Lomita’s Own Cathedral
“Railroad terminals, in the American mind, were what cathedrals are to Europeans.”
—Lucius Beebe, 1962
By Brian Covert
Headlight Special Writer
On the intersection of Woodward Avenue and 250th Street in Lomita proudly stands a tribute to the men and machines that brought America head-first into the railroad age of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the Lomita Railroad Museum.
Erected in 1966, the museum is a re-creation of the original Greenwood Station in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and is visited by more than 18,000 people from around the world every year.
The museum itself was built by Lomita resident Irene Lewis as a memorial to her late husband Martin, and was later donated to the city.
“The train departs every three minutes,” says Irene kiddingly as she points to the 1902 Southern Pacific locomotive that actually ran throughout the Los Angeles basin in its heyday.
Along with an original boxcar caboose and a fuel-carrying tender, the museum offers one of the most extensive collections of antique railroad artifacts in the nation, if not in the world, One of the more valuable items is said to be an 1870 leather fire bucket which later evolved into our modern-day fire extinguisher.
The museum also has a gift shop which is being stocked up for the not-too-distant holidays.
The spirit of the railroad era has been kept refreshingly alive at the museum with the help of curator Arthur Zimmerla, Margaret Peightal, tour guide Alice Abbott and Irene Lewis herself. Mrs. Lewis is currently trying to establish a railroad section for the Los Angeles County Libraries in which she could contribute her collection of authentic railroad and technical histories for public use.
A plaque at the base of the flagpole in front of the Lomita Railroad Museum best sums up the patriotism and pride during the time of our grandparents and great-grandparents. It reads: “A memorial to the era when the genius of man and the power of steam worked together in moulding an unparalleled nation.”