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Los Angeles Railway

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Title: Los Angeles Railway  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Pacific Electric, Balboa (Pacific Electric), Los Angeles Railway, Alhambra – San Gabriel (Pacific Electric), Big Blue Bus
Collection: 3 Ft 6 in Gauge Railways in the United States, Defunct California Railroads, Defunct Public Transport Operators in the United States, Defunct Town Tramway Systems by City, Electric Railways in California, History of Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles Railway, Narrow Gauge Railroads in California, Passenger Rail Transportation in California, Public Transportation in Los Angeles County, California, Railway Lines Closed in 1963, Railway Lines Opened in 1901, Streetcars in California, Transportation in Los Angeles, California
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Los Angeles Railway

Los Angeles Electric Railway
Locale Los Angeles, California,
and its suburbs
Transit type Streetcar
Number of lines 20
Began operation 1901
Ended operation 1963
Operator(s) Los Angeles Railway
Reporting marks LARy
Track gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Minimum radius of curvature ?
Los Angeles Railway route map (cover), 1942
Los Angeles Railway (Yellow Cars) network (interactive version)

The Los Angeles Railway (also known as Yellow Cars, LARy, and later Los Angeles Transit Lines) was a system of streetcars that operated in central Los Angeles, California, and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods between 1901 and 1963. Except for two short, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge[1][2] funicular railways named Angels Flight and Court Flight, it operated on 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge tracks. The company carried many more passengers than the Pacific Electric Railway's 'Red Cars' which served a larger area of Los Angeles. The two companies shared some dual gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) / 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge track along Hawthorne Boulevard, on Main Street and on 4th Street.


  • History 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Decline 1.2
    • Public ownership and finale 1.3
  • Proposed developments 2
    • Restoration 2.1
  • List of former routes 3
    • Funicular railways 3.1
  • Gallery 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Notes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Early years

The system was purchased by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry E. Huntington in 1898 and started operation in 1901. At its height, the system contained over 20 streetcar lines and 1,250 trolleys, most running through the core of Los Angeles and serving such nearby neighborhoods as Echo Park, Westlake, Hancock Park, Exposition Park, West Adams, the Crenshaw district, Vernon, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights.


The system was sold in 1945 by Huntington's estate to National City Lines, a company that was purchasing transit systems across the country.[3] National City Lines, along with its investors that included Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (now Chevron Corporation) and General Motors, were later convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transit companies controlled by National City Lines and other companies[n 1] in what became known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. National City Lines purchased Key System, which operated streetcars systems in Northern California, the following year.

The company was renamed as Los Angeles Transit Lines.[4] The new company introduced 40 new ACF-Brill trolley buses which had originally been intended for the Key System streetcar system in Oakland which was being converted by National City Lines to buses in late 1948.

Many lines were converted to buses in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[4]

Public ownership and finale

The last remaining lines were taken over by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (a predecessor to the current agency, The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)) along with the remains of the Pacific Electric Railway in 1958. The agency removed the remaining five streetcar lines (J, P, R, S and V) and two trolley bus lines (2 and 3), replacing electric service with diesel buses on March 31, 1963.[5]

Proposed developments


In May 2011, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city of Los Angeles, and several stakeholders began conducting studies and public meetings to identify the feasibility of restoring streetcar service downtown.[6] The streetcar restoration efforts will further support in revitalizing Downtown Los Angeles's historic core and connect people to employment centers, shopping districts, civic resources, cultural institutions, historic landmarks and entertainment venues within the project study area. A restoration of the streetcar service is anticipated to underscore the overall renaissance occurring in the downtown area of Los Angeles.

