World Building for “Blue Flash”

Now, it there any sort of POD for this world? All I can say is that the following timeline is a work of more ways than one...

Since the initial Blue Flash segment was based on a dream, I figured I might as well keep up the theme and base the world Peter & Rose ended up in on a dream – or dreams, in this case – as well.

In POD 57 I said (in a footnote): “Actually, my "dream L.A." is fairly consistent, in its own bizarre way.” And it is. Apart from some fuzziness in dimensions (“Dream L.A.” is considerably smaller than the real one – at a very rough estimate, it's about one-third to one-tenth the size of the real thing, depending...and that includes the geography), you could map the locations “in” it out fairly regularly for all the dreams I've had the last forty or so years that are set there.

Dream Cahuenga Pass

Dream Cahuenga Pass

Real Cahuenga Pass – note embarrassing lack of heavy forest cover...

Real Cahuenga Pass –
note embarrassing lack of
heavy forest cover...

But there's still that “bizarre way” in there. For all its consistency, it's still a dream. I mean, I've moved/added whole mountain ranges here and there in Dream L.A. (which, technically, is just part of "Dream California" - and that's even more messed up, geographically speaking). Even sticking with the topography that actually exists, well, there is not only no reason, for example, but no physical way for there to be streets and houses almost to the top of Mount Wilson. Meanwhile, Cahuenga Pass is not heavily forested, nor does it have a rest-stop halfway through it.

There's no enormous square reservoir (several miles wide, completely surrounded by a fence) with a thin, two-lane causeway going across it just west of Pomona. Catalina island isn't a one-acre rectangle of concrete with a memorial on it...accessible by bridge from Long Beach. The Ventura Freeway isn't a quiet, two-lane road carved into the side of the hills.


And this is just the broad stuff. It doesn't even bring up the “creative” freeways/roads, secret underground areas (a whole series of bike path following alongside the storm drains. An abandoned underground prison formerly accessed by and elevator from the Mount Lowe Railway, right where it went through a tunnel...which I should point out doesn't exist either), or non-standard weather that will – as I also mentioned in 57 – put heavy snow near where Cal Tech is.

That said, it has influenced some of my AH geography before. Bits of it sorta show up in TrolleyWorld here and there. And now I've used “Dream L.A.” – or more correctly, the “Dream Pasadena” portion of it – as the basis for Peter & Rose's adventures. Since every alternate world needs a name, we'll call it “Pasadena-D.”

Mind you, in order to get this “Dream Pasadena” into a format that at least flirts with reality – Pasadena-D – I had to change some things here and there. Okay, a lot of things here and there. Mostly involving removing some of the wilder interchanges and putting the dimensions back up to those of the real-world – but in spite of this, it actually does pretty closely follow what I “see” when I've got a dream set in Pasadena and the near environs because, fortunately, it most follows reality when I dream it.

Still, while it's not really my Dream-world's “Pasadena”, it is a fictionalized version of it...thus the “the following is a work of fiction” at the beginning of this. Anywho...first, a map:


Lose a few annotations, and this would be a pretty standard "simplified" map of Pasadena on that ATL. Note that the streets and street names are almost the same as in OTL's Pasadena (just different enough to possibly get you really lost if you try using this as a real map) in spite of how unlikely that would be in this alternate because – again – that's how they are when I "dream" them. Pasadena-D's a good bit larger than OTL's Pasadena, because it includes what would be Altadena and some chunks of San Marino.

Now let's simplify even more, giving us the "schematic" version of Pasadena-D. The kind of map you see where they just want to show what things are there and their rough relation to one-another...but don't care too much about actual geographic accuracy or the fact that reality is rarely all nice straight lines and crisp angles:

Pasadena-D Schematic

Transit companies love this kind of map and – in theory – this is what Peter sees when he looks at the back of a phonebook in Pasadena-D, because phone companies love it too. I have other maps as well, many, many, many, many maps (I love making maps), but now comes the tricky bit: Trying to figure out some sort of at least mildly reasonable divergence that gets us to this Pasadena. Yeah, there's going to be a lot of hand-waving...and glossing over...and just plain making stuff up...but here's what I came up with:

Pasadena-D Timeline

May 1786 – Thomas Lincoln dies in an attack by Indians

November 6th, 1860 – William Henry Seward becomes 16th President of the United States. South Carolina promptly succeeds because, really, even on an alternate timeline, it's still South Carolina...

