ave., just south of Ocean Boulevard, a little east of where the Seafarers Center is now. (Pico at that time was east of its current location, basically where the 710 runs today.) Prior to this the Harbor Department had had offices at the Municipal Pier and inside City Hall and the City Hall Annex.

After a little less than 10 years, the Port moved, this time to 1333 W. El Embarcadero (the property is part of Pier E today, with Pier E Street running roughly where El Embarcadero used to run). Headquarters remained at this location for 20 years, but the building and surrounding land were plagued by the subsidence issues that bedeviled the Port in those years. In the 1956 photo at above, you can see how much the building has sunk; the area was flat in 1940.

And in 1960, the Port moved to a new headquarters at 925 Harbor Plaza -- we're still here today!

Click here for more photos of the administration buildings throughout the years.

If you have memories or stories of any of the buildings, or if you worked in one of the former administration buildings, we'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment or use our Share Your Memories form to send us a story and/or pictures.

Map of Port admin locations

Monday, February 14, 2011

Moving the Spruce Goose

Reader Glenn Styron sent us the following message about the preparations for the move of the Spruce Goose. Housed for years in a hangar on what is now Pier T, the mammoth plane, officially the Hughes H-4 Hercules, was moved to its dome next to the Queen Mary in 1982. The flying boat was moved once again in the early 1990s, to its current home at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.

Styron writes:

"I was involved in the demolition, preservation and recycling efforts of the Spruce Goose. It was in winter of 1979. I was was on winter break from CSULB and needed a short term job. A man that lived across the alley from me was the foreman and added me to the work crew.

"The amazing thing I found was a machinists payscale guide; I found on the floor of one of the workshops. These machinists were certified to various levels and the top pay was about $1.75 per hour.

"The other incredible feeling was to be around the dry-dock facility where the water could be let into the "lock," filled quickly to deploy the fantastic flying boat. I remember the height and depth of the dry dock made it seem like a far way down to the water level.

"The other thing that struck me was the reckless smashing of the surrounding buildings and the violence at which history was torn apart and made way for progress. But in the long run it was the correct thing to do and now the aircraft is properly cared for."

Click here to see more photos of the moving of the Spruce Goose.

If you have stories or photos of the Spruce Goose you'd like to share, please leave a comment or use our Share Your Memories form to get in touch with us.

More about the Spruce Goose

Monday, February 7, 2011

An unusual airport: Pier J

Ron Brisson, principal construction inspector at the Port of Long Beach, sent us photos and this story:

"I remember as an inspector assigned to the Pier J landfill project, an emergency landing made by the Catalina mail plane. This occurred in the summer of 1989. The event helped spur talk of putting the Long Beach Airport out in the Harbor."

If you have stories or photos you'd like to share, please leave a comment or use our Share Your Memories form to get in touch with us.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The S.S. Santa Clara

Long Beach Mayor Ira Hatch is hoisted aboard the Santa Clara on a cargo hook,
March 12, 1912. The ship started the first passenger service from the Port of Long Beach.

In 1912, the North Pacific Steamship Company inaugurated the first passenger service at the Port of Long Beach, with its S.S. Santa Clara making weekly trips to San Francisco via Santa Barbara. A first-class voyage from Long Beach to San Francisco cost $7 (about $150 today).

The venture was not a success, writes Michael D. White in his excellent Images of America: The Port of Long Beach -- the line had been given free dockage at the port, but a lack of business ended the service after a few weeks.

The Santa Clara had an interesting history -- she was launched in Washington state in 1900 as the John S. Kimball, and was renamed the James Dollar before being christened the Santa Clara. On November 2, 1915, the ship hit a reef near Coos Bay, Oregon. At least 12 people died in the wreck and its aftermath, and looters pillaged the wreck for its cargo, even trying dynamiting the hull to make their job easier. Arsonists burned the wreck less than a week later.

To see photos of the wreck and read a full account of the tragedy, go to