By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY – Staff Writer
The Rim of the World Historical Society visited the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum at the Santa Fe Depot last week. The trip had been rescheduled twice due to the blizzard, closed roads and poor weather during March. The ROW Historical Society tries to coordinate tours to local historical locations to better understand the history of the local area.
The historical society had 40 people go on the tour on a Wednesday, although the museum is usually only open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Santa Fe Depot is located at 1170 W. Third street in San Bernardino. The museum had several of their docents lead the tour. Joe Moya, Kent Rodeker, Jim Wood and Lynn Killian were well versed in the operations and information of the museum.
Trains were the major mode of transportation that brought people from the East Coast to California after the 1880s. They transported many of the people who changed the face of the county before the turn of the 20th century. The depot doesn’t actually have a full size engine in the museum but, since it is next to the train tracks, several trains daily go by that guests can watch. It has numerous sizes of model train displays in the building. The depot and the roundhouse next to it used to house thousands of workers as it was the hub for trains coming to California from the east through both the Cajon Pass and the desert routes.
The museum has examples of many of the early day firefighting apparatus which were drawn to the fires, often by human power, since it would take a while to hook up a horse and time is valuable when fighting a fire.
The history of the early days of San Bernardino is also on display and they have cutouts of several historical figures of San Bernardino, including mountain man Billy Holcomb, who discovered gold in these mountains in what is now named Holcomb Valley, near present day Big Bear. The Billy Holcomb chapter of E. Clampus Vitus, which has many members in the mountains, is named for him. One of the past Humbugs of that chapter, who is also a docent at the Mountain History Museum, Gary Bancroft, had his photo taken next to Holcomb’s cutout.
A selection of beautiful old clocks was on display, since times were actually standardized for train schedules, nationwide, as were several switching systems for trains. The story of Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls was displayed. Harvey was contracted to build restaurants along the Santa Fe train line; after about five years, he fired all his male waiters and hired waitresses called Harvey Girls 1883. There were strict rules for maintenance of the restaurants and morals; the Harvey Girls wore uniforms that were a cross between a nurse and a nun. By 1904, they operated lunchrooms in 60 cities and eight hotels along the rails and expanded into Santa Fe train dining cars.
The Harvey House restaurant that opened in 1921 at the Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino was run by Harvey Girls and was known for fine dining.
After the museum tour, many mountain residents on the tour met at The Mexico Café restaurant to socialize together.
The free Mountain History Museum at 27176 Peninsula Drive in Lake Arrowhead will be opening all four days of Memorial Day weekend for the summer season, and then will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday all summer long through October, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The next tour sponsored by the Rim of the World Historical Society is to Pinecrest in Twin Peaks on April 29. To buy the $20 luncheon and tour ticket for the Pinecrest tour, visit the website: https://mtnmuseum.org/product/historic-pine-crest/.