List of former routes

Geographic map of the post-1921 numbered routes
  • 2 Line - Rampart area of Echo Park to Montecito Heights; by way of Belmont Avenue, Loma Drive, 3rd Street, Flower Street, 5th Street, Broadway, Pasadena Avenue, Avenue 26, and Griffin Avenue.
  • 3 Line - Skid Row to Hollywood; by way of 5th Street, 6th Street, private ROW, 3rd Street, and Larchmont Boulevard.
  • 5 Line - Hawthorne to Eagle Rock; by way of Hawthorne Boulevard, Market Street (Inglewood), private ROW paralleling Redondo Boulevard (later Florence Avenue), Crenshaw Boulevard, Leimert Boulevard (dedicated tracks in center divider), Santa Barbara Avenue, Grand Avenue, Jefferson Boulevard, Main Street, Broadway, Pasadena Avenue, Avenue 20, Figueroa Street, Cypress Avenue, Eagle Rock Boulevard, and Colorado Boulevard.
  • 7 Line - South Los Angeles to Los Angeles Plaza Historic District; by way of Broadway, Main Street, and Spring Street.
  • 8 Line - Leimert Park to Los Angeles Plaza Historic District; by way of 54th Street, Broadway, Main Street, and Spring Street.
  • 9 Line - Leimert Park to the Wholesale District, by way of 48th Street, Hoover Street, Grand Avenue, Pico Boulevard, Broadway, and 2nd Street.
  • 10 Line - Leimert Park to Lincoln Heights; by way of Vernon Avenue, Dalton Avenue, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Grand, Pico Boulevard, Broadway, and Lincoln Park Avenue.
  • A Line - Mid City to Echo Park; by way of Adams Boulevard, Kensington Street, Venice Boulevard, Broadway, Temple Street, Edgeware Road, and Douglas Street.
  • B Line - Nevin to City Terrace; by way of Ascot Avenue, Hooper Avenue, 12th Street, Main Street, Brooklyn Avenue, Evergreen Avenue, Wabash Avenue, and City Terrace Drive.
  • D Line - Westlake to Skid Row; by way of Bonnie Brae Street, 3rd Street, Alvarado Street, 6th Street, and 5th Street.
  • F Line - Athens to Boyle Heights; by way of Vermont Avenue, Hoover Street, Santa Barbara Avenue, Grand Avenue, Jefferson Boulevard, Main Street, 3rd Street, 4th Place, 4th Street, and Fresno Street.
  • G Line - Nevin to South Park; by way of McKinley Avenue, Jefferson Boulevard, Griffith Avenue, Washington Boulevard, and Main Street.
  • H Line - South Los Angeles to East Hollywood; by way of San Pedro Street, 7th Street, Broadway, 6th Street, Rampart Boulevard, Beverly Boulevard, Heliotrope Drive, and Melrose Avenue.
  • I Line -
  • J Line - Jefferson Park to Huntington Park; by way of Jefferson Boulevard, Central Avenue, Vernon Avenue, and Pacific Boulevard.
  • K Line - Nevin to South Park; by way of Naomi Avenue and Olympic Boulevard.
  • L Line - East Hollywood to Mid-City; by way of Lexington Avenue, Madison Avenue, Temple Street, Broadway, and Olympic Boulevard.
  • N Line - Koreatown to South Park; by way of 8th Street and 9th Street.
  • O Line - South Los Angeles to Lincoln Heights; by way of Main Street.
  • P Line - Mid-City to City Terrace; by way of Pico Boulevard, Main Street, 1st Street, Gage Avenue, Hammel Street, and Record Avenue.
  • R Line - Hancock Park to East Los Angeles; by way of 3rd Street, Vermont Avenue, 7th Street, Boyle Avenue, and Whittier Boulevard.
  • S Line - Watts to East Hollywood; by way of Central Avenue, Florence Avenue, Avalon Boulevard, Vernon Avenue, Vermont Street, 3rd Street, and Western Avenue.
  • U Line - Nevin to West Adams; by way of Central Avenue, Jefferson Boulevard, Vermont Street, and 27th Street.
  • V Line - Nevin to East Hollywood; by way of Santa Fe Avenue, 7th Street, and Vermont Street.
  • W Line - Mid-City to Highland Park; by way of Washington Boulevard, Figueroa Street, 6th Street, Broadway, Avenue 20, Figueroa Street, and York Boulevard.

Funicular railways

The Los Angeles Railway also operated two short, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge funicular railways: Angels Flight at 3rd Street between Hill and Olive (1901-1969; reopened in 1996 in new location), and the lesser-known Court Flight at Court Street between Broadway and Hill in the Bunker Hill neighorhood.

