Irene Lewis

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Irene Lewis was the owner of live steam manufacturing company for many years. The company was formed by her husband, Martin Lewis. She took over the operation of the company after Martin's death in 1949, and ran the company until she sold it to Moodie Braun around 1979.

Irene also founded the Lomita Railroad Museum in the early 1960's.


Early Life

Edith Irene Ott Lewis was born in 1899 . She was the oldest of eleven daughters of Frank and Grace Ott. After growing up and spending much of her youth in the farming community of Summerville in eastern Oregon, near La Grande, Irene moved to Santa Barbara, California. After settling in Santa Barbara in 1929, Irene started working as a waitress. The owner of the restaurant where Irene had been working noticed her potential and paid for her to go to business school. Irene married Martin Lewis. The couple moved to Lomita in 1946.

Live Steam Company

Following Martin’s death in 1949, Irene continued operating her husbands live steam manufacturing company.

A few of Irene’s steam engines went on to be featured in television programs and Hollywood films, such as, The King and I (1956).

Lomita Railroad Museum

From "Museum History", Lomita Railroad Museum,, February 2012:

Irene Lewis at the drafting table
The Lomita Railroad Museum was the first of its kind west of Denver, Colorado. It was made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Irene Lewis who donated the Museum to the City of Lomita in honor of her late husband, Martin Lewis, in 1967. It was a rather natural thing for Mrs. Lewis to do since she had been a dedicated railroader and spent many years building her company, a business devoted entirely to developing and manufacturing miniature steam operated locomotives which were sold all over the world. The museum proudly displays some of these locomotives.
The Museum was built in 1966. Much research and study was given to depot structures before the final home the Museum was chosen. Mrs. Lewis chose to copy the Boston & Maine's Greenwood Station at Wakefield, Massachusetts, which was built before the turn of the century.
The Museum has been referred to as a "work of art". Everyone who worked on the building was an artist in his line. This of course includes John W. Gallareto, designer and builder. No expense was spared to produce a proper and appropriate treasury to house the valuable historical items on display in the Museum.
Dedicated to the proud era of the steam engine, complete authenticity is the hallmark of the Museum. On display is a Southern Pacific Steam Locomotive (1902-1960) and Tender. Nearby stand a 1910 Union Pacific Caboose and a modern all-steel Santa Fe caboose. On display at the Annex Park are a 1923 Union Oil Tank Car and a 1913 Southern Pacific outside-braced wood box car. Also check out our Water Tower.
And of course who can forget the 72 x 25 ft. Railroad Mural that use to decorate the corner of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Narbonne Ave. Postcards of the old mural are available at the museum.