Glendale-Burbank Line Scrapping: a monumental act of vandalism

By Ralph Cantos

PE’s Glendale-Burbank Line for it’s time, was  one of the best examples  of modern light rail transit in California. State of the art,  MU PCCs  provided base service on the line, along with refurbished  Hollywood cars. The entire line had been rebuilt from end to end in 1940 in preparation for the introduction of the new PCCs.

Several miles of the line were on private-right-of-way. Three bridges carried the rail cars over busy streets and the LA River. The mile-long subway provided the line’s cars a fast entrance and exit out of Downtown LA.

Yet all the fantastic infrastructure didn’t mean shit to the management of Metropolitan “Roach” (Coach) Lines that had taken over PE’s passenger service in mid-1953. MCL management had only one agenda, that being the complete destruction of the remaining former PE rail lines.

By the end of 1955, the Glendale-Burbank Line was history along with the Subway Terminal.  Rail service on Hollywood and  Santa Monica Boulevards had been abandoned in 1953 and 1954. The Glendale line was the last Western District line to fall. Scrapping of the line was  agonizing and slow, but sure. The tracks on Brand Boulevard were paved over almost with indecent speed. Rails were pulled up along all portions of the rights of way. The Allessandro cut was taken over by California Highway Department for use  as part of the 2 Freeway. The line was being carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

For the better part of four years, the line’s three bridges remained standing as a sad reminder of the efficient, former rail line. The end for the bridges would come in 1959. The photogenic trestle over Fletcher Drive, the steel deck bridge over Riverside Drive, and the 20-year-old bridge over the LA River would all fall victim to the scrapper.

And so now, more then 50 years after the abandonment, “modern” buses are mired in traffic. No doubt, had the abandoned line  remained intact, it would have by now been rebuilt into a modern light rail line.

Recent Posts
Showing 6 comments
  • George Hays

    Jesse Haugh is in the Hall Of Fame of the American Public Transportation Association. He certainly contributed a lot. Oddly none of that could be considered a monument. Outside of the industry I don’t recall anybody in the private sector – the people who actually rode the systems – feeling very grateful for the things done to Los Angeles or San Diego or Oakland transit. I guess anything outside of driving your own car was just a dirty expediency. It used to be the bus or trolley was where you could meet the people in your neighborhood and of course the trains were some what begrudgingly the most fun to ride even if they weren’t the most modern. How ironic now the PR firms tout light rail lines as INVESTMENTS deserving of tax payer moneys because the rail infrastructure when built actually exist and you know where they are and can depend on them and they increase property values around the stations!

  • Samuel Jonis

    I find it somewhat strange that this old ROW is not touted as a potential metro line. Much of the space is still intact, isn’t it? I get that the old subway is no more, but still ….

    • David Moser

      Samuel, large chunks of this line were appropriated for highways, the bridges were leveled, etc. Its physically impossible to redo this line, however I agree with your philosiphy.

  • Edison Carter

    Was watching the Huell episode, googled your name. Nice site, love old pics and history of LA.

  • Fred M. Cain


    Looking at many of these old pictures both on this site and in books that I have, it’s difficult for me to fathom or comprehend the incredible – and HUGE – investment in rail that they just turned their backs on and walked away from.

    So far, no one has ever been held accountable for this or if they have I surely don’t know. Was it a conspiracy or just plain stupidity?

    Fred M. Cain

  • Ted Helms

    My father is the motet man who hit the house being towed across the tracts at the Bellflower station in the 1950’s

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search

error: Please, no downloads.