PE ‘s Hill Street Tunnel #2 – 1952: Oblivion awaits

By Ralph Cantos

This photo, taken from the observation deck at LA City Hall, shows the south portal of PE’s Hill Street #2 just before it was demolished to make way for construction of the space age Hollywood Freeway and the Four Level Interchange.

Both tunnels #1 and #2 were built by the PE around 1909. The second twin tunnel to #1 was built around 1913 for automobile use by the City of Los Angeles.

Looking like some newly discovered archeological artifact from some prehistoric time, the south portal looks so out of place in this photo. Trackage along Hill Street was used by 3 lines: The Venice Short Line, the Hollywood Boulevard Line via Hill Street, and the Echo Park Line.

The Venice Short Line was abandoned on September 17, 1950, followed two weeks later on October 1, 1950 by the Hollywood and Echo Park lines using tracks north of The Subway Terminal surface yard, through Hill Street Tunnels #1 & #2 and out Sunset Blvd.

For the next three months, a lone Hollywood car made the daily franchise run the entire length of the Venice Short Line and Echo Park Lines.

It all came to an unceremonious end on the cold winter day of December 28, 1950. Both tunnels were abandoned. The rail portion of Tunnel #1 was reused for auto traffic until both tunnels were demolished in 1955 for the Bunker Hill redevelopment project.

However, Tunnel #2 would fare a little better. Construction of the Hollywood Freeway cut the tunnel in half. The south half was demolished, but the north half was reused for textbook storage by the Los Angeles Unified School District for almost 60 years, until mid-2014 when new development in that area destroyed the century old bore.

Today, no trace of either tunnel can be found.

The year 1950 marked the beginning of the end for the once great Pacific Electric. Just 11 years later, on April 9, 1961, the Pacific Electric was history in all respects. Slowly, but surely, almost all traces of the PE have been, or are being obliterated. It’s as though the PE was an embarrassment to Southern California and Los Angeles in particular.

And now, almost 60 years after the last PE passenger rail service was abandoned, “experts” are trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Looking back at city politics in the early 1950s, all I can say is, “Here’s another fine mess they got us into.”

Ralph Cantos Collection

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Showing 4 comments
  • David Sobo

    I believe LARY used the tunnel for the A car

  • Ralph Cantos

    That is an LARY A line car behind PE #695

  • Elena

    I was born 1941 L.A. on Court Street off Temple. Took many a walk to the downtown area and recall the PE cars from downtown to the ocean fronts. Remember the construction of Hollywood fwy. Family moved to. 67th Street and Vermont Ave. when I was 12 and loved taking the yellow car downtown. It was smallest of all cars and cannot find an image of it any where. It ran on rails with two antenna like poles. The seats were contoured wooden slats and one could raise the windows.
    I full heartedly agree that LA did not know a good thing when we had it. So sad! Nice to know someone else treasures those memories of beautiful and fantastic LA once upon a time. Thank you!

  • Robert williams

    I too lived in Los Angeles, was born in 1938 and remember riding the yellow “J” car to Broadway an 7th street in downtown L.A. from Normandie Ave and Jefferson Blvd. we move to 2nd Avenue and Jefferson Blvd. in 1950, I then rode the W car (Trolley) to Mt. Vernon Jr. High school.
    The wooden seats on the street cars were made in such a manner that when the street car reached the end of the line, it didn’t turn around, the conductor would flop the set back in the opposite direction and the street car would head off to the other end of the line.
    I remember making a lunch and just riding the street car from one end of the lune to the other on a few Saturdays. It was a pretty big deal back then when one was only 8 or 9 years old.

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