Pacific Electric’s Santa Monica via Beverly Hills / Sawtelle Line: An Ill-Timed Abandonment
By Ralph Cantos
By the mid 1930s, the Pacific Electric was operating a fleet of more than 500 rail cars. The newest of them, the 100s, had just arrived from St. Louis Car Company in 1930; all 160 Hollywood cars were in service; and the PCCs and the Blimps had yet to appear on the local scene. As of 1935, the PE still had more than 200 wood/steel interurbans on its roster in 3 classes: the 800s, the 950s and the 1000s.
It was around 1935 when the PE came under enormous pressure from various “Regulatory Agencies” to make very substantial and expensive changes to its day-to-day operations. Chief among the “changes” being demanded on the PE was to rid the streets and suburbs of Southern California of “antiquated” interurbans that was tarnishing the modern, progressive image of Los Angeles, such as it was. The PE was told to have all wood-bodied interurbans off the streets of SoCal by last days of 1939. The LARY was not overlooked either, but was doing its part by placing in service 95 PCCs with more promised as funds became available.
So as 1938 dawned, the mighty 800-class interurbans were doomed, as they were the oldest of the 3 wood-bodied cars still in service. In those days of yesteryear, the PE had a tendency to assign certain cars to certain lines. Hence, if a line was to be abandoned, the interurbans assigned to that line went down the “tubes” with it.
Such was the case of the Santa Monica via Beverly Hills / Sawtelle Line, the subject of these two photos taken in July of 1940. The mainstay of the line were the fast, heavy 800-class cars with 950s supplementing the lighter off-peak schedules. Even as late as 1938, the line still was a good performer, with well over 2.2 million passengers enjoying the fast, “breezy” interurban trips to the beach.
The PE abandoned the line on July 7, 1940. Even as the abandonment notices appeared at stops along the line, passengers briefly enjoyed the the comfort of a handful of “modernized” Hollywood cars that rolled along the line in its last days of operation. PE had saved the “best for last.” Had the line lasted for just another 17 months, the demands of World War II would have most likely kept the entire line in service, at least until 1946 and perhaps longer.
In the first image (above) from the Craig Rasmussen collection, a two-car afternoon rush hour train of 800s blast over La Brea Avenue at the western end of the “PICO-SAN VICENTE Viaduct”, as abandonment neared.
The second image (below) from the City of Los Angeles Public Works Department, shows the same location from the air.
After the 1940 abandonment of the through service to Santa Monica, this portion of the line remained in passenger service as the “San Vicente Shuttle” to Genesee Avenue, one block east of Olympic Blvd. Beyond Olympic Blvd, the line was single tracked and used for “back door” movements into and out of West Hollywood Car House via the “Sherman Cut-off” until early 1951 when the Venice Short Line was abandoned on 9-17-1950, leaving the historic Santa Monica Air Line as the only passenger rail service in this part of West LA. for the next 3 years.
As for the Pico-San Vicente viaduct, its service life was over after just 23 years. It would remain standing another 14 years until 1964, when it was bulldozed away, leaving no trace that it ever existed.