February 1861-October 17th, 1865 – The Civil War. It only runs six months longer than on OTL, but those six months allow Union forces to far more severely tear up the Southern States. Seward's flavor of reconstruction is also ladled with a heavier hand than on OTL.

1865-1879 – Stuff happens.

1879 – Last “occupation” troops removed from the old Confederate states, leaving behind a South with little infrastructure, less industry, and an agricultural system that pretty much qualifies as "subsistence." The largest city south of the Mason/Dixon is New Orleans, and it barely has 125,000 people – one-fourth lower than before the Civil War.

April 1885 – Pasadena founded.

1898 – The “Panic of '98” begins a depression whose effects will not fully end for the next fifteen years. Unemployment (roughly) maxes out at ~22% in 1903.

1914-1919 – “The Great War” in Europe. Unlike on OTL, the U.S. provides very little economic/material assistance to the Allies, nor does it mount an expeditionary force, though many volunteers travel there on their own. The war ends in what is essentially a draw, with all the parties pretty much bankrupt.

1916 – With the U.S. economy (finally) recovering, Huntington builds the grand “Huntington Hotel” just to the north of his estate in Pasadena, partially financed by selling some of his estate along the northeastern and southwestern edges (the "Allen" and "Huntington Drive" blocks). Two years later, in an effort to catch the increasing numbers of people traveling who can't afford his hotel, he hires Cyrus Houston to build an “Auto Camp” on a large block of his land to the north-west of the hotel and south of the site of California Polytechnic (meanwhile, Huntington property around it was transfered to "Huntington Land and Improvement" – a block to the east of the Camp – the "California Block: – and a wide strip of the western edge of the estate that became part of the "Oak Knoll" development).1 In order to give the area a more “campground” air, Houston plants lots of pines and a handful of redwoods to supplement the few dozen oaks already on the property. It becomes a popular tourist destination.

1918-1930 – “Era of Good Times” in the United States. While Europe suffers through a post-war recession/depression, the United States – barely affected by the war – goes through a period of major economic growth, supported mainly – like most such events – by a bubble.

1927 – Upon his death, the remainder of the Huntington Estate is donated jointly to cities of Pasadena and San Marino as a park, with the estate buildings becoming an art museum. The Huntington Hotel, whose grounds were partially on the estate, retains a perpetual lease on those grounds, with payments going to park maintenance. Camp Huntington also leases the land it sits on from the city of Pasadena, but that land is not considered part of the park grounds. The park with its acres of broad grassy hills, botanical gardens, and the museums is promoted as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” by the Pasadena tourist board.

Meanwhile the hotel acquires the "California Block" – really, just a transfer between the Huntington Land and the Hotel company – for future expansion.2

1930-1952 – “The Great Depression.” The bubble pops, and with Europe already in a depression, the United States falls into one just as deep as on OTL, but a lot longer – at least partially due to having to deal with four different presidents during this period, all with mutually conflicting ideas on "how to fix things."

Meanwhile, in Europe, this only makes things worse, economically speaking. On a brighter note, apart from a few small wars in Eastern Europe, there are no major conflicts, since literally no one can afford one. Also, without a war to distract – and with a continuing need to tighten purse strings – the era of Decolonization begins on April 1st, 1942 with the independence of India.

More meanwhile, as the 1940s roll on, Japan's attempts to conquer China slow, stall, then begin to fall back as the sheer cost of the war – to say nothing of the problems involved in a small island capturing all of China – take their toll. It begins a slow pull back to Manchuko as its economy begins a slow pull back to barter. By 1949, even the depression-wracked United States can go “it may be bad here, but at least we're not Japan...”

1932 – Pasadena builds the San Pasqual Dam at a narrowing of the Arroyo just west of downtown as part of the newly formed Western Valley Water District. It forms a reservoir – Lake Pasadena – about two miles long by one-half a mile wide, filling this area of the Arroyo. In concert with the Devil's Gate reservoir built ten years earlier, it will supply/hold water for roughly a quarter of a million people.

La Cañada promotes the nickname “Los Angeles's Vegetable Garden...”

1946-1949 – The Federal government begins building a mixed above ground/subway train from Monrovia to downtown Los Angeles, part of a proposed major upgrade to the Los Angeles area's slowly crumbling Pacific Electric trolley system. The above-ground section is completed, under the name “Los Angeles & Pacific Railroad,” but the subway project is canceled by the next administration with only the section from one end of Pasadena to the other completed.

