How an ‘ancient landslide’ keeps threatening a railroad, homes in San Clemente and cities like Tucson
In 2009, a 1,500ft-long (457-metre) boulder fell from the side of a cliff in the Los Rios Desert and smashed into the side of a railroad bridge, which led to the collapse of the overpass.
“I’m not afraid of heights!” laughed one man standing in the middle of the tracks, as he looked down on the pile of rock that was left as a result of what happened.
A small group of people waited to see if the bridge would collapse. As the debris collapsed, it would fall on the group. One man decided to jump, and he was later saved by another. The rest of the group, who were safe and unhurt, celebrated as best they could.
“I thought this was an interesting experiment,” says Dr. Greg J. DeMuro, author of The Endangered Train: How L.A. is being destroyed by a modern industrial civilization and how we might respond.
You can feel his love of old train tracks. Dr. DeMuro is a long-time rail-fanatic and long-time railway preservationist and historian. “[He] loves railroading and building and maintenance,” says Chris Brainerd, the director of the Los Angeles Railway Museum (LARM). “This is his passion. And that’s how he came to love the railway.”
When asked about his love of railroads and history, Dr. DeMuro pauses for a moment and then says, “I really just like trains more than anything.”
“When you look at the railroads in California, they’re really just about the rails and the wheels,” explains Dr. DeMuro. “Not about the history. The history is a very small part, so the historical preservation and the maintenance of the railroad is more important. The fact that I did a Ph.D. in historic preservation is not a coincidence. I don’t like the word’rebuilding’. It was more about the people’s preservation of the railroad and the history of the railroad.”