Friday, May 20, 2016

All Aboard! Electric Rail Line to Santa Monica Officially Opens May 20, 2016

Crowd Gathers for Opening Day of the Electric Car Line in Santa Monica, April 1, 1896 
California Historical Society at University of Southern California
It is with great excitement—as suggested in the image above, when Santa Monica greeted the first electric car line in 1896—that Santa Monica welcomes the completed, 6.6-mile, $1.5-billion light rail extension of the Expo Line on May 20. Seven new stations link the existing station in Culver City to our Pacific shore.

For the first time in 63 years, it is possible to ride from downtown Los Angeles to the beach and, through Los Angeles’s rail network, to traverse some 40 miles of greater Los Angeles—from Asuza in northeastern Los Angeles County to Santa Monica in western Los Angeles County.


An Expo Line Test Train Runs through Downtown Santa Monica, c. 2015 
Courtesy of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority
The Expo Line is the first passenger train to connect downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica since 1953, when the Santa Monica Air Line of the Pacific Electric red car system ceased operations. As Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has recalled: “I heard from my grandparents what it was like to get on the red car and go to the ocean. It was a rite of passage on a hot day, but it’s been nothing more than a dream and an old piece of history. Starting in May it will be the reality.” The last L. A. rail line, Los Angeles to Long Beach, was closed on April 9, 1961.

The California Historical Society commemorates this day with a photo essay of memorable images depicting Los Angeles’s transportation history.

Horse-drawn Streetcar on Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles, c. late 1800s
California Historical Society at University of Southern California
Construction of the Los Angeles Cable Railway in Boyle Heights, with Soon-to-Be-Replaced Tracks Used by Horse-drawn Streetcars at Left, 1889
Courtesy of Boyle Heights History Blog
Harry Franz Rile (photographer), Birds Eye View of Santa Monica (showing railroad station with train at left the same area as the western terminus of the new Expo Line), 1894
Courtesy of California State Library
Uncompleted Elevated Bicycle Path Connecting Pasadena and Los Angeles, c. 1900 
California Historical Society at University of Southern California
Pacific Electric Railway Car in Long Beach on Opening Day of the Pacific Electric Line, 1902 
California Historical Society at University of Southern California
“Fawkes’ Folly” Aerial Trolley, an Experimental Monorail Car, in Burbank, c. 1910 
California Historical Society at University of Southern California
Traffic Jam in Downtown Los Angeles, c. 1920 
Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
Tokens Used by Electric Rail Cars in Early Los Angeles: Pacific Electric Railway, Los Angeles Railway, and Los Angeles Transit Lines, date unknown
Courtesy of Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society  
A Los Angeles Transit Lines U Line Car at 5th and Wall Streets Opposite a Crew Installing New Overhead for a Trackless Bus System, 1947
Courtesy of Arroyo Seco Library
A Los Angeles Transit Lines N Line Car at 9th and Spring Streets on Last Full Day of Run before Closing Down, 1950
Courtesy of MTA Transportation and Research Library Archives
Traffic Jam on 6th Street during a Transit Strike, 1950 
Courtesy of Michael Ryerson via Flickr
Old Pacific Electric Red Cars Sit at Terminal Island Junkyard, Awaiting Dismantling to Become Scrap Metal, c. 1961 
Courtesy of MTA Transportation and Research Library Archives
Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager
skale@calhist.org

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