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Barnsdall Models

Everybody knows and loves this beautiful old building. We have for decades. And we are all waiting patiently for the city to save it.

Over the years, countless artists have made their renditions of the little gas station with world class architecture.

But recently, a viewer told us they had seen a model of the Barnsdall station in an old Model Railroader magazine! This we had to see…..

Without too much effort, we found it and ordered up a copy ASAP. It was a Model Railroader magazine from April 1979.

The author, Carl Jacobsen, describes how he stumbled across the station one day and had no idea what it was. He snuck through the barbed wire fence, through the tall weeds and found an old receipt book on the ground. A “wrinkled carbon copy” said that on October 21, 1934, the Rio Grande Oil Inc. sold 23 gallons of gas to Perkins Cement Co. for 14 cents a gallon. That’s when the author realized it was an old gas station….

One of the great things about this article was it provided several photos of the old station back in 1979. Obviously, it was in much better shape than it is now. The author continues to say that he contacted Santa Barbara’s noted historian, Walker Tompkins, and learned all about the history of the building.

Around the back, the author peers over the 5 foot wall and sees “old oil cans, rusty mufflers, and worn out tires”. Look what great shape the tiles were in back then!

He took an oil can home to copy the company trademark on the model he was going to make for his train set. He says he was going to make it the “mysterious Spook House” of his layout….

He must have spent a lot of time there, because he goes into great detail about the building and surrounding area, with exact measurements and beautiful drawings of every little thing.

Fun to see what was still around the property in 1979.

Next is a very informative walk through of how to build it and what materials he recommends.

The author really studied every detail in order to build his model, and he even mocks the construction workers that built the station, pointing out several mistakes. But finishes by saying this little station could be the “shining jewel” of your model railroad layout.

Overall a fun find about a local treasure, and some great photos of its condition in 1979.

Not long after getting the magazine, I saw this picture in a Facebook post! I contacted the poster, Pam Dudash, and she explained her brother Mike Dudash had built it from scratch using resin.

So, I talked to Mike and learned he used this very same magazine article for the dimensions. Quite a coincidence! He made about 20 of these and sold them around town.

In fact, one of his models made it to City Hall! Mayor Perotte sent us this photo of the model on display. This is just another example of how much people love this old building and how important it is to save it!

Sources: Stu Fredricks, Henry Schulte, Model Railroader magazine, Pam Dudash, Mike Dudash, Paula Perotte

Categories: Architecture Goleta History

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Tom Modugno

8 replies

  1. Wonderful article Tom. This building apparently was built the same year the original airport terminal building was constructed. Unfortunately, as we know, it was demolished in the 1970’s. Hopefully the two adjacent hangars won’t see the same fate.

  2. I’m from London England, and loved this article on the petrol, sorry , gas station.
    My son and his family are Goleta residents and after visiting in November 2019, especially after taking the train ride at the re-sited Goleta train station, I love the area and its history.

  3. Thanks for sharing this story. I have always loved that little gas station since I lived out near it in 76. Maybe models of it could be 3D printed from the plans and sold to raise funds to help repair it. I would think it would be a good project for the community and local businesses to support. I always hoped it would be fixed up and cherished.

  4. A Planning Commissioner noted in a recent televised meeting a thought that the building might be used as a kiosk of sorts as an entrance to the Butterfly Preserve. I feel that if the Preserve ever got large and famous enough to justify the cost of moving and restoring this, I am not sure I want to be around for it. I believe one possibility is to recreate it using whatever tiles are still salvageable; it appears to be all that is left intact.

  5. The Barnsdall station is also a favorite for artists and many have sketched or painted it. I have one by local artist, Warner Nienow. It might be public-awareness-raising to have a “paint-in” of plein air artists all working on the same day to capture its image.

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