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We took the Lomita Railroad Museum Self Guiding Tour on August 2, 2003. The souvenir tour guide helped to explain the highlights of the museum.


  • Check our Lomita Railroad Museum Photos for numerous photos of the Lomita Railroad Museum
  • Check our Lomita Photos page for other photos from the city of Lomita.


  • The tour guide starts out by pointing out how the Lomita Railroad Museum is unique. It is a museum that is, "dedicated to the age of steam." There was a time not long ago when steam "ruled the rails" and the museum wants visitors to arouse the nostalgia of that time.

    The Lomita Railroad Museum was made possible by Mrs. Irene Lewis and her husband Martin who owned Little Engines of Lomita which was a business that manufactured miniature live-steam locomotives. Mrs. Lewis started the museum as a memorial to her husband and gave it to the city of Lomita in 1966.

    The museum will be expanding to the one acre of land adjacent to the current location.

    Mrs. Lewis based the museum on the structure of Boston & Maine's 19th century Greenwood Depot at Wakefield, Massachusetts.

    The designer of the museum was John W. Gallareto.

    Stop 1 of the tour shows the Locomotive Classification Light Collection. In the olden days, clarification lights were used at night to indicate the type of train while flags were used during the day.

    Portable scales used to be carried in early baggage cars on trains.

    There is a long-spouted oil can with a pump inside. Engineers frequently oiled all moving parts of their engines.

    Stop 2 shows numerous Date Nails. The number on the head of each nail represented the year it was installed. This marking system helped to determine when ties needed to be replaced.

    The museum guide documents all types of train equipment, " The Keeler hot box cooler was used to drip water into a hot journala(a bearing housing on car trucks) to put out a fire and cool the bearing. If not detected and corrected, a hot box could start a fire in a car or destroy a bearing which could possibly cause a wreck. Hot boxes were caused by poor bearing lubrication or over-heated brakes."

    Outdoors the museum has a link and pin coupler. Coupling and uncoupling(or connecting and taking apart train cars) had to be done by hand. The term "pull the pin" is still used today.

    Locomotive Whistles sat on top of the locomotive boiler and they were operated by steam pressure.

    The museum has a locomotive bell with a sign saying not to ring it. The bells on locomotives were used as warning devices. The locomotive bells were mounted on top of the boiler or on the front of the smoke box.

    The tour guide discusses torpedoes in detail, "When a train stopped on the mainline between stations, the flagman was ordered to go back about a half mile and fasten two torpedoes on the track about 100 feet apart. The wire or metal strip was used to fasten the torpedo to the rail. When an approaching train ran over the torpedoes they exploded with a loud noise and a bright flash at night warning the engineer to slow his train and be prepared to stop."

    Stop 3 of the tour features the Marker Light Collection. Displayed on the rear of trains, marker lights were used at night. The Lomita Railroad Museum Marker Light Collection includes markers from a narrow gauge railroad in New Zealand.

    The museum also has a Switch Stand Light Collection.

    Dining Cars can often be seen in old Western Movies. Pitchers and bowls were often made of heavy silver which could withstand the bumpy ride. Table linen often had the herald or initials of the railroad sewn into the material.

    The metal buttons on the uniforms of railroad conductors had the initials or herald of the railroad on them. The conductor often had brass or gold buttons while the brakemen had silver. They used bars and stars to note the years of service.

    Stop 4 features the Hand Lantern Collection. The old lanterns burned kerosene.

    There is a large cast iron oval whistle post with a big "W" on it. Whistle posts were located to the right of the track from 50 to 100 yards before a road crossing. "The whistle signal for a crossing was two long blasts, a short, and a long, blown so that the end of the last long blast is cut off just as the engine reached the crossing."

    Mileposts were black numbers painted on white or yellow backgrounds on telegraph poles beside railroad tracks. Locomotives were able to determine the speed of a train by counting the number of minutes it took to travel between a certain number of mileposts.

    The museum features a milepost from Yosemite Valley in Northern California. It indicates ten miles from Merced, the terminal and junction with the Southern Pacific Railroad.

    The waiting room bench was donated to the museum by the Union Pacific Railroad. It was sent to the museum from Omaha, Nebraska. It has iron arm rests that divided the bench into seats and prevented bums from sleeping on it.

    The museum shows an "upper quadrant" semaphore signal.

    Stop 5 is a station agent's office in the museum depot. It has a typewriter, train order hoop, ticket validators, a train register, a telegrapher's key, a telegraph sounding box, a dispatcher's telephone, an old fashioned wall phone, a station clock, a pot-bellied stove, a cane-seated swivel chair, a green shaded desk light, car seals, a ticket window, a ticket cabinet, and timetables.

    The museum has a fire extinguisher from the Chicago & North Western Railway.

    Stop 6 is the Locomotive Builder's Plate Collection. The locomotive builders plates were mounted on both sides of the smoke box of a locomotive. They had the name and location shop of the builder, the date the locomotive was built and the shop of the builder. The museum shows plate "2 Baldwin Locomotive Works Philadelphia U.S.A."

    Tallow-pots had tallow for lubricating the valves and pistons of locomotives. It was stored in a little shelf above the firedoor in the engine cab.

    Stop 7 takes the visitor back to the front of the museum by the entrance. Information on one of the first steam locomotives is at this stop. "George Stephenson's 1829 'Rocket' was one of the first successful steam locomotives built in England. In competition the Rocket achieved speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The prototype was coal-fired and the boiler was upright. As in the case of many early locomotives, the engineer was also the fireman."

    The museum displays a Coach Chandelier that is typical of the ornate brass chandeliers used in passenger cars in the olden days of railroading. They usually had 2 or more kerosene burners. Each car had from 4 to 8 chandeliers depending on the length. In time some railroads substituted carbide gas lights with knitted silk gas mantels.

    Stop 8 takes the visitor outside to the velocipede car. "The velocipede hand car is a lightweight, three-wheeled, one man car used by track inspectors, signal tenders and switch oilers. The operator sits astride the car and propels it by pumping back and forth on the handles with an assist from his feet on the foot pedals and cruise along comfortably at five to eight miles per hour. The velocipede at the museum was built in 1881 for the Maine Central Railroad by the Fairbanks Company. The car is almost entirely built of wood including the connecting rods from the pump handle to the gear crank. The brake is a friction show mounted on the drive wheel and operated from a lever under the seat. A tool box, oil cans, or perhaps a stray passenger was carried on the rear deck. Velocipedes are still used by most railroads."

    Train Steam Locomotives
    Train Steam Locomotives
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