AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #40a -- Los Angeles, California to El Paso, Texas
Part 1 - Los Angeles to Ontario
Ontario to Palm Springs


0        LOS ANGELES Union Station, 800 N. Alameda Street.  Elevation approximately 300 ft.  Los Angeles Union Station was the last major railroad station built in the United States, and was completed in 1939. Since AMTRAK has been in the station, the inside has been remodeled many times, but the ornate porcelain-tiled grand hallway and waiting room remain as they did when the station was first built.  Union Station is part of the Gateway Transit Center, which includes the station as well as the Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east side of the station, which hosts several connecting city bus services. Union Station is also the terminus of the Metrolink Commuter Rail System, as well as Metro Rail, the subway line.  We will be following the same route as Metrolink’s Orange County Line between Union Station and Fullerton, and the 91 Line between Union Station and Riverside.  The Metro Rail Gold, Purple, and Red Lines all serve Union Station.  The gold line serves the Pasadena area, the Red Line serves the downtown/Hollywood area, and the Purple Line serves the Mid-Wilshire and Koreatown areas.  In addition, several AMTRAK connecting Thruway Busses originate from Union Station and serve many parts of the State which currently have no AMTRAK rail service.

          From Union Station, the downtown buildings of Los Angeles can be seen, especially the 32-story City Hall Building, built in 1929.  City Hall was once the tallest building in the city, and has been used in old Superman movies as the “Daily Planet” building.  Across from Union Station is historic Olvera Street, the site of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, which was the original settlement in what is now Los Angeles.  The town site was founded in 1781 by Governor Felipe de Neve.

          As we depart Los Angeles Union Station, noticed the Los Angeles County Jail visible on the right (eastbound).

         Geologically, Los Angeles is located in a part of the Transverse Ranges known as the Los Angeles Basin.  The Los Angeles Basin is a large lowland located between several individual mountain ranges.  The basin has been divided into four “blocks,” each block being bounded by major faults.  Union Station is located near the boundary of the Central Block and the Northeastern Block; however, we will be traveling across the Central and Northeastern Blocks for the first 70 miles or so of this route,  The area we will be traversing is quite flat and featureless, but very heavily urbanized, with mountain ranges of various ages visible on the horizons from nearly everyplace within both the Central and Northeastern Blocks.  We will be crossing several structural features, such as faults and fold axes, but they will not be discernible from the train.

          After we leave the Los Angeles Basin, we will cross through a small portion of the Peninsular Ranges, then we will be crossing the Salton Trough subprovince of the Basin & Range Physiographic Province, also known as the Colorado Desert.  At approximately the Arizona border, we will then be crossing the Sonoran Desert, and eventually the Mexican Highland subprovinces of the Basin & Range Province into El Paso.

          The geologic materials on the ground here are alluvial deposits of Quaternary age, plus Quaternary and modern-aged alluvial terrace deposits.

0.5     Make a sharp bend to the south as we cross the usually-dry concrete channel of the Los Angeles River.  The channel is lined with concrete for flood control purposes.  Most of the year, the Los Angeles River is dry; however, during the winter and spring “rainy season,” flash flooding can occur from storms which originate in the mountains to the north.

2        Pass beneath Interstate 5, the Golden State Freeway.

3-4    The hills on the right (eastbound) are composed of sandstone, siltstone, and shale of Miocene to Pleistocene age (1 to 24 million years before present).  The freeway we are following is Interstate 10, the San Bernardino Freeway.

4.5     Crossover Interstate 710, the Long Beach Freeway.

5-8    Pass through Monterey Park, as we travel along the median of the San Bernardino Freeway.  This is also a route for suburban Metrolink trains.

         Monterey Park is located in the western part of the San Gabriel Valley, and has historically been composed largely of Asian Americans. It has the largest concentration of Chinese Americans of any municipality in the United States.  The community was first developed in 1906 as part of the large Repetto Ranch, and was known as Ramona Acres.  It was later named after Monterey Pass, to the west. In 1916, the residents of the community voted to become a city, after the nearby cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Alhambra constructed a large regional wastewater treatment facility.  In 1920,a large portion of the southern part of the city broke off to become the City of Montebello.