September 7th, 1948 – The first of what will become a series of ever growing civil rights marches takes place in Harrisonburg, Virginia, following that state's refusal to abide by the Supreme Court's ruling striking down segregation of public schools. Over the next decade, marches that at times grow as large as a quarter of a million people will take place, mainly in the south, but in spots as diverse as California, Washington and Michigan as well. Especially at first, many marches are the subject of violence from the cities they march through, but this decreases as time goes on.

1952 – The Great Depression is declared over in the United States (though in many rural areas, the change is barely noticeable). However, the economy still only grows slowly and after two almost back to back big depressions, three generations of Americans are quite skeptical about just how “over” over is. Savings will grow immensely during the next fifteen years, but spending will not. Which is nice on an individual level, but which puts its own drag on the recovery. In the United States, unlike on OTL during the same period, the main theme is not on getting “the latest and greatest,” but on getting “the ruggedest and longest lasting” – because no one is sure whether or not what they buy will be the last one they can ever afford to...

1955 – A combined Soviet/Chinese force pushes the last of the Japanese out of China and Manchuria and back into Korean territory. By now a hollow shell, the Japanese economy collapses in such a way as to make the just ending Great Depression in the U.S. look like a mild recession. Within a year, the Koreans and Taiwanese have throw off their rule and Japan itself has collapsed into a mass of civil conflict.

Many refugees from this swell the Japanese population in Southern California, increasing it (by 1965) to almost a quarter of a million. The village of Furusato on Terminal island expands so much (to 22,000) it incorporates in 1963.3

1956 – Completion of the Pasadena Freeway from the western edge of Pasadena to Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood.

1958 – Sears builds a new store on the eastern edge of Pasadena, near the MTA rail line, about a mile and a half east of the subway portal.

February 5th, 1959 – The Civil Rights Act is passed – barely – banning “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

June, 1962 – First atomic bomb test in United States, followed less than two months later by a similar test in the Soviet Union.

There was always a small amount of nuclear research going on in both countries. In the U.S. it was mostly looking towards power generation, of course, but the Soviets did more military research, what with the long simmering border conflict with Japan to worry about. In 1952, the Soviets started their bomb program, with several western European countries following soon after. The U.S. got into this area of atomics late, in 1957, when it looked like both the Soviets and those Western European nations were soon going to have atomic bombs. And while there was no current conflict between either of the two groups and the US (or between the U.S. and anyone else, for that matter), it did seem destabilizing enough that Washington thought, “maybe we should have one too.”

The U.S. program then actually caught up and passed the Soviets (and the British/French programs – which were still a good nine months away from things going boom at the time) to be the first to test a bomb, if only just (the Soviet bomb was tested seven weeks later). By 2010, the United States has a good two, three-hundred atomic bombs and a fleet of ninety atomic bombers...just in case.

Still, with no real areas of conflict between the the U.S. and USSR (something helped by an inward facing United States), no actual Cold War develops – though a mild one between Western Europe and the USSR certainly does.

1965 – With no troops coming through L.A. on their way to the Pacific front on this TL (and going “hey, this would be a nice place to move to after the war...”), population in Los Angeles County is just two-third's of what it is on OTL in the same year – about four-point-four million. This “just two-third's” figure will continue on until the present day (actually becoming a smaller percentage of OTL's as time goes by, due to a California that doesn't build the California Aqueduct), with L.A. County ending up with a 2010 population of only six million – about the same as our TL's in 1960.

California as a whole does slightly better percentage-wise, but still is only at twenty-six million (compared to OTL's thirty-seven) in 2010.

1969 – The last Pacific Electric line (the Long Beach line, long run by MTA) is shut down, followed six months later by the last L.A. Railway one. The only electrical railways still operating in the Los Angeles Basin are the MTA's own Pasadena/Monrovia line – no longer called the “Los Angeles & Pacific” (but still receiving Federal funding) – and an industrial line in Torrance, itself a remnant of the P.E.4

1970 – The San Francisco World's Fair celebrates 1970 as “The Year of the Transistor.” Huntington Hotel properties expand, finally using that land they got a half-century before for just such an expansion. They build a second hotel about half a mile away from the original, along California Blvd (and next to the Auto Camp) called the “Californian.”

1978 – Pasadena builds the “Grass Mall” and the accompanying “Indian Hotel” east of downtown along Main Street on the old Southern Pacific railyard, which had been sitting empty for twenty years. Meanwhile downtown proper experiences a growth of new – larger – buildings.

