Search for your location!

The “It’s A Wonderful Life” Train Station

Dec 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Movie Locations

IMG_3078

If there is anything I have learned over the past ten-plus years that I have lived in Southern California, it is that stalking tips often come from the most unlikely of places.  Take for instance this past weekend.  The Grim Cheaper’s father has long been a collector of model trains, so last Sunday afternoon the GC headed over to the Whistle Stop train store in Pasadena to do some Christmas shopping for his dad.  While there he stumbled upon some vintage locomotive photographs taken by photographer Stan Kistler.  Amazingly enough, one of those photographs happened to be a May 1946 image of the former Santa Fe Lamanda Park Train Station in Pasadena which at the time was dressed to appear as the Bedford Falls Train Station for the filming of It’s A Wonderful Life!  And while the GC did not actually purchase the photograph for me (he didn’t earn that nickname for nothin’!), when he got home he immediately told me about it and, let me tell you, I almost fell out of my chair!  I could not believe that one of the most famous Christmas movies of all time had been filmed right in my own backyard and that I had not previously known about it!  Because the GC had failed to write down – or remember – exactly which station had been used in the filming (men!), I immediately ran right over to the Whistle Stop to find out.  I also purchased the photograph (which is pictured above), not for myself, but for fellow stalker David in Seattle, as It’s A Wonderful Life is one of his all time favorite movies. 

IMG_3081

Written on the back of the photograph was the information that I was seeking.  The It’s A Wonderful Life train station was actually the now-defunct Santa Fe Lamanda Park Station located at the intersection of East Walnut Street and North San Gabriel Boulevard in Pasadena.   Sadly, the station was torn down in 1953. 

IMG_3091

And even though the station is no longer in existence, I just had to stalk its former site.  The above photograph is what the intersection of North San Gabriel Boulevard and East Walnut Street looks like circa 2010.  As you can see, there is no sign of the former station anywhere, which I had expected.  What I had not expected, though, was the fact that there was also no sign of the former railroad tracks.  Before arriving at the intersection, I had  been convinced I would be able to find some small remnant of the tracks somewhere in the vicinity.

IMG_3093 Train Tracks

What I did spot while I was there, though, was an elevated section of the road that looked to be just about the same size as a set of train tracks.  That area is marked with the pink lines in the above photograph.

IMG_3094

Another view of that elevated portion of land is pictured above.  I am guessing that the former railroad tracks are located just beneath that area of land and that instead of actually removing the tracks when the Santa Fe Railroad Line was dismantled in the 1950s, workers simply just poured cement over them leaving what you see above.

IMG_3096 IMG_3097

IMG_3092 IMG_3098

So, if my hunch is correct and that bit of land is in fact the former home to a set of train tracks, then I am fairly certain the patch of grass pictured above is where the Lamanda Park Train Station used to be located.  But again, that is just a guess.

ScreenShot6518 ScreenShot6519

 ScreenShot6520 ScreenShot6521

The station was featured towards the beginning of It’s A Wonderful Life in the scene in which George Bailey (aka James Stewart) and Uncle Billy (aka Thomas Mitchell) wait to pick up Harry Bailey (aka Todd Karns), who has just returned home after graduating from college, at the Bedford Falls train station.

IMG_3079 Bedford Falls Train Station

Pictured above is a close-up view of the vintage photograph I purchased for David.  The “Bedford Falls” prop signs are denoted with the pink arrows and one of the production’s lighting rigs is denoted with a blue arrow.  So incredibly cool!  You can see a photograph of what the Lamanda Park station looked like back in 1936 on the Palomar Skies blog here and here

A very MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of my fellow stalkers!  I hope you all have a fabulous holiday with your loved ones.  Smile

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Former Train Station Location

Stalk It: The former Lamanda Park station, aka the Bedford Falls train station from It’s A Wonderful Life, was located at the intersection of East Walnut Street and North San Gabriel Boulevard in Pasadena.  My best guess as to the station’s exact location is denoted with the pink arrows in the above aerial view.

27302

17 comments

Leave a comment »

  1. Scott says:

    The historicaerials.com website is great. When looking at the 1953 view, you can see the depot on the south side of the tracks, just above Walnut street. Also note that San Gabriel Blvd. dead ends right at the depot. Eventually Walnut was widened and San Gabriel Blvd. was pushed through northward directly over the old depot site, meaning that the station roughly sat in the northern half of todays intersection of San Gabriel and Walnut. If you reference the map above it would be just a hair below the pink arrow pointing left (west).

  2. Roger says:

    As a follow up to my post on Feb. 3rd, I came across a Pasadena City Map, dated Sept. 1951, which shows the SF right of way in and around San Gabriel Blvd. and Walnut St. Link attached and yellow circle shows the intersection; however, it is noted, that San Gabriel dead ended into Walnut St. at the time the old depot existed, and not as it is extended to the north of Walnut St. today.

