Scene It Before: East Los Angeles Union Pacific Train Station from The Postman Always Rings Twice

The abandoned railroad depot makes two appearances in the 1946 classic

In honor of the Halloween season, I’ve been delving into noir. I just watched The Postman Always Rings Twice, Tay Garnett’s 1946 classic about femme fatale Cora Smith (Lana Turner) who conspires with her boyfriend, Frank Chambers (John Garfield), to kill her husband, Nick (Cecil Kellaway). Though it takes Cora and Frank two very dramatic tries, the couple finally succeeds at the task, but the murder, of course, comes back to haunt them.

It is amazing how cool the film screens 69 years after it was shot—especially Lana Turner’s clothing. I would give my eyeteeth to wear pretty much any outfit she dons in the flick!

Some of The Postman’s locations also withstood the test of time. The one I was most excited to discover was the now abandoned East Los Angeles Union Pacific Train Station located at 5480 Ferguson Drive in Commerce. I’ve mentioned before that there are few things I love more in this world than abandoned places and this one did not disappoint.

East Los Angeles Union Pacific Train Station was constructed in 1928 by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who also fashioned the world-famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The Spanish Revival-style depot’s design was marked with cast stone ornamentation, carved columns, red tile roofing, and painted wood beam ceilings.

The train station in September 2015
The train station in September 2015

Photograph courtesy Lindsay Blake

Today, the station, which shuttered in 1987, sits boarded-up behind a chain link fence in the parking lot of the United Healthcare Workers West building. Though now dilapidated, the former beauty of the once grand structure is still apparent beneath its cracked patina. You can see photographs of the depot when it was operational on the Calisphere Web site.

East Los Angeles Union Pacific Train Station appears two times in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Towards the end of the film, Cora learns that her mother has had a heart attack and decides to visit her in Iowa. The depot is shown in the scene in which Cora departs and the scene in which she returns from her trip. The depot’s rear side, which is currently inaccessible, is visible in both segments.

The future of the station appears to be uncertain, but I am thankful it has not yet gone the way of another famous Spanish-style noir train depot, the former Burbank Southern Pacific Station from Double Indemnity. That structure once stood at 201 North Front Street but was partially burned down in 1991 and then completely demolished a few years later. Today, the art-deco-style Burbank Metrolink Station exists on that site, with only the ghosts of the former Southern Pacific depot remaining behind.

Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.