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1950 -1979 Historic Dates in San Bernardino and The Railroad:


March 02, 1950 - Norton Air Force Base


The base began as Municipal Airport San Bernardino in July 1942.  Over time the name was changed to San Bernardino Army Air Field, San Bernardino Air Field and San Bernardino Air Force Base.  On March 2, 1950, the base was renamed Norton Air force Base in honor of Captain Leland F. Norton.  

Leland Norton was born in San Bernardino on March 12, 1921, and attended local schools until he joined the Canadian Air Force in August 1941.  In May 1942, he transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Captain Norton, an A-20 pilot and Deputy Commander of the 640th Bomb Squadron, was shot down over France on May 27, 1944.  

Captain Norton was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his heroic actions and is buried in San Bernardino at Mountain View Cemetery.

Click here for a photo history of Captain Norton and Norton Air Force Base.

Click here to link to the Norton Air force Base Museum.


November 19, 1954 - Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990)On November 19, 1954, Sammy Davis Jr., was returning to Los Angeles from Las Vegas when he crashed into a car that was backing up into his lane.

The accident occurred near the intersection of Cajon Boulevard (Route 66) and Kendall Drive.  Davis and his valet were rushed to San Bernardino County Hospital and later to Community Hospital, on 4th and Arrowhead.

That evening, the well-known eye surgeon Frederick Hull operated on Sammy's eye.  Dr. Hull had to remove Davis' left eye and install a prosthetic socket in its place. Later a glass eye was installed.

Sammy was released on November 28, promising to return to do a benefit show when the new community hospital was built.  Sammy then spent the next couple of weeks at Frank Sinatra's house in Palm Springs.  

On November 15, 1958, Sammy returned to San Bernardino for his benefit show.  The 7,500 seat Swing Auditorium at the National Orange Show was sold out.  

Sammy opened the show and later Judy Garland sang several of her hit songs.  Many of Hollywood's most famous stars were in attendance for this performance.  

In the 1960s Davis was a leading member of the famous Rat Pack, consisting of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.

Sammy Davis Jr. become a superstar and when he passed away, the lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor.


July 27, 1957 - Arrowhead-shaped Pool

Aerial postcard view circa 1978, showing the arrowhead-shaped pool on the front lawn of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel. (Mark Landis Collection)

"On May 1, 1951, officials from the Hilton Hotels Corporation announced that the company would take a 10-year lease on the Arrowhead Springs Hotel...

"The Hilton era at Arrowhead Springs came to a close in August of 1956, when Benjamin Swig announced that his Fairmont Hotel Corporation was purchasing the hotel.  Swig was an experienced local hotel man, and his chain of establishments included the Mission Inn at Riverside, and the Fairmont Hotel at San Francisco...

"Swig began a new [$2,000,000] remodeling campaign soon after he took over, and his son Richard, and hotel manager Charles Kern were put in charge of the project.

"On July 27, 1957, a dedication ceremony was held for the most notable part of the project, a new arrowhead-shaped pool built on the hotel's front lawn.

"Clad in swim trunks, actor Hugh O'Brian from the popular TV series "Wyatt Earp" was surrounded by bathing beauties including Miss U.S.A. and contestants from the Miss Universe pageant.  The group cut the wide scarlet ribbon that stretched across the front of the pool.

"State Senator James E. Cunningham, Sr. also participated in the ribbon cutting and approximately 200 people including numerous photographers were poolside for the event.  The beautiful new 60' x 40' pool was only a few yards from the hotel, and it quickly became a favorite for the hotel guests."

-  Extracted from the book, Arrowhead Springs - California's Ideal Resort by Mark Landis.

-  For local history publications see http://landispublications.com/ 


August 27, 1957 - ATSF 3780

ATSF 3780 (4-8-4) in San Bernardino on March 7, 1948 (Yahoo/Cajon Pass Discussion Group)

The above photograph was taken in San Bernardino just nine years before ATSF 3780's historic last run.

