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The Mt. Lowe Railway: Its History and Preservation

Monday March 21st, 7pm

The Mount Lowe Railway was a scenic mountain railroads created as a tourist attraction on Echo Mountain and Mount Lowe, north of Los Angeles, California. The railway existed from 1893 until its official abandonment in 1938.


Professor Thaddeus Lowe, Civil War balloonist, man of fame and fortune, was the quintessential California dreamer. His dream was to build a railway into--and a resort complex atop--the San Gabriel Mountains high above Pasadena. In the 1890s, his dream became a reality.

During the height of its popularity, millions took Professor Lowe's "Railway to the Clouds" to fine hotels and spectacular views of Southern California. Until it was abandoned in the 1930s, it was the Southland's most popular tourist attraction.

From Pasadena, visitors rode a trolley up Rubio Canyon, where a pavilion and hotel were located. After taking refreshments, they boarded the "airships" of the great cable incline, where carried them 3,000 feet (gaining 1,300 feet) straight up to the Echo Mountain Resort Area. "Breathtaking" and "hair-raising" were the most frequent descriptions of this thrilling ride. Atop Echo Mountain was the White City, with a hotel, observatory, and a magnificent searchlight purchased from the Chicago World's Fair. When the searchlight swept the mountaintop, the white buildings of the resort were visible from all over Los Angeles. From Echo Mountain, tourists could board a trolley and ride another few miles to Mount Lowe Tavern at the end of the line.


The Scenic Mt. Lowe Railway Historical Committee is the formal name for a group of volunteers who work to preserve the remnants of the Mount Lowe Railway, including structures and artifacts. The group formed in 1992. Our speaker Brian Marcroft is one of the founding members.



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