Owensmouth (Pacific Electric)

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TypeLight rail
SystemPacific Electric Pacific Electric
LocaleLos Angeles and the San Fernando Valley
TerminiDowntown Los Angeles
Owensmouth-Canoga Park, California
Daily ridership1,038,622 (last count)
OwnerSouthern Pacific Railroad
Operator(s)Pacific Electric Pacific Electric
Rolling stockPE 5050 Class PCC Cars (last used)
Line length29.1 miles
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead lines
Route map

Canoga Park
De Soto
Browns Canyon
Aliso Canyon
Bull Creek
North Sherman Way
Van Nuys
after 1938
Kester Junction
Tujunga Wash
North Hollywood
Los Nogales
Universal City
Oak Crest
Barham Boulevard
Hollywood Park
Dusky Glen
Cahuenga Pass
Highland Avenue
Virgil Avenue
Subway Terminal

The Pacific Electric streetcar service to Owensmouth (present day Canoga Park) was part of an extraordinary real estate development in Southern California.[1] Nearly the entire southern San Fernando Valley was bought in 1910 by the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Co., owned by a syndicate of rich Los Angeles investors, developers, and speculators: including Harrison Gray Otis, Harry Chandler, Moses Sherman, Hobart Johnstone Whitley, and others.[2] It anticipated possible connections to but was planned independent of the soon to be completed (1913) Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens River watershed to the City of Los Angeles through the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.

To help promote sales of the land, General Moses Sherman's Los Angeles Pacific Railroad set off to build a streetcar line across the San Fernando Valley, to serve the three plotted new towns: Van Nuys (1911); Marion (now Reseda); and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park) (1912).[2] At the time, it could have seemed like a streetcar to open agricultural fields at the end of the line — but was a necessity to promote development. Alongside it across the Valley westward from Van Nuys was Sherman Way, the "$500,000 paved boulevard" with lush landscaping and no speed limit where one might get up to 35 mph, a separate dirt road for farm wagons/equipment, and telegraph lines.[2] Los Angeles Pacific Railroad later sold the line to the Pacific Electric.

Owensmouth was named in classic real estate "boosterism", as 'nearest' the outlet-'mouth' of the Owens River Aqueduct and echoing English and New England town names such as Falmouth, Yarmouth, and Plymouth.[2] It was actually 20 miles away when founded in 1912 and used well water instead until being annexed to L.A. city in 1917.[2] The controversy of Valley land speculation and the aqueduct brought the community to change its name from Owensmouth to Canoga Park in 1931, after the Southern Pacific "Canoga" station there.[2] The name of the Pacific Electric line was unchanged as Owensmouth until its demise in December 1941. Though the line had far higher annual ridership than any rapid transit line in the region today, most of that was within urban Los Angeles, and the community of Owensmouth-Canoga Park was relatively undeveloped until the line's later years.

The line through the Valley came over Cahuenga Pass, up Vineland Avenue through North Hollywood, turning onto Chandler Boulevard, proceeding west to the curve onto Van Nuys Boulevard, through Van Nuys to a curve (Sherman Circle) off of Van Nuys Blvd. turning west onto Sherman Way to Owensmouth. On Shoup Avenue, named after Pacific Electric president Paul Shoup,[2] the center was used as its end of the line sidings.

Orange Line

In the 1990s a new cross-Valley rapid transit line was built, the Metro Orange Line, a dedicated bus transit-way which uses part of the old Pacific Electric right-of-way (Chandler Blvd. east of Ethel Ave.) and the former Southern Pacific south and west Valley route (from White Oak Avenue to the Chatsworth station).

List of Major Stations[edit]

Station Major Connections Date Opened Date Closed City
Van Nuys San Fernando 1912 1952 Van Nuys
Lankershim San Fernando 1902 1952 North Hollywood
Highland Avenue San Fernando, Sherman, Venice via Hollywood (Pacific Electric line) 1902 1955 Los Angeles
Colegrove San Fernando, Sherman, Venice via Hollywood 1902 1955
Virgil Avenue San Fernando, Sherman, Venice via Hollywood, Western and Franklin Avenue 1902 1955
Sanborn Junction Beverly Hills, San Fernando, Sherman, Venice via Hollywood, Western and Franklin Avenue 1902 1955
Subway Terminal Building Beverly Hills, Echo Park Avenue, Glendale-Burbank, Redondo Beach via Playa del Rey, San Fernando, Sawtelle, Sherman, Venice Short Line, Venice via Hollywood, Western and Franklin Avenue, Westgate 1905 1961


  1. ^ "Pacific Electric and the Growth of the San Fernando Valley"; by David Coscia; Shade Tree Books; ©2011; ISBN 1-57864-735-5.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The Owensmouth Baby"; by Catherine Mulholland; Santa Susana Press (CSUN—California State University, Northridge); ©1987; ISBN 0-937048-42-9.