On Aug. 27, 1957, ATSF 5021 (2-10-4) and ATSF 3780 (4-8-4) were used as helpers through the Abo Pass between Belen and Mountainair, New Mexico.  No. 5021 returned to Belen first, followed by No. 3780, making ATSF 3780 the last Santa Fe steam locomotive to perform revenue service for the Santa Fe.  ATSF 5021 was the last of its class (2-10-4) to see revenue service.

Santa Fe kept some big steam laid-up-good-order until 1959, just in case they needed it during a traffic surge. The only Santa Fe steam operations in 1956 and 1957 had been on the Abo helper district in New Mexico and only during the summer peak season.

ATSF 3780 was scrapped on May 4, 1959. 

ATSF 5021 (2-10-4) and 2925 (4-8-4), which last helped a train over the pass in 1956, were "held for posterity" in the Belen roundhouse.  In 1981, the engines were moved to Albuquerque where Santa Fe was housing a collection of historic diesels.  

In 1986, the engines went to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA.  The Museum had neither the facilities nor the resources to properly house, restore or care for all of the engines.  ATSF 5021 and many of the Santa Fe historical collection are stored outside, and most of them out of public view.


May 14, 1958 - A Day to Remember

ATSF 3751 was moved into Viaduct Park (just west of the Santa Fe Depot) on May 14, 1958.  Attached to the front of the steam locomotive is a push car with an air compressor mounted upon it.  The compressor supplies air to the air brakes on the locomotive.

3751 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in May 1927 at a cost of $99,713, and was the first 4-8-4 built for Santa Fe.  

The engine was retired in August, 1953, and was donated to the City of San Bernrdino in 1958 for display in Viaduct Park.  The locomotive remained there until 1986 when she was moved to the former Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana.  There, the restoration was completed after countless hours of work by dedicated volunteers of the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society and at a cost of more than $700,000.

The locomotive began her second life as a steam excursion locomotive when she was charted to pull the "California Limited" from Los Angeles to Bakersfield and return in December of 1991.  Since then, the locomotive has pulled numerous excursions to destinations including Chicago, Sacramento, San Diego and the Grand Canyon.

3751 was in San Bernardino in June of 2004 for the dedication ceremonies at the completion of the restoration of the 1918 Santa Fe Depot.  The locomotive has pulled an excursion train from Los Angeles to San Bernardino and return every year from 2010 to 2014 for San Bernardino Railroad Days.

Today, 3751 is stored in Los Angeles at Redondo Junction.

Click here to learn more about 3751 and the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society.


March 27, 1971 - USS San Bernardino

USS San Bernardino, LST-1189, is a Tank Landing Ship and was one of 20 Newport Class LSTs (Photo courtesy of DefenseImagery.Mil)

*  The USS San Bernardino, LST -1189, (named in honor of the City of San Bernardino) was commissioned on March 27, 1971. 

*  The ship was 522 feet long, 70 feet wide, had a top speed of 22 knots (25 mph) and was assigned the home port of San Diego, CA.

*  Its crew consisted of 14 officers and 210 enlisted crew members. 

*  The ship carried 29 tanks & 350 combat troops while helicopters operated off the aft deck.

*  The ship was armed with the 20mm Phalanx system and 2 twin 3-inch/50-caliber guns.

*  The ship saw service in Vietnam and Desert Storm, was decommissioned on September 30, 1995, was sold to Chile and renamed Valdivia.

*  Photographs and memoribilia from the ship and its crew can be seen in the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum.

(Photo taken in Coronado, CA, by John Lawlor) Offloading Its Cargo


*  As the ship approaches shore or a landing dock, the bow of the ship will separate into two halves.


*  A moveable ramp that has been stored on the ship's deck will be lowered to meet with the ground or dock.


*  A fixed gantry extending upward and forward from the ship will use a series of steel cables to support the moveable deck.


*  When in place the moveable deck will used to rapidly offload 29 tanks and 350 combat troops.


January 1, 1978 - SB's First Rose Parade Float

*  In 1978, the City of San Bernardino entered its first float in the Rose Parade (the 89thyear of the Parade).

*  The City's float was titled, "Gateway to Early California"

*  ...and it won the Pioneers Trophy.