Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

SPRR Saugus Depot Screenshots

"Suddenly" (1954)

Screenshots: The Southern Pacific Railroad's Saugus train station as seen in the feature film, "Suddenly," starring Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden. Location filming took place in Saugus and Newhall in April 1954.

With the exception of the initial establishing shot, images are presented in runtime order. Our captions call out internal and external features pertinent to the rearrangment and restoration of the depot into a Southern Pacific train station museum, which is underway in 2021. (Since 1980, the depot has served as a general SCV history museum. The Pardee House at Heritage Junction will become the general SCV history museum.)

Note that today, north and south are reversed. In 1954, the depot stood on the east side of the track (at Drayton Street), facing the track. In 1980 the depot was moved to the west side of the track (at Heritage Junction in William S. Hart Park), facing the track.

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.

LW3789: Download individual images here.
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