9-11  Pass through Rosemead, which was named after an 1870’s horse farm near here known as Rose’s Meadow, which was owned by pioneer Leonard A. Rose and his wife Amanda.  The region was largely agricultural for many years, but the city was finally incorporated on August 4, 1959.  Like Monterey Park, Rosemead is also then home of a rapidly-growing Asian American population.

11.5   Cross Rio Hondo, a usually-dry river.

12-13 Pass through El Monte, which is Spanish for “the mountain;” however, another account says the name refers to a forest or a thicket of willows.  In the early 19th Century, El Monte was the end of the Santa Fe Trail, and water was found in the forest which once occupied the area.  Pass the El Monte Metrolink station on the right (eastbound).

          Like other communities through which we have been traveling, the area was originally home to the native Tongva Indians.  Later the region was part of the Rancho La Puente, and was controlled by the Spanish Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.  In 1858, El Monte was a stop on the Butterfield Overland Stage Route.

          El Monte was incorporated as a municipality in 1912.  During the 1930’s, the city became a vital site for the New Deal's federal Subsistence Homestead project, a Resettlement Administration program that helped grant single-family ranch houses to qualifying applicants.  It became home to many 1930’s white immigrants from the Dust Bowl Migration.  Famous photographer Dorothea Lange took many pictures of the houses for her work for the Farm Security Administration.

          El Monte is also known as the birthplace of several television variety shows, the first being “Hometown Jamboree” in the 1950’s.

13.5   Pass beneath the San Bernardino Freeway again.

14.5  Cross the normally-dry San Gabriel River, which flows in a concrete-lined channel.  Just east of the river, pass beneath Interstate 605, the San Gabriel River Freeway.  South of here, in 1987, the M5.9 Whittier Narrows Earthquake took place on the Puente Hills Thrust Fault System, a previously unrecognized blind thrust fault.

15.5   Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line makes a northerly bend here as it switches from the main ex-Southern Pacific line we are using. Pass through Bassett, named after banker O.T. Bassett of Texas, who, in 1895, purchased a foreclosed property here which was formerly owned by Joseph Workman, and was originally a part of Rancho La Puente.

17.5   Cross Puente Creek.

18-19 Pass through La Puente, named after the Spanish words for “the bridge,” referring to a bridge across the San Gabriel River (see MP 14.5 above).  In modern Spanish, the noun “puente” is of “masculine” gender; therefore the proper modern Spanish term for a bridge would be “el puente” instead of the “feminine” “la puente.” The area was visited in 1769 by the Portolà expedition, where, on July 30 of that year, Father Juan Crespi documented in his diaries the construction of the bridge.  When the early Tongva Indians lived in the area, they were a part of Rancho La Puente, which at that time, was owned by William Workman, Joseph Workman’s (see MP 15.5 above) father.  The entire area was controlled by the Spanish Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.

          In the 1930’s, this area was known for its many fruit and walnut groves, and at one time, was home to the world’s largest walnut packing plant.

         Geologically, we have been following the trace of the Whittier Fault for some time now; however, the actual fault trace is not visible from the railroad.  The hills on the left (eastbound) are the Puente Hills, which were uplifted along the Whittier fault. The Puente Hills are composed primarily of Miocene to Pliocene-aged sandstones, siltstones, and shales, and represent an ancient “island” surrounded by a shallow sea during the Tertiary Period (the Tertiary Period took place from approximately 66 to 2 million years ago. There are 5 geologic “divisions” of the Tertiary Period, the Paleocene (66 to 60 million years ago), the Eocene (60 to 37 million years ago), the Oligocene (37 to 24 million years ago), the Miocene (24 to 5 million years ago), and the Pliocene (5 to approximately 2 million years ago) Epochs.  The Puente Hills are composed of Pliocene and Miocene-aged sedimentary rocks, with some interlayered volcanic rocks.

