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When the trains came to town

April 16, 2005


Trains played a vital role in shaping the development of the United

States, especially the West. They offered a reliable way to transport

people and goods across great distances at affordable prices. Trains

provided unheard-of mobility and opportunities for people in the late

19th and early 20th centuries. One person to take advantage of the

mobility and opportunities that trains offered was Dr. David Burbank.


In 1871, Dr. Burbank successfully cleared title to more than 9,000

acres of land that were known as Rancho San Rafael and Rancho La

Providencia. He knew that trains running through his property would

transform the land from a sleepy sheep and wheat ranch into a

bustling town. In February 1873, he sold Southern Pacific Railroad a

right-of-way to run through his property for $1. Trains were running

by the following year. The trains, as Dr. Burbank had predicted,

catapulted the town into an economic frenzy of activity.

While trains have been running through Burbank since 1874, it was

not until 1929 that Burbank had a grand train depot. Opened in 1929

at a cost of $21,000, the train depot had Spanish Colonial Revival

architecture, a departure from the typical Victorian depots that

dotted the country. It was a grand station for a town that had a

population of just over 16,000 in 1930.

Train depots were important at the time, as they provided people

with their first impressions of their chosen destination. Burbank's

train depot would not disappoint them.

Passengers stepped off the train onto a platform to face a Spanish

stucco building with a red tile roof that included five identical

arches with recessed Palladian windows with elaborate trim. The trim

consisted of lavender, yellow and green glazed tiles. Also found was

a band of acanthus-leaf terra cotta. "Burbank" was painted above the

center arch, which served as the main entrance illuminated by a plain

metal light fixture. The west and east entrances were identical in


Wooden double doors that welcomed people into the spacious waiting

room flanked the main entrance. Diagonally red tiles covered the

floor, and the plaster walls above the wooden paneling were scored to

give the appearance of individual blocks. Terra-cotta trim decorated

the edges of the windows. Comfortable furnishings and a concession

allowed visitors to relax comfortably before or after their journey.

The south wing of the building provided a covered outdoor waiting

area that had three openings facing west, toward the railroad tracks,

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