Court Flight opened in 1905 as part of a business venture by R. E. Blackburn and Samuel G. Vandegrift. It was unusual for funiculars in that it was doubled-tracked for its entire length. The Court Flight Incline Railway ran for a distance of 180 feet up a 42 per cent grade between Broadway and Hill Streets, in the middle of the block between Temple and First Streets.[7] A hotel was planned for the incline, but was never built. After a serious fire, Court Flight was abandoned in 1943.[8] Its site is now part of Grand Park.


See also


  1. ^ Cable Car Guy - Los Angeles Area Funiculars
  2. ^ What was There - Court Flight
  3. ^ "Finding Aid for the Los Angeles Railway Corporation Legal Records and Correspondence". the controlling interest remained part of the Huntington estate until 1945 when the Fitzgerald Brothers purchased those shares. LARy became part of the National City Lines, was renamed the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and eventually the streetcars were phased out, replaced by motor buses. 
  4. ^ a b "Book Review: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars". By the end of World War II, the Huntington estate sold its majority interest to Chicago-based National City Lines. LARY became the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and bigger changes were in store. Many lines were converted to bus operation through the late forties and fifties. Never mind that NCL was partially owned by bus, tire, and gasoline suppliers. Though Federal anti-trust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done. Los Angeles was officially in love with the automobile. 
  5. ^ "Streetcars Go for Last Ride". Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1963, Page N5. Link via ProQuest.
  6. ^ Possible restoration
  7. ^ Joe Thompson. "Los Angeles Area Funiculars". 
  8. ^ "Three Forgotten Incline Railways from Southern California History". KCET. 


  1. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 33, "We have considered carefully all the evidence offered and excluded. We think that the court's rulings were fair, and that, having permitted great latitude in admitting testimony as to intent, purpose and reasons for the making of the contracts, the court, in its discretion, was entirely justified in excluding the additional testimony offered."

Further reading

  • Bottles, Scott (1991). Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City. University of California Press.  
  • Copeland, P. Allen (2002). California Trolleys In Color, Volume 1: San Diego and Los Angeles. Scotch Plains, NJ: Morning Sun Books, Inc.  
  • Easlon, Steven L. (1973). Los Angeles Railway Through the Years. Anaheim, CA: Easlon Publications. 
  • Freidricks, William B. (1992). Henry Huntington and the Creation of Southern California. Columbus, OH.: Ohio University Press.  
  • Hendricks, William O. (1971). Moses Sherman: A Pioneer Developer of the Pacific Southwest. Corona Del Mar, CA: The Sherman Foundation. 
  • Post, Robert C. (1989). Street Railways and the Growth of Los Angeles. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books.  
  • Squier, Gerald (October 2013). "Los Angeles Railway". Motor Coach Age (Motor Bus Society). 
  • Squier, Gerald (January 2015). "Los Angeles Transit Lines". Motor Coach Age (Motor Bus Society). 
  • Swett, Ira (1951). Los Angeles Railway; Interurbans Special #11. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press. 
  • Swett, Ira (1952). Los Angeles Railway All-time Roster; Interurbans Special #12. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press. 
  • Swett, Ira (1962). Los Angeles Railway Pre-Huntington Cars 1890-1902; Interurbans Special #22. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press. 
  • Swett, Ira (1964). Die Day In LA; Interurbans Special #35. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press. 
  • Walker, Jim (1977). The Yellow Cars of Los Angeles. Glendale, CA: Interurban Press.  
  • Walker, Jim (2007). Images of Rail Series: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. 

External links

  • Restoration of Historic Streetcar Service in Downtown Los Angeles Current MTA efforts to restore the streetcars downtown
  • goLAstreetcar An initiative to bring streetcar services back to downtown Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles Railway gallery by Metro Transportation Library and Archive
  • Los Angeles Transit Lines Training Film From YouTube
  • Orange Empire Railway Museum official website
  • Tours in a Bygone Era
  • Electric Railway Historical Society list of ninety seven Ira Swett Interurban Press releases, including coverage of Los Angeles Railway.
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