          On top of the Puente Hills can be seen the Industry Hills Exhibition Center (formerly Indian Hills Exhibition Center) and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Golf Course.

19-21 South of the railroad (right if eastbound) is the City of Industry, a primarily industrial city created to prevent adjacent cities from annexing industrial land for tax revenue. The city was incorporated in 1957.  The City of Industry has no business taxes, and is primarily funded through retail sales tax from shopping centers located within the city limits, and property tax on parcels within the City.

23     Pass briefly through the City of West Covina, which was incorporated in 1923. The name "Covina” is said to mean “place of vines.” Originally, West Covina was an agricultural area known for its walnuts and oranges.

         The hills on the north (left if westbound) are composed of Miocene-aged sandstone, siltstone, and shale (see MP18 above).

23-25 Pass through Walnut, named after the walnut, the most intensely-cultivated crop in the area for many years,  The railroad station here, however, was originally known as “Lemon,” but changed to Walnut in 1912.

         When the indigenous Tongva people lived here, the area was controlled by the Spanish Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, and the area was primarily grazing land for cattle and sheep.  With secularization of the Spanish missions in the 1830’s, Rancho La Puente was deeded to John Rowland and William Workman, who eventually split their property into two parts, Workman gaining control the western portion (parts of El Monte, La Puente, and West Covina, which we have already passed through).  Rowland got the eastern portion of the land, which included Walnut and Rowland Heights.

          Walnut is the home of the annual Walnut Family Festival and Mt. San Antonio College Relay races, held each October.

         At this approximate location, we are crossing the Whittier Fault and will now be traveling through the Northeastern Block of the Los Angeles Basin (see MP 0 above).  The Northeastern Block extends from the Whittier Fault to the base of the lofty San Gabriel Mountains visible in the distance to the north (left if eastbound).  Exposed rocks in the Northeastern Block are similar to those of the Central Block; however, some younger rocks are also exposed at the earth’s surface here.

26      Cross San Jose Creek.

26-27 Pass through Diamond Bar, which is located at the junction of the Pomona and Orange Freeways, approximately one mile east of the railroad. The “diamond over bar” was a ranch brand registered to rancher Frederick E. Lewis in 1918.  The Diamond Bar Ranch was one of the largest working cattle ranches in the Nation at that time, and the land was originally part of the larger Rancho Los Nogales (“ranch of the walnut trees”).  In the 1950’s, Transamerica purchased the Diamond Bar Ranch and developed one of the first planned communities in the area.  The original “diamond over a bar” brand can still be seen in the area. The City of Diamond Bar was incorporated on April18, 1989.

          The hills around Diamond Bar are composed of Miocene-aged sandstone, siltstone, and shale.

28      On the right is the former Pacific State Hospital, now known as Laterman Developmental Center.

29      Pass beneath California Highway 57, the Orange Freeway.  In the distance on the left (eastbound), you may see some of the buildings from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, generally known simply as Cal Poly-Pomona (there is also a California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, 100 miles north of Los Angeles).  The university is the second largest in the California State University system, with a student population of more than 20,000.  Cal Poly Pomona currently offers 94 different Bachelor's degrees, 39 Master's degrees, 13 teaching credentials and a doctorate across 9 distinct academic colleges.  Much recent astrophysical and space research has been completed at Cal Poly Pomona.

          The university was founded in 1938, and is the only college in southern California to offer both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in agriculture.  Cal Poly is also the home of the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center, a facility devoted to the breeding of these fine animals.  The facility was named after cereal’s William K. Kellogg, a former resident of the area.