    Also, the photo I referred to in my post, is the same one, from the book, as posted my the other member on February 15th.
    1951 Map:
    [IMG]http://i42.tinypic.com/xel6o3.jpg[/IMG]

  3. Jeeps says:

    I normally do research in historic buildings that have nothing to do with movies but I think I have a resource that can help you. Here is a link to historic aerial shots through out the US. If you type in the address or intersection it will take you to a list of historic shots taken from either plane or satellite. The earliest for this area is 1953 (Other areas can go back as early as the 1930’s) and even though the shot is grainy, you can see the station and the rails that run eat to west before the road was put through. I hope the link below helps.

    http://www.historicaerials.com/

    • Jeeps says:

      Also, if you click the “OVERLAYS” in the upper right corner of the map, you will get a pull down menu. hit the “ALL ROADS” link and you will see all of the latest roads in the area. Also, if you click the “COMPARE” button, also located at the top of the map, and then click “SLIDE” link you can slide the vertical line on the screen and see the area in two different time periods to see how it has changed.

  4. Lane says:

    Wow! What can I say, but wow and great job. I have a blog about the film and was currently going to do some research into find out out more about the train station specifically. Looks like you have already done everything there is to do! Love the post, love the pictures, and thank you for posting such great information and details. Can’t tell you how much a fan of movie, and of history enjoyed reading this. Do you know if pictures can still be purchased of the station? Again, just have to say thanks for your great work!

    ~Lane, Indiana

  5. Loretta says:

    I’m reading this more than a year after your post, but I found a picture of the train station dated 1953, apparently just before its demolition. Thephoto is in the book, “Pasadena: A Business History” by Patrick Conyers, Cedar Phillips and the Pasadena Museum of History. You can find the book here: http://bit.ly/y7YReX. The picture is on page 17. There are several blocks along Walnut street that have the same amount of empty street frontage, which gives a clue about the line’s right of way.

  6. Roger says:

    Lindsay, first, what a wonderful and creative website you have here!

    Next having grown up in Pasadena in the 50’s-60’s-70’s (now in NorCal) and being the Pasadena history buff that I am, I was so happy to see this post and your photos.

    In this regard, I recently came across another photo of this station from about 1953, just before it was torn down. The shot is from the rear of the station looking to the S/E and it shows a Santa Fe freight train at the front side of the station and you can also see commercial businesses on Walnut St. The shot also shows a wide access road at the rear, obviously for delivering freight to the station’s loading dock.

    The westward pointing arrow in your modern year photo, is exactly on the center line of where the former rail bed was located running parallel to Walnut St. Looking at the old photo from 1953, it appears that the former Lamanda Park depot was situated exactly in line of where the existing narrow white commercial building is in your sat-view photo. The depot did not extend as far to the west as the current building, but its east side (closest to San Gabriel Bl.) was most likely right where the east side of the current building is. Also, in the old photo, the access road in the rear, corresponds to where that asphalt parking lot is, to the rear of the commercial building, in the recent photo. Most likely that old access road, now a parking lot, connected to N. Venedo St. just to the west.

    Next, it was interesting to see the photos from La Canada in its early developmental years, as I have also spent a lot of time in that area too. With all the new growth of trees, it looks like a completely different area VS. those 1946 photos.

    Again, great job and great info, thank you for all your efforts!!

  7. Ashley says:

    Some of my favorite posts here are the ones where you pull out your amazing detective skills like you did here! Love it! Also big kudos to the GC for even noticing that photo & the fact that it was of the filming – you trained him well! 😉

  8. David Crocker says:

    And a thousand thank you’s to Lindsay for sending me the photo. What a wonderful gift!

    My guess is that they likely filmed the scenes at the train station on the same day they filmed the exteriors of the Martini home, which is just a short distance away.

    Now it’s off to look at aerial photos to see if the tracks pick up nearby…..

  9. Jenny says:

    This movie is a true christmas classic . I watch it once every year at christmas time. The movie makes me think about my grandparents who were young when this movie was made. Have a great holiday season.

  10. Bryan says:

    Amazing, i was just watching pretty in pink on tv and we stayed at the Biltmore last weekend for my 40th birthday, had no idea it was filmed there until we saw it on tv tonight! I then clicked on this link, I live about a mile from this location in Pasadena and LOVE this movie too, cant believe it is so close to our house! Thanks so much for the discovery!

  11. Great post. And timely too….

  12. Melissa says:

    I really need to see this movie

  13. Lavonna says:

    Great find…and David I’m SOOOOO Jealous! It’s A Wonderful Life is a favorite of mine too. Lindsay this was a great post and how “wonderful” of you to think of David you truly know your readers :)
    Merry Christmas Everybody…(in my George Bailey voice LOL)

  14. Chas says:

    Lindsay that was a great post. It brought back memories about my father. He also was a model railroader and loved anything to do with trains in movies. Perfect blog for the day. Thanks


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. […] Park’s own Whistle Stop train store. In December 2010, Blake published the photo along with her own account of the train station scene with “then-and-now” photos, widely drawing attention for […]

Leave a Reply