The Maguire Family and Mount Lowe

From John Maguire comes this fascinating bit of family history and imagery from his personal collection.

Read on from his correspondence with us:


I have a photo taken of one of the Mt Lowe cars taken by my Grandfather. Two of my Great Uncles were Mt Lowe Railway employees and both are shown in the photo — one is at the controls. Their Uncle (my Great-Great Uncle was an investor). I was wondering if someone could tell me where exactly on the line the photo was taken, also if any employee or investor records have survived?

Thank you for getting back to me.

First a bit of background.

My paternal Grandfather, Ira H.B. Maguire, who was born in 1876 in Ontario, Canada, passed in 1950 (before I was born). As a young man he had worked as a ‘boomer machinist’ for various railways in Canada, Mexico and the US including the Southern Pacific Railway and Santa Fe Railways in Arizona and California. By March 1902 he was working in the LA area (see attached employment record). His older brothers A.E. Wallis Maguire b. 1871 and James Harvey C Maguire b. 1873 were already living in California. Their Uncle Joseph Choate Maguire had also been living there (near Redlands) until his death in 1895.

My late father had told me that Wallis had invested in something called “the incline railway” in LA after marrying his late Uncle Joseph’s much younger widow. Eventually Wallis lost most of her inheritance when the project went under. I had always assumed this was a sort of electric tram right in LA that maybe took paying pedestrians up a small incline just as I have seen in Europe (eg. Zagreb, Croatia). Over the years I had talked to Dad about the story but he could tell me no more. Neither of us had ever been to California.

When my Dad’s elder brother passed in 2006 we inherited a box of old photos that had been my Grandpa Ira’s. Last year while working on our family tree I started to go through the box which contains photos of Ira’s time in Arizona and California mostly from the 1901-02 period (some are dated). In amongst them, I found this small snapshot of what looked to me like a trolley car – no caption (see first attachment).

I believe my Grandfather would have taken this photo. Comparing the photo with other photos of J. Harvey and Wallis, it is clear to me that the conductor (the only person in the photo who is actually looking at the camera) is indeed my Uncle Harvey. Moreover, the tall man standing on the ground just in the front with his left arm holding the rail appears to be my other Great Uncle Wallis.

Then I discovered a few other things. Echo Mt was listed as Harvey’s address on the marriage licence when he married a Canadian woman in 1898. Echo Mt was also the site for their wedding.

Also in Jan 1900 the US Census was showing both Wallis and Harvey’s occupations as “Electric RR Conductor”. That census lists their residence as Pasadena but the Census index states the location as Echo Mt. Other persons on the page seem to be involved in the same endeavours.

Harvey next makes an appearance in the records in 1906 when he is appointed Postmaster at Echo Mountain but by 1910 he is living in Nome, Alaska — a late Goldrush entrant. The same (1910) census shows that Wallis was by that date a Fruit Farm owner living in Santa Ana Ward 3, Orange, California. So both brothers are clearly ‘out’ of the Railway’s employ by that date.

Then I started googling the terms “Echo Mountain” and “incline railway” and at eventually discovered that there had been a Mount Lowe Railway established in the Mount Echo area in the right time frame and that this was possibly the incline railway my father had told me about. I eventually made my way to your webpage, and I now see there is also a photo of a car #9 although that one seems to have no canopy?

So that is the background. I have enclosed the photo of the trolley car, the census page, marriage references, postmaster reference and the employment record that puts my Grandfather Ira in LA in 1902.

So, I have a few questions I was hoping you might help with:

1. Can you confirm that this is a photo of one of the cars that was actually in use by the Mount Lowe Railway?
2. If yes, when approximately would this car have been in service and where on the rail line route do you think the photo was taken? Could it be 1902?
4. Do you know if any employee records survived?
5. Do you know if any lists of investors exists?

Thank you for any assistance you may be able to provide! I am attending a wedding in Palm Springs in June and plan to rent a car and take a drive to Echo Mountain to hike the ruins. Confirming my family connection to the site would be wonderful so any help you can provide would be much appreciated.

Wallis had originally come to the US in order to fight in the Spanish American War. His naturalization papers indicate that he crossed the border (Kootenay River) by row-boat at Jennings, Montana in 1898. He had been at Fort Steele, British Columbia (presumably hoping to cash in on that town’s mineral rush of 1897). Wallis later served in the Philippines Campaign with Co B of the 1st Regiment of the Washington State Infantry. His service medals are in my possession.

Harvey did not strike it rich in Nome Alaska. However, he stayed on in Alaska for many years to teach school and study native bird life. He sent a couple of small ivory Inuit sculptures to his brother Ira’s children which are still in our possession.

Wallis and his wife Emma had no children and died at Glendale in 1942. Harvey had one son (James) but James died without issue so neither man have any living descendants. I am including larger photos of both men.

A few weeks ago I was over at my mother’s house and was looking at my Grandfather Ira’s collection of spoons from each place he worked. There is one for LA. The spoon handle is a set of Railway tracks — and yes in small print it reads Mt Lowe railway!

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