Tuesday, June 24, 1980: Los Angeles County Supervisor Baxter Ward (center) and Signal newspaper editor Scott Newhall (right) watch the 1887 Saugus Train Station move from its original location at Bouquet Canyon Road at Drayton Street to Heritage Junction Historic Park in Newhall.
Newhall's wife, Ruth, led the fundraising drive to move the depot. Ward was just about finished as a supervisor; first elected in 1972, he was defeated in his attempt at a third
term in November 1980 by former Assemblyman Michael D. Antonovich.
Visible in the background is a lineup of people at curbside, watching the depot wind its way through the streets of Saugus and Newhall.
The Saugus train station opened June 21, 1888, the Southern Pacific Railroad having completed its spur line to Ventura in 1887 along the present-day alignment of Magic Mountain Parkway to State Route 126 through Castaic Junction, Camulos, Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Saticoy — where the SP also erected depots or sidings of various size.
The large, two-story Saugus depot followed a "Common Standard" set of SP blueprints and stood at the southeast corner of present-day Drayton Street and Railroad Avenue (previously San Fernando Road). Tolfree's Saugus Eating House occupied the north side of the depot until 1916 when it moved across the street into its own building and became the Saugus Café (the name had been in use since 1899).
President Benjamin Harrison came through (without stopping) in April 1891, and Theodore Roosevelt is said to have been met at the depot by California governor and Acton gold mine owner Henry T. Gage in 1903. Twenty years later, Charlie Chaplin used the depot in "The Pilgrim," and in 1954 another U.S. president was scheduled to stop at the depot but the feds caught wind of an assassination attempt in time. Of course, this last one was Hollywood fiction; the movie was "Suddenly" and the assassin was played by Frank Sinatra. Saugus and Newhall were used extensively as the film locations.
Passenger service ended in April 1971 and the last station agent, James "Bob" Guthrie, shuttered the depot for good on Nov. 15, 1978. Facing demolition by the SP, the depot was rescued in 1980 through a fundraising effort organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, then just 4½ years old. During the night of June 24-25, 1980, it was moved two miles south to the society's home at Heritage Junction at William S. Hart County Park in Newhall, where its film career continued (e.g., "The Grifters" with John Cusack and Angelica Huston, 1989).
Today the depot is an educational venue for visiting elementary school students and patrons of the SCV Historical Society's lectures and film showings, as well as the home to the society's offices, collections, meetings, and the community's "temporary" history museum while the Pardee House at Heritage Junction is turned into a permanent museum facility.
About the photographer: Photojournalist Gary Thornhill chronicled the history of the Santa Clarita Valley as it unfolded in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. From car races in Saugus to fatal car wrecks in Valencia; from topless beauty contests in Canyon Country to fires and floods in the various canyons; from city formation in 1987 to the Northridge earthquake in 1994 — Thornhill's photographs were published in The Los Angeles Times, The Newhall Signal, The Santa Clarita Valley Citizen newspaper, California Highway Patrolman magazine and elsewhere. He penned the occasional breaking news story for Signal and Citizen editors Scott and Ruth Newhall under the pseudonym of Victor Valencia, and he was the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station's very first volunteer — and only the second in the entire LASD. Thornhill retained the rights to the images he created; in 2012, he donated his SCV photographs to two nonprofit organizations — SCVTV and the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society — so that his work might continue to educate and inform the public.