Santa Monica Air Line (Pacific Electric)
|Santa Monica Air Line|
|Termini||Pacific Electric Building
Santa Monica, California
|Opening||May 26, 1909|
|Closed||1931 (regular service)
1953 (special service)
|Owner||Southern Pacific Railroad|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Santa Monica Air Line was a Pacific Electric trolley from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles which ran from 1909 to 1953. So named because it followed a straight line, the line has recently been reactivated as the Expo Line on almost the identical route.
Built in 1875 as the steam-powered Los Angeles and Independence Railroad it was intended to bring mining ore to ships in Santa Monica harbor's Long Wharf and as a passenger excursion train to the beach. Eventually purchased by Southern Pacific Railroad it was leased to the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad for electric passenger and light freight use in 1909. Pacific Electric purchased the line in 1911, along with all the other lines owned by Los Angeles Pacific. The Santa Monica harbor Long Wharf closed to shipping traffic in 1913.
Beginning at the Pacific Electric Building at 6th and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles, the line travelled south with other lines alongside what is now Long Beach Boulevard and the Blue Line. At 25th Street, the Air Line turned west onto an exclusive right-of-way alongside Exposition Boulevard toward Santa Monica Beach. The currently abandoned section between the Blue Line tracks and USC is the primary difference between today's Expo Line and Air Line routes.
- Stops on the line in 1911, with miles from LA:
Major depots in bold.
- Start in Los Angeles 0.00
- Nevin 2.62
- Hooper 3.05
- San Pedro Street 3.77
- Jefferson 4.18
- Grand Avenue 4.54
- University 5.40
- 11th Avenue 7.68
- Sentous 10.04
- Culver Junction 11.16 (Venice Blvd and Culver Blvd)
- Palms 12.20
- Talamantes 13.73
- West Los Angeles 14.87
- Soldiers' Home 15.87
- Bergamot 15.25
- Sunset 16.18
- Santa Monica 16.88
- Tool House 17.54
- Ocean Park 19.20
- Inglewood 26.43
Freight would be moved on the same lines but between 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
Service decline and end
With the (then) sparse population along much of the route, service on the Air Line was reduced as early as 1924 with passenger cars running only during rush hours. At that point most passengers travelled to Santa Monica on a different rail line which ran primarily down Santa Monica Boulevard.
Passenger service on the Air Line was completely discontinued on September 30, 1953, however freight service remained. Because the Air Line route was also connected to the Santa Monica Boulevard line via tracks on Sepulveda Boulevard, it was the only way for freight trains to reach West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Hollywood warehouses (usually at night due to city regulations).
However, as the overall use of rail for transporting freight gradually declined, the tracks along Santa Monica and Sepulveda boulevards were removed and service became sparse. The tracks alongside Exposition Park occasionally also served a special purpose to hold circus trains throughout the 1980s and to store various companies' passenger cars during the 1984 Olympic Games. The final freight run was to Fisher Lumber in Santa Monica in 1987.
After abandonment, ownership was maintained by Southern Pacific, which leased various portions of the land for semi-permanent structures. By the mid-1990s parking lots, storage facilities and some retail buildings had almost completely covered the tracks west of Sepulveda Boulevard - with unused signal cantilevers and crossing gates being the only clue to its former existence. East of Sepulveda Boulevard, tracks, bridges and tunnels remained intact but overgrown.
Oddly, a Southern Pacific Railroad boxcar remained trapped on a freight siding which once serviced the Sloane Furniture warehouse, at 10151 National Boulevard. However in 2004 the site was leveled and the boxcar cut apart and removed to make way for a self-storage facility.
The right-of-way was eventually purchased by a predecessor to Los Angeles Metro. Track replacement and various construction tasks began in 2006 and the first phase of the "Expo Line" from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City opened in April, 2012, with eventual completion to Santa Monica projected for 2015.
While most parts of the Air line have been completely replaced in reconstruction, two major structures from the Air line passenger service days remain: The steel bridge over National Boulevard, was deemed structurally sound and will be used again in conjunction with a new twin bridge for a second track, and the tunnel under the Santa Monica Freeway which began construction just as passenger service was being discontinued.
- Streetcar Depot, West Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Pacific Railroad
- Streetcar suburb
- Streetcars in North America
- List of California railroads
- History of rail transportation in California
- Union Station (Los Angeles)
- Los Angeles Motordrome
- Pacific Electric's Red Cars that connected
- R.P. Sherman, Air Line Flyer Service Put On To Santa Monica, Los Angeles Herald, May 26, 1909, page 5
- An 'Air Line' to be built to Santa Monica, Los Angeles Herald, April 8, 1888, page 5
- , SANTA MONICA GETS NEW TRAIN SERVICE BOARD OF TRADE SECURES ADDED FLYERS, Los Angeles Herald, August 16, 1908, page 7
- NEW TROLLEY LINE IS IN PROSPECT, Los Angeles Herald, June 24, 1904, page 9
- rha.org, Santa Monica Air Line
- AbandonedRails.com with photo (No. 2)
- George Garrigues, Los Angeles's The Palms Neighborhood, Arcadia Press, 2009, page 32 ISBN 978-0-7385-6993-2
- Essay on the Santa Monica Air Line at Abandonedrails.com including photos of the trapped boxcar, one of which was taken in 2005 just prior to its scrapping and removal
- Similar essay at Abandonedrailroads.com
- Information on the wigwag cantilevers at Trainweb.org/dansrailpix
- Santa Monica Air Line history page at erha.org
- Historic photos ca. 1953 of the final days of passenger service on the Santa Monica Air Line
- Time lapse video of a soon-to-be upgraded portion of the line from six blocks west of Robertson Boulevard north- and westward to Pico Boulevard through the Palms and Cheviot Hills areas Location of old Palms station approximately 53 seconds in.