Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Abandoned SPRR Newhall Depot Burns Down.
Chilly Hobos Blamed.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Old Southern Pacific Train Depot Succumbs to Ravages of Fire Set By Railway Hobo

One of Newhall's first business buildings were permanently erased last Saturday morning when a fire burning with uncontrollable fury raced through the rotting Southern Pacific depot. In a matter of 30 minutes there was nothing left of the station.

Firemen said the old wooden building exploded from end to end.

Little or nothing could be done to save the depot except to keep the wind-whipped flames from spreading into the main business district a block away.

Abandoned Long Ago

Almost the last of the old structures in Newhall, it has defied the elements for 85 years, inhabited furtively for the last 30 years by rats, mice and hoboes.

Firemen believe that hoboes seeking shelter in 25-degree weather had entered the main room of the station through an unlocked door and built a small fire.

Apparently starting shortly after 2 a.m., the flames went unreported until 2:26 when the alarm was relayed to County fire headquarters by the Sheriff's office, which had been alerted by a janitor working in the Bank of America.

From the beginning, everything went against the dilapidated landmark — its age, brisk east winds and the parched timbers held together by hand-made square nails. By the time fire forces arrived, the sagging roof had already collapsed, causing a sea of sparks to peril the south end of the business area on San Fernando Road.

Battalion Chief Stan Barlow ordered four patrol units to comb the endangered residential and business zones with instructions to watch for sparks swirling under roofs. Witnesses watched as fiery chunks of wood flew overhead, carried aloft by 35 m.p.h. winds. A spot grass fire igniting near Market street and Newhall avenue was knocked down quickly by patrol units.

Another squad of firemen found the roof of the Newhall Hotel alive with glowing embers.

Protect Court House

When the Newhall Justice Court showed signs of becoming dangerously overheated, hoses were played over the roof and upon a wall that had risen to a temperature of 200 deg. The water soon turned to ice.

A small hole was burned in the canvas canopy over the main entrance, but firemen had to break into the meeting room above the court to check the interior for windblown sparks.

Used as Packinghouse

For many years the station had been leased as a packing shed during the late summer season, and thousands of tons of locally grown potatoes had been processed there before being shipped to market. Lately it had been used as a tire storage room for a local concern. The vegetable processing equipment was declared lost.

There is, of course, no future plans for another station in Newhall, but one Southern Pacific official contacted by the Signal declared that the company would be willing to negotiate with a qualified industrial firm toward erecting a factory on the site. The manufacturer would have to ship his outgoing products by rail, it was emphasized.

Station served Newhall till 1933

Well! It's finally gone.

The obituary reads: Born, One Depot, 1876 — at the junction of Rio Santa Clara and Soledad Creek. (The first Newhall townsite.)

Moved to the second (and present) townsite 1878 and planted in its exact middle — right across from the then palatial, long gone Southern Hotel.

Burned, January 11, 1963.

Remains. Ashes, and a handful of square cut nails.

Was One of First

It was one of the first three or four buildings in the Newhall settlement, neatly packaged around the Depot Square. Although mapped as Railroad Ave., it was called Main St. for 30-odd years.

Headed south, you turned east on Market St. and south bordereing the Newhall Creek toward Beale's Cut. Needham's Hardware and Lumber Emporium stood at Market and Pine Sts., flanked by the Good Templar Hall (now the telephone business office at Market and Walnut). Gifford's home was across Market St. The Southern Hotel was "cater corner" from the Depot.

In those days, the east side of the square was warehouses abutting the tracks. From north to south came Hardison and Stewart, built in 1882. Later, Mrs. Frances Phillips moved it to a San Fernando Road frontage, about 1912. Ultimately, it sort of disintegratoed and started to blow to pieces. To save innocent passers by from being clobbered with a chunk of roofing, or siding blowing loose, it was razed for salvage in the early 1950s. The material built the Lynch home on Kansas St.

Next came the Pacific Coast Oil Company warehouse, built about 1880. After the century's turn the PCO became the Standard Oil Company of California. That was razed by the late Jack Sanderson and this writer about 1932. The material salvage went to the Wildwood ranch, and is still in service.

Next stood the late lamented depot.

Furtherest south was the Newhall Ranch warehouse. H. Clay Needham salvaged that for materials in the early 1920s, used in budding his museum (the Kentucky cabin) and barns.

All of these warehouses were built with clear redwood.

The business section of early Newhall was across the Square — four saloons, two general merchandise, a leather working shop (boots and saddles were the order of that day).

If we saw 5 or 6 span of mules string-teaming into the old square with a load of local grain on its wagons — we'd reform — wouldn't you?

Our Newhall is now a brand new model — not even the old chassis remains.

John T. Gifford opened the depot for business — both locations. Giffords lived on the second floor until 1883 when they built their home, 22421 W. Market St. He retired in 1912.

The late Pat Coyle was the second, and last, Southern Pacific agent. In 1933, the trains quit stopping.

In its years after retirement, the old building was seasonally used by Haddad and Butler for packing vegetables.

It was sometimes used as a movie set. Sometimes it may have been a senior hobo's retirement village, who knows.

The old order passeth.




Wells, Fargo Express Letter & Envelope 1883






Newhall Crossing 1938 x3




Burns Down 1963

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