The 1971 Lang Station Earthquake?

There are some pictures that are very unsettling for residents of Santa Clarita to see. Take this one for example:

This is the collapsed interchange for the 5 and 14 freeways just south of the city, taken shortly after the Sylmar Earthquake occurred on February 9, 1971. (The interchange would collapse again during 1994’s Northridge Earthquake.)

This 6.6 tremor happened along the San Fernando Fault just after 6:00 AM. It destroyed two hospitals, nearly ruptured the Van Norman Dam, and claimed 65 lives.

While commonly called the Sylmar Earthquake, because that was the site of much of the damage, it’s officially called the San Fernando Earthquake, where 49 of the fatalities occurred at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

In truth, it could just as easily have been called the Lang Station Earthquake, because the epicenter for the temblor was neither in San Fernando or Sylmar, but a few miles north, across the San Gabriel Mountains just outside of Canyon Country, close to the former site of the historic Lang railroad station.

While the transcontinental railroad had its “golden spike” ceremony at Promotory Point, Utah in 1869, connecting the eastern and western halves of the country together, California had a similar ceremony seven years later. It was here at Lang Station on September 5, 1876 that the rail line connecting northern and southern California was linked.

It’s ironic that the spot where California was tied together economically in 1876, is the same place where it tried to tear itself apart 95 years later.

The Doobie Brothers took advantage of this downed overpass near Sylmar for the cover of "The Captain and Me" in 1973.


About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

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