The Rindge Malibu Railroad

Brian Merrick | November 10, 2021

Workers on the Rindge Railroad
Ever wonder why the Amtrak train which travels the coast of California along the water throughout the State does not go along the Malibu Beaches?
San Juan Capistrano, Santa Barbara, Ventura and even the Hollister Ranch which has no public access, have trains running through and next to the beach but not Malibu. That is because May Rindge the wife of the Fredrick Rindge who owned all of Malibu fought to keep the public out and found a loophole in the law that forced the Southern Pacific Railroad to go around the Santa Monica Mountains and through the Valley to get from Los Angeles to Ventura County. May Rindge wanted most of all to be left alone to run her Rancho Malibu in peace.
In 1904, the Southern Pacific Railroad applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission to build tracks linking the Long Wharf in Santa Monica with their northern tracks at Santa Barbara. The route proposed was a straight line right through Malibu. ICC law prevented condemning a right-of-way parallel to an already existing railroad, so the Rindge's built a private railroad through Rancho Malibu to keep the Standard Pacific Railroad out. Completed in 1908, this 15 mile railway was built.
It was called the Hueneme, Malibu and Port Los Angeles Railway, the tracks stretched from Las Flores to Yerba Buena. The railway was used to ship goods from the Malibu Pier and move supplies around the ranch, although its main purpose was to keep the bigger railroad from obtaining right-of-way access to the private lands of the Malibu. The railway was in use until about 1920, and completely dismantled by 1942. The route was mainly along the beach. When it reached Paradise Cove and into the Point it crossed several large bridges shown in the photos. It then crossed Zumirez out along the bluffs and to the point at Big Dume. Along Birdview it began to drop down toward Westward Beach.
If you look carefully at the bluff along Birdview above Point Dume State Beach parking lot you can see half way down the bluff a flat carved out portion of the bluff where the tracks used to run. I can remember as a child for many years there were sections of the track that stuck out of the cliffs above the access road to that parking lot. I used to sit in the back seat of the car and look up at those and think about the railroad and how it must have been pretty cool to ride the rails through Malibu. Later the rails were removed and given to my father and we still have a set of rails at my property.
I also can remember that in the Sea Level Neighborhood above Broad Beach when big winter storms with high surf would erode the beach and reveal sections of the tracks in that area. Other friends of mine would find the tracks in Bonsall cyn and Sea Lane below Paradise Cove. I don't know if any finds have been made lately but I am sure there will still be some hidden tracks somewhere that might reveal themselves in the future. A lot of the tracks were deconstructed and used in the building of the Ridge Dam in Malibu Canyon. Just another long gone historical fact of Malibu that we had our own railroad and that made the Malibu coast area the only part of Southern California that is today free of railroad traffic.
The Rindge Railroad at Paradise Cove

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