Los Angeles and Independence Railroad

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Los Angeles and Independence Railroad
Steam locomotive in front of the Los Angeles and Independence Rail Road Terminal at Fifth Street and San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, 1875 (CHS-14279).jpg
LocaleSanta Monica to Los Angeles
Dates of operation1875–1909
SuccessorSanta Monica Air Line
Track gauge4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm)
Length16.67 miles (26.83 km)
HeadquartersLos Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, opened on October 17, 1875,[1] was a steam-powered rail line which ran between the Santa Monica Long Wharf (north of the current Santa Monica Pier) and 5th and San Pedro streets in downtown Los Angeles.[2]

Intended to eventually reach San Bernardino and Independence via Cajon Pass to serve the Cerro Gordo Silver Mines near Panamint, the line was never extended past downtown Los Angeles and was eventually acquired by Southern Pacific Railroad.[3][4]

The right-of-way was purchased by Los Angeles Metro in 1990 and is now used for the Expo Line light rail line.


Route in 1894

The Los Angeles and Independence Railroad Company was incorporated in January 1875 with Francisco P. Temple, John P. Jones, Robert S. Baker, T. N. Park, James A. Pritchard, J. S. Slauson, and J. U. Crawford, as directors. Col. Crawford was the engineer and general manager.

The 16.67 miles (26.83 km) of track between Los Angeles and Santa Monica were privately built without government subsidies or land grants, all in a little over ten months - primarily using 67 Chinese laborers imported for the task. Right-of-way between Los Angeles and Santa Monica was given by local ranchers who were anxious to have access to a railroad. The line opened October 17, 1875, with two trains a day running between Santa Monica and Los Angeles; the fare was fixed at $1.00 per trip, freight at $1.00 per ton.

Southern Pacific Railroad's refusal to allow crossing of their main line tracks prevented construction east of Los Angeles. Combined with the unexpected depletion and closure of the Panamint silver mine in 1877 (owned by Jones) and the resulting fiscal difficulty, the young steam line was quickly sold to Southern Pacific on July 4, 1877.

New owner Southern Pacific extended the existing wharf to allow access to larger ships by 1891. This wharf allowed ship-to-shore offloading, making the line a freight and passenger hauler of growing importance.

However, the U.S. Government's 1899 decision to build a breakwater in San Pedro and create the Port of Los Angeles, effectively doomed both natural harbors' (Redondo Beach and Santa Monica) use for commercial shipping traffic.

With the Port of Los Angeles nearing completion in 1908 and Santa Monica shipping traffic ceasing, Southern Pacific leased the railroad line and Santa Monica wharf to Los Angeles Pacific Railroad. (a forerunner to Pacific Electric) which electrified the portion between the long wharf and Sentous (La Cienega) in that year. The remainder of the line was electrified by 1911 when various electric railroads merged under the Pacific Electric name. The wharf was demolished in 1913.

Historical Photos[edit]

Santa Monica Air Line[edit]

By 1920 the line was well known as the Santa Monica Air Line[5] of the Pacific Electric Railway, providing electric freight and passenger service between Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

Expo Line (Los Angeles Metro)[edit]

The line was subsequently purchased for use as a light rail line, which began operation in 2012.


In 2015, a Santa Monica restaurant named after the railroad line was opened. The Independence offers drinks named after the station stops and a 140th anniversary party for the steam line.[6]


  1. ^ “First Train of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad”. Volume 5, Number 20. © Los Angeles Herald, 1875. Newspaper. Los Angeles Herald. 19 October 1875.
  2. ^ California. Board of Commissioners of Transportation (December 1877). Report of the Board of Commissioners of Transportation to the Legislature of the State of California. State of California (US). p. 319. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  3. ^ Ingersoll, Luther A. (2008). Ingersoll's Century History, Santa Monica Bay Cities - Prefaced with a Brief History of the State of California, a Condensed History of Los Angeles County, 1542-1908; Supplemented with an Encyclopedia of Local Biography. ISBN 9781408623671.
  4. ^ Fischer, Greg. “The Expo Line Before the Expo Line”. © Los Angeles Downtown News, 2011. Newspaper. Los Angeles Downtown News. 1 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line". erha.org.
  6. ^ Pardilla, Caroline. “Every Day Is Independence Day at New Santa Monica Tavern”. © Los Angeles Magazine, 2015. Magazine. Los Angeles Magazine. 6 February 2015.

External links[edit]