          We are now entering the Santa Ana Mountains, a part of the Peninsular Ranges.  The Santa Ana Mountains are oriented more north-south than the primarily east-west oriented Transverse Ranges, through which we have just passed.  The rocks which compose the Santa Ana Mountains are also generally older than the Miocene to Pliocene-aged sedimentary rocks we have seen thus far.  The mountains south of the railroad here (right if eastbound), including the prominent Elephant Hill, are composed of Mesozoic-aged (generally 100 to 200 million years old) graniticintrusive rocks, including granite, granodiorite, and quartz monzonite.  They were formed as uplifted masses of deeply buried molten igneous rocks, which cool as they are uplifted and develop large crystals.  Further downhill from these uplifted crystallized igneous rocks are younger volcanic rocks, which originated during volcanic eruptions in the late Tertiary Period (see MP 18 above). Many of these rocks are basaltic or andesitic lava flows which covered the earth in horizontal layers as they were erupted from ancient volcanoes.

32      POMONA station, 100 W. Commercial Street.  Elevation approximately 865 ft.  This station is also used by Metrolink’s Riverside Line.  The city was named after the ancient Roman goddess of fruit, Pomona, which is appropriate, since Pomona has always been a center for citrus production. The name was chosen in 1875 as a result of a contest to name the city, which was won by Horticulturist Solomon Gates.  At that time, no fruit had yet been planted in the Pomona region. The Tongva Indians occupied the area prior to the 1830’s when much of the Southwestern United States was settled by Mexicans. The city was incorporated on January 6,1888.

          In addition to Cal Poly-Pomona (see MP 29 above), Pomona is also the original home of Pomona College, founded in 1887.  In 1889, the College was moved to nearby Claremont.  The Western University of Health Sciences is also located in Pomona.  Pomona is also the site of the Fairplex, which hosts the Los Angeles County Fair each fall. 

          Pomona was the site of the winter home of cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg.

34      Enter SAN BERNARDINO County, which was created in 1853 from Los Angeles County.  The county is the largest county in area in the United States, and the 5th most populous county in California.  It was named after St. Bernardino of Siena. A church named after the saint was established at Mission San Gabriel Arcangel on May 20,1810, the Feast Day of the Saint.  After Mexican independence in 1821, several large ranchos were established in what is now San Bernardino County.  Rancho San Bernardino was established in 1842.  The county seat is San Bernardino.

         Together with Riverside County to the south, the two counties are known collectively as the Inland Empire.

35.5   Pass through Narod, a part of Montclair, which is located primarily north of the railroad (left if eastbound).  The name Narod was given to the town by the railroad in 1904, and was the last name of the railroad’s section foreman (Doran) spelled in reverse.  This area was originally primarily citrus grove, but it is now largely urbanized and residential.

38      ONTARIO station, 198 E. Emporia Street.  Elevation approximately 991. Ontario was established in 1882 by Canadians George, William, and Charles Chaffey, who named the town after their home province of Ontario, Canada, and established it as a “model” colony, so called because it offered the perfect balance between agriculture and the urban comforts of schools, churches, and commerce.

         Like the remainder of this area, the land was originally inhabited by the Tongva Indians.  After Mexico won its independence from Spain, much of this area was established as Rancho Cucamonga.  After the town was established, it became a center for citrus production, and was originally considered a “dry” town, thus forbidding the manufacture and sale of alcohol here.

         The town was promoted as an agricultural town.  To impress visitors and potential settlers with the "abundance" of water in Ontario, a fountain was placed at the Southern Pacific Railway station, which was turned on when passenger trains were approaching and frugally turned off again after their departure.  The original "Chaffey Fountain", a simple spigot surrounded by a ring of white stones, was later replaced by the more ornate "Frankish Fountain", an Art Nouveau creation now located outside the Ontario Museum of History and Art.

                                                                                               Ontario was incorporated as a city in 1881, and the northern part of the city broke away in 1906 to form the new community of Upland. Ontario is the home of the Graber Olive House, the oldest operating olive packer in the Nation.  It is also the home of the Ontario Museum of History and Art, and also the home of Ontario International Airport (see MP 40 below), the 15th busiest airport in the Nation based on cargo carried. Ontario was also the home of rock & roll performer Frank Zappa., and was the former home of the Ontario Motor Speedway.