The Mount Lowe Railway was the third in a series of scenic mountain railroads in America created as a tourist attraction on Echo Mountain and Mount Lowe, north of Los Angeles, California. The railway, originally incorporated by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe as the Pasadena & Mt. Wilson Railroad Co. existed from 1893 until its official abandonment in 1938, and had the distinction of being the only scenic mountain, electric traction (overhead electric trolley) railroad ever built in the United States. Lowe’s partner and engineer was David J. Macpherson, a civil engineer graduate of Cornell University. The Mount Lowe Railway was a fulfillment of 19th century Pasadenans' desire to have a scenic mountain railroad to the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The Railway opened on 4 July 1893, and consisted of nearly seven miles (11.2 km) of track starting in Altadena, California at a station called Mountain Junction. Atop Echo stood the magnificent 70-room Victorian hotel, the Echo Mountain House. Only a few hundred feet away stood the 40-room Echo Chalet which was ready for opening day. The complement of buildings on Echo included an astronomical observatory, car barns, dormitories and repair facilities, a casino and dance hall, and a menagerie of local fauna.
For the seven years during which Lowe owned and operated the railway, it constantly ran into hard times, eventually being sold off. A series of natural disasters ate away at the facilities, the first of which was a kitchen fire that destroyed the Echo Mountain House in 1900. Further fires and floods eventually destroyed any remaining facilities, and the railway was officially abandoned in 1938 after a flood washed most everything off the mountain sides. Today, the ruins of Mount Lowe Railway remain as a monument to a once-ever experienced enterprise. It was placed on the National Register of Historical Places on January 6, 1993, a listing that was enlarged in January 2015.
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