Hollywood Boulevard Line Tour
Pacific Electric Subway Lines
We begin our tour by walking through the entryway to the Subway Terminal at 417 South Hill Street. After paying our fare in the lobby, we descend the spiral ramp to the train gates at the mezzanine level. Once through the gates we descend ramps to the track level, 29 feet below the Hill Street level. The Subway Terminal lobby is shown in the next photo (from the book "Pacific Electric Stations", available from the Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California).
Hollywood Boulevard trains usually depart from track 1. In the following photo (by Donald Duke) our Beverly Hills bound train is waiting on track 1.
The inside of our streetcar looks like this:
Notice the pull-down window shades. The tubular frame seats were mounted on a swivel so they could be turned around by the crew at the end of the line. The padded seats were upholstered in green mohair.
After passing the interlocking tower and sliding through the puzzle switches at the throat of the trainshed (shown in the photo below), our train accelerates up the 2% grade as it runs through the subway, passing signal lights and lights in the emergency escape pockets along the tunnel wall. One of the numbers on the front of the interlocking tower, in the photo below, is lit to tell the motorman which track the train is to arrive on. The motorman then signals this to the conductor (one bell for track one, two bells for track two, etc.), who thus knows which side the passengers will be exiting from.
The subway is one mile long. In the photo below (by Donald Duke) a Glendale-bound rush-hour train has just emerged from the tunnel portal, passing an inbound train from Hollywood. Toluca Yard is visible to the left. Toluca Yard has six tracks to store trains when out of service.
Below is a shot of the Toluca Yard at Beverly and Glendale Boulevards, looking north.
I took the following shot of the Toluca Yard site in 1999 from the Beverly Boulevard bridge.
For the next mile our train runs on street trackage in Glendale Boulevard, from Beverly Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard, passing Echo Park on the right. The following photo shows a Hollywood-bound car passing Echo Park near Kent Street.
At Park Avenue we pass Aimee Semple McPherson's Angelus Temple on the right, and tracks diverge to the left. Hollywood Boulevard trains take the route diverging to the left, running uphill one short block to Sunset Boulevard. In the photo below an inbound train descends Park Avenue.
Hollywood trains then turn left and proceed west in street trackage in Sunset Boulevard. Hollywood Boulevard trains continue out Sunset Boulevard to Hillhurst Avenue, where Hollywood Boulevard begins. In the shot below we see an outbound Hollywood Boulevard streetcar approaching the Descanso stop in Silverlake in 1954.
The trains then continue in street trackage in Hollywood Boulevard through downtown Hollywood to La Brea Avenue. In the photo below we can see a PE streetcar heading west at Western Avenue, circa 1931. the four-story brick building at right is the Hotel Rector.
In the photo below we're looking east at Hollywood and Western in the early '50s. The street trees beyond the hotel were in front of a bungalow court. The street trees, the bungalow court, and the Hotel Rector are now gone, replaced by a senior affordable housing apartment building on top of a minimall and massive underground parking.
I took the following photo of Hollywood and Western, looking west, in 1999. The art deco Louis B. Mayer Building at the left was built in 1931 for the Screen Extras Guild.
In the next shot we're looking southeast at the Hollywood Transit Village on the southeast corner of Hollywood and Western. This is an affordable housing transit village...built on top of a Red Line subway station. This building provides 60 apartments for low-income people with a child care center for 70 children on the ground floor. The apartments are managed by the Hollywood Community Housing Corporation. Hollywood Community Housing is a non-profit formed in 1989. Today they manage about 600 apartments. Their executive director, Bill Harris, tells me that a majority of their apartments are within walking distance of the Hollywood-Western subway station.
The Hotel Rector has been replaced with four stories of senior affordable housing mounted on top of the minimall, as we see in the following photo. The apartments are partly obscured by the "Ralphs" sign in this photo. The photo faces southeast, and the Hollywood Transit Village is visible at right.
Beneath the intersection of Hollywood and Western is the Hollywood-Western subway station, shown below.
In the photo below an inbound car passes the Pantages theater at Argyle Avenue. The tall building behind the Pantages is the Bank of Hollywood Building, built in 1929.
Next we have a 1948 postcard view of Hollywood and Vine, with two Los Angeles Motor Coach yellow buses in action. The two large buildings flanking Vine Street on the south side of the boulevard are the Taft Building and the Broadway Hollywood department store, built in 1928, with an annex next to it.
The following is a 1920s postcard view looking east at Wilcox St. The Warner-Pacific Building and Warner Theater are at the left. The next large building on the left is the Security Trust & Savings Bank building, built in 1922, at Cahuenga Blvd.
