The Coast News Group

The great train wreck of 1941

DEL MAR —A long time ago the big news in Southern California on New Year’s Day was about the Tournament of Roses Parade and the football game in Pasadena.
In 1941, the subject had an entirely different slant. It was about a train wreck New Year’s Eve in the village. A northbound freight train had tumbled on to the beach at the foot of Ninth Street where heavy rains that week had weakened the bluff.
Three fatalities were recorded — the engineer, conductor and firemen. Early arrivals at the scene were able to view the victims still in the cab where they had been scalded by water from a busted boiler. Crowds swelled as the account of the derailment was broadcast on radio since there was no television at that time. The New Year’s Day edition of the L.A. Times carried a page one story.
Village streets in the area were cluttered with automobiles and people. Not surprising, food concessionaires soon were on the scene doing brisk business selling popcorn, coffee and hot dogs from food wagons.
A crew was dispatched from Barstow where Santa Fe Railway maintained its base of operations. Workers installed an alternate track and in less than a week service between San Diego and points north resumed. Crowds dwindled and eventually disappeared leaving residents to pick up piles of litter they left behind.