1979 – April 15th (no deductibles jokes please), Peter Myles born.

        U.S. oil production peaks.

1980 – January 23rd, Alyson Reynolds born.

1980 – February 16th, Rose Greenwood born.

1982The Foothill Freeway, originating in San Bernadino, reaches the eastern side of Pasadena. Plans to connect it to the old Pasadena Freeway, however, flounder due to the city suing to prevent a corridor being taken by eminent domain. The suits will drag on for the next twenty-five years before the California Department of Roads gives up and routes a new freeway (really, an extension of the 19) starting about five miles to the east of Pasadena south to connect the Foothill (66) and San Gabriel Valley (10) Freeways. It is scheduled to be finished in 2012...

1983 – The “Oil Shock” causes a two-year recession worldwide.

1985 – MTA begins a restoration of several sections of old Pacific Electric track, mostly either in use by the Southern Pacific or laying abandoned in states ranging from simple empty right-of-ways, to intact-except-for-electrical-equipment-and-overhead sections of rail line. These, along with creation of some new lines to tie it together, are planned to link to the badly underused (and badly in need of some repair itself) MTA Pasadena/Monrovia line...but this won't end up happening for years.

1992 – The “Los Angeles Metropolitan Rail System,” (sometimes referred to jokingly as “ The New Pacific Electric”) is now operating with about one-hundred and twenty miles of track and has calls for expansion. But all the easy restorations have already been done and it will be years before funds are available to do more than double-track a few miles and add a station or two – something that leaves the Pasadena/Monrovia line still unconnected to the rest of the network.

The Mount Lowe Preservation Committee forms to begin pressuring the County to rebuild the Mount Lowe Railway (abandoned since 1949) both for historical reasons and as a renewed tourist draw to Pasadena. It will be fifteen years before any work is actually started, though and that will be done by the committe itself, as the County still has no interest in using its funds for the project.

2007 – Work begins – very slowly – on the restoration of the Mount Lowe Railway. While some thought is given to running a new line down from the mouth of the canyon to the subway line in downtown Pasadena – or at least, near the subway line – eventually a simple parking area is built at the top of Prospect in the “Altadena” area of Pasadena. Planned completion date is 2012...but that date is likely to slip.

2010 – The addition of three new lines brings the New P.E. Up to nearly two-hundred and ten miles, A further nine lines – eighty miles of extensions – are planned, though only two lines (the Los Angeles to Pasadena and Pasadena/Alhambra lines) are currently under construction.

2012 – Work is nearly completed on the Pasadena/Alhambra line, though it has stalled out once again on the LA to Pasadena one in favor of the San Gabriel River and Glendale cutoff lines. And on September 20th, 2012, a certain Peter Myles and Rose Greenwood are replaced by Peter Myles and Rose Greenwood...

Now here's the “logic” – such as it is – behind this timeline. Remember, I'm trying to make a dream follow some sort of sense here...

“Dream L.A.” has a lot fewer people in it than the real one. There's more empty space, there's still farms and orchards and such here and there. Heck, bits that are dense city on OTL are (unlikely) forests or flower farms (those are down in Long Beach)!

So the basic idea of all this is to get a Southern California with a lot fewer people in it.

Simplest way to do this – while still retaining a good resemblance to OTL – was to both eliminate WWII, thus greatly diminishing the number of post-war move-ins, and to make California poorer so that the California Aqueduct doesn't get built, which further reduces SoCal's attractiveness to immigrants.

Making California poorer dove-tailed in with making the U.S. poorer as well. With less money, the U.S. doesn't get involved in World War I and probably would have tried to stay out of WWII had there been one on that timeline. I basically did this by making for a slightly more destructive Civil War and by making a couple of recessions full blown depressions and then lengthening the Great Depression. “Dream L.A.” has a lot more older buildings, abandoned structures, and un-torn-out Pacific Electric remnants than the real one because a poorer U.S. means they can't afford to replace stuff as often and just because something's abandoned, doesn't mean there's money to tear it out. And it has a culture of building/buying things that last...because they're never sure they'll be able to buy whatever that thing is again.

Mind you, all these changes are probably enough to make Pasadena even more unrecognizable from OTL (assuming there's a Pasadena at all) than “Pasadena-D” is, but, hey, I said there'd be a lot of hand-waving...

...suggestions, BTW, welcome...