At first glance, you may think that you’re approaching a California ghost town from the 1800s after driving along the lonely Sierra Highway, but it’s actually the Vincent Grade/Acton Metrolink Station, with facades that evoke a feeling of the Old West.
The station was built in just two weeks, and opened on Jan. 31, 1994, just 14 days after the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake. The Vincent Grade/Acton station is one of six stations Metrolink built immediately after the quake to help commuters who were impacted by the freeway closures as a result. While the station was part of the plan to connect the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys to the west San Fernando Valley, the plan was accelerated by nearly 10 years as a response to the quake.
When the Vincent Grade/Acton Station was rebuilt as a permanent structure in late 1999, it was designed to pay homage to Acton’s history as an Old West mining town. Acton was founded by gold miners of the Red Rover Mine in 1887. Acton was even once considered to be the new capital for the state, but that effort never materialized past the dreams of then Governor Henry T. Gage (1899-1903). While the boom of the gold rush ended, many residents remained in the area because of its rural charm and some of their original buildings can still be found today.
In addition to Acton’s history as an old mining town, the Vincent Grade/Acton station pays homage to the film history of the region. The Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys have a long history as an integral part of the film industry. Many studios owned acres and acres of land strictly for the purpose of filming. These “movie ranches,” as they are known, contained entire towns ranging from different time periods, depending on the purpose of the films. These towns included homes, hotels, gas stations, saloons and bars, and whatever a film project may have needed, and were built as facades – full exteriors that sometimes had no backside whatsoever.
The Vincent Grade/Acton station has three structures to tie into the western theme, each of which is a façade. The structures are designed as a general store, a hotel and mission (which are modeled after adobe-style buildings), and a train depot. Barrel trashcans, wooden posts and handrails, foot operated water fountains, and wagon wheels tie the western theme together to create one of the simplest, but most unique Metrolink stations in the area.
The Vincent Grade/Acton station made headlines when it opened a second platform in September 2016. The expansion enhanced safety, reduced idling and emissions, and leads to shorter commutes and fewer service delays. To celebrate the expansion, a Western-themed dedication ceremony took place, complete with the Santa Fe 3751, which was the first steam locomotive to travel north of Los Angeles in 24 years.
For more information about the station, visit metrolinktrains.com.