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Charles Edward Tolfree
Tolfree's Eating House / Saugus Cafe


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Charles Edward Tolfree was involved in the ownership and/or operation of family-run diners inside the Southern Pacific Railroad depots at Saugus, Mojave and Bakersfield in the 1890s. The diner at Saugus moved out of the depot and across the street to its own building in 1905, becoming the Saugus Cafe.

We don't know Charles Edward's exact relation to James Herbert Tolfree, who founded diners, or to Joseph Herbert Tolfree, who ran the Saugus diner. There was a Charles Edward Tolfree who was born in New York in 1866 and died in California in 1924.


When the Golden Spike was driven at Lang in 1876, tying together Los Angeles to San Francisco, and, in turn, the continent-spanning Union Pacific, it signaled an irreversible change in the lifestyle of the Santa Clarita Valley. The Saugus Train Station opened eleven years later on September 1, 1887 when the spur line to Ventura was completed by Southern Pacific Railroad.

In order to accommodate hungry travelers, Tolefree's Saugus Eating House was established at the north end of the depot. It was taken over by Martin and Richard Wood in 1898, who changed the name to The Saugus Cafe. By 1905 more room was needed for additional storage of freight at the Station, so the cafe moved across the tracks, where it stands today.

Cowboys would occasionally shoot up the Station as their way of greeting the trains. There were robberies, too, the most famous being the night in 1929 when Thomas Vernon derailed and looted Engine Number 59.

President Benjamin Harrison stopped over in April, 1891, and Theodore Roosevelt was met by Governor Henry T. Gage here in 1903.

The last passenger train that stopped at the Station during April, 1971 and the last freight train was discontinued in 1979. The depot was closed on November 15, 1978 by the last Agent, Mr. James Guthrie. Through a massive community effort, the building was saved and moved on June 24, 1980 to its present location on land leased from Los Angeles Country within William S. Hart Park.

The Saugus Station has been featured in a number of motion pictures, television shows, music videos and commercials. Films include "The Pilgrim" (1919) with Charlie Chaplin, "Suddenly" (1954) starring Frank Sinatra, and most recently "The Grifters" (1989) starring Angelica Huston and John Cusack, and many student projects for area film schools.


BT1892: 9600 dpi jpeg courtesy of Beth and Charles Tolfree.
SAUGUS CAFE

Tales of the Saugus Cafe (Reynolds)
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Envelope 1890

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Dining Room & Letterhead 1890s

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J. Herbert Tolfree

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Charles Edward Tolfree

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In Saugus Depot 1890s

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Advertisement 1895

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J.H. Tolfree Death
1-16-1897

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1914

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Matchbook Cover 1938

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Sandwich Shop Destruction 1941

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Both Buildings 1955

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Both Bldgs ~1957 x3

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