In the next photo an outbound car passes the Hollywood Market, at left, at Whitley Drive. The metal Christmas trees plug into circuits in the street light poles.
Next we have a 1930s postcard view of Hollywood Boulevard looking east at Highland Avenue. The tracks going north on Highland Avenue are the San Fernando Valley line.
The next image is a postcard (post-marked 1930) of the Hollywood Hotel (demolished 1954) on the northwest corner of Hollywood and Highland (site of the present Hollywood-Highland Mall).
The following postcard shows the interior court of the Hollywood Hotel.
In the next shot an outbound car passes Grauman's Chinese Theater. The Spanish Colonial-style structure visible through the palm trees is the Hollywood Hotel at Highland Avenue (demolished in 1954). The tall building in the background is the Southwest Trust & Savings Bank building, built in 1927.
In the next photo, from the early 1920s, we are looking east on Hollywood Boulevard at Sycamore St.
At La Brea the tracks curve diagonally to the left onto private right of way, paralleling an alley called Marshfield Way. The following postcard view (circa 1930) looks east from La Brea. The second tall building from the right is the Hotel Roosevelt.
In the shot below we see an eastbound streetcar emerging into Hollywood Blvd from the private right of way at La Brea. This shot was taken in the early '50s.
To get from Hollywood and La Brea to Santa Monica and Fairfax the PE ran on a private way diagonal to the street grid. You can see the route of this right of way in the following topographic map from 1953:
The one-lane street in the next photo is Marshfield Way. The photo is looking northeast towards Hollywood and La Brea. The PE had a private right of way along the left edge of this one-lane street. The five-story apartment building in the middle of the photo has been built partly on the PE right of way. If you had lived in the little house at the right, you would have had to get used to the clickety-clack of streetcars rolling by, day and night.
At Poinsettia Place the private right of way curves into Hawthorn Avenue and the trains run in Hawthorn Avenue for two short blocks to Martel Avenue. In the shot below we see an eastbound train about to turn off Hawthorn Avenue into the private right of way.
Hawthorn Avenue is a narrow street. In the shot below a westbound streetcar is about to turn off Hawthorn Ave onto the private right of way at Martel Ave.
At Martel and Hawthorn the tracks diverge in a southwest-ward direction, entering a private right of way that runs diagonally to the street grid to Santa Monica Boulevard and Fairfax Ave. In the photo below (by Ray Ballash) an inbound car has just crossed Vista St. (with Hawthorn Avenue in the distance) on the private right of way.
In the photo below an inbound train is approaching the grade crossing at Sunset Boulevard and Gardner Street. Even today the PE right of way is quite visible at this intersection. About half the Hollywood Boulevard steetcar service turned back using the crossover in the foreground.
An outbound car, about to cross DeLongpre Dr., has just departed Gardner Street in the photo below (by Donald Duke).
In the next shot, taken in the early '50s, an outbound Hollwyood Boulevard car has reached Fairfax Avenue. This shot looks northeast. At this point the Hollywood Boulevard line curves into Santa Monica Boulevard, joining the tracks of the Santa Monica Boulevard streetcar line, which come in from the right in this photo.
The trains run a bit less than a mile on street trackage in Santa Monica Boulevard to Holloway Drive, where a private right of way in the median of Santa Monica Boulevard begins. The boulevard also curves a bit southwest-ward at this point. After the stop at La Cienega Boulevard, the next stop is the West Hollywood Carhouse stop, at Westbourne Drive. Tracks diverge to the left here, entering West Hollywood Yard. West Hollywood yard is the main operations center for the PE lines operating out of the subway, including a car house, a car shop, overhead wire maintenance sheds, as well as freight facilities.
At Palm Avenue the train reaches the West Hollywood stop (shown below). The station agency is across the street in the PE electrical substation building (out of view to the right).
Next we see a very early image of the same location in West Hollywood — Santa Monica Boulevard near Palm Drive. At the time this photo was taken the eastbound lanes of Santa Monica Boulevard on the south side of the right of way hadn't been built — that didn't happen til 1928. This is a car operating on the Santa Monica Boulevard line which terminated here at the West Hollywood station (which is out of the photo to the right).
After crossing Clark Street and Robertson Blvd., the line reaches the Beverly Hills city limits at Doheny Dr. From Doheny Dr. to the Beverly Hills civic center the right of way is between Big and Little Santa Monica Boulevards -- an attractive right of way lined with eucalyptus trees. In the photo below a westbound train is running on the private right of way between Big and Little Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills, west of Doheny Dr.
After passing the shelter at Beverly Boulevard, where there are various freight spurs for the Beverly Hills industrial park, the line continues another half mile to Canon Drive, the location of the Beverly Hills station (shown below).
Copyright 1999 Tom Wetzel