Who rode the Mount Lowe Railway? Everyone, from famous folks to ordinary tourists; from foreign visitors to local residents. The Mount Lowe Echo and the Mount Lowe Daily News printed the names and home locations of each day’s guests. On August 24, 1929, the Daily News recorded 179 visitors from 14 states, the protectorate of Hawaii, Mexico, England, Columbia, and Canada, demonstrating Mount Lowe’s broad appeal. You can read about one English visitor’s experience in “A Trip to Mount Lowe in 1898.
In 1894, General Lew Wallace, the soldier, diplomat and author was guided through Echo Mountain and Mount Lowe by Professor and Mrs. Lowe. As recorded in the Mount Lowe Echo, Wallace and his party were extremely impressed by the experience. Henry Ford made more than one trip up the mountain and was one of photographer Charles Lawrence’s favorite visitors. (Lawrence wasn’t so fond of populist politician William Jennings Bryan whom he found arrogant and self-satisfied).
While in the area, he stayed with his sister, who lived on Alameda Street in Altadena (the house is still standing). Zane Grey spent part of his honeymoon on Mount Lowe. D.C Heath, the schoolbook publisher was another noted visitor, as was Mrs. Eaton, sister-in-law of former president Benjamin Harrison. Publisher Harry Chandler took a group of eastern newspaper men up the Mount Lowe Railway in 1901, and 1907 saw Henry Huntington hosting the Sunset Club on an overnight trip to the Alpine Tavern for their annual high jinks outing.
Most of the railroad riders, however, were ordinary tourists or local residents. Newspaper articles of the time told of parties, proposals and honeymoons at the resorts. More recent articles featured the recollections of some of these visitors. “It scared the wits out of you,” recalled Noel Robinson who was ten when he sold enough copies of the Saturday Evening Post to win a trip on the Mount Lowe Railway. The Pasadena Star-News reprinted a chapter of “Little Journeys to our Western Wonderland,” a 1907 textbook by Felix J. Koch, which told of one journey to the top of Mount Lowe and back. Read “Altadena Calling.”
William Bassler worked at a feed store to save enough money for him and his mother to take the trip. “The round trip fare was $2.50, and you know what $5 was to a boy in those days. But I was convinced it would be well spent.” Read more about his journey in “The Climb to Cloud Land.” And 16-year-old Virginia Bagnard told of her 1932 ride with her aunt, who worked for Pacific Electric. “It was exciting and dangerous,” she said. “You’ve seen the pictures – we were out there over nothing. It was a beautiful day and you could see all over the valley.”