Saugus District Train order book, Nov. 9-12, 1978. Names inside:
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Stationmaster Flips the Last Switch.
The Newhall Signal & Saugus Enterprise | Wednesday, November 15, 1978.
The Saugus Station will close tonight one minute before midnight.
The Southern Pacific Railroad, which built the depot around 1890 [sic: 1887], has said that increasing automation of its routes justifies the station's closing.
Station operator John Herrington will step away from the set of manual switches at 11:59 p.m. The usual shift replacement, Clint Slattum, will not replace him. Also missing will be any formal ceremony, a railroad spokesman said.
All four men who have operated the station round-the-clock can use their seniority to transfer elsewhere, a company spokesman said. The other Saugus employees, who also reside locally, are Mike Kuretich and stationmaster Bob Guthrie.
Guthrie and his family will continue living on the second floor of the station for several months for security reasons. He will work the sole daylight shift in the San Fernando station.
The mothballs may not last long, however. "The company is interested in working with the community in preserving the station, assuming it can be moved to another site and not expose people to the hazards of crossing the tracks," said Thomas Buckley, a Southern Pacific spokesman.
George Nigro and Adeeb Sadd, business partners in developing the Old Schoolhouse Emporium on the Saugus School site nearby, persist in their hopes of preserving the railroad depot as part of their commercial project.
The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society has endorsed the proposal. Nigro earlier this week promised to check again with Southern Pacific for procedures on obtaining the station.
Buckley directs such inquiries to L.M. Brown, district manager of real estate for the Southern Pacific Land Company, with offices in Los Angeles.
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.
HS7804: Download individual pages here
. Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society Collection.