San Fernando Valley 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, 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.

San Fernando Valley trains usually depart from track 2 or 3. After passing the interlocking tower and sliding through the puzzle switches at the throat of the trainshed, 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. In the following photo an arriving train from Hollywood is about to negotiate the terminal throat.

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.

Train at Toluca

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. At Park Avenue we pass Aimee Semple McPherson's Angelus Temple on the right, and tracks diverge to the left. Hollywood Boulevard and San Fernando Valley trains take the diverging route to the left.

After running uphill one short block to Sunset Boulevard, Valley trains then turn left and proceed west in street trackage in Sunset Boulevard. San Fernando Valley trains continue out Sunset Boulevard to Hollywood Junction, at Sanborn Avenue, where they diverge to the left onto Santa Monica Boulevard. In the following photo an inbound train from West Hollywood is turning onto Sunset from Santa Monica Blvd.

Hollywood Junction

Here's another shot at Hollywood Junction. In this case we're looking east as an inbound train is about to turn onto Sunset Boulevard.

The trains then continue in street trackage in Santa Monica Boulevard through south Hollywood. The main commercial center in south Hollywood is passed at Western Avenue. The photo below shows this intersection, looking west, in 1926. The building on the right is the Security First National Bank building. Until 1940 this intersection was the junction with the Western Avenue-Franklin Avenue branch of the Santa Monica Blvd. line. A car on the Western Avenue line is just visible in the photo.

Santa Monica and Western

At Highland Avenue, the Valley trains curve north onto Highland Avenue. In the photo below an inbound West Hollywood car crosses Highland. The tracks curving to the right are the Van Nuys line. In the vicinity of Highland Avenue, numerous freight spurs connect to the line. This industrial district is the most important freight destination on the westside of Los Angeles for freight carried by rail.

Highland Avenue

Just beyond Highland Avenue was a small freight yard and the freight station for Hollywood, shown below. The station agent sold passenger tickets.

Hollywood Station
I snapped this photo of the Hollywood station in the early '60s.

After passing Hollywood High School at Sunset Boulevard and the main stop for downtown Hollywood at Hollywood Boulevard, the Valley trains continue north on Highland Avenue, reaching private right of way just south of the Hollywood Bowl. The following photo, taken in the early '30s, looks north along Highland Avenue. The domed building in the middle right is the original Hollywood High School building, fatally damaged in the 1933 earthquake. The tall building at the left is the Hotel Roosevelt, on Hollywood Blvd.

Looking north along Highland Avenue

Just north of the bowl the new Hollywood Freeway southbound lanes cross beneath the Valley line. In the photo below (by Waldemar Sievers) an inbound train is approaching the stop for the Hollywood Bowl.

Train near Hollywood Bowl

At this point the Valley line enters the median of the Hollywood Freeway, and will continue in the median to the end of the freeway, at Ventura Boulevard and Vineland Avenue in Studio City. The following 1940s postcard view looks south from the Mulholland Highway bridge.

Tracks in Hollywood Freeway

The next shot is taken looking north from the Mulholland Drive bridge. An inbound train has just crested the top of the pass. The little brick shelter for the "Mulholland Highway" stop was built in the '40s by the state of California. A grade separated right of way in the middle of the freeway might seem like rapid transit but in fact outbound PE trains crawled up the steep 7.6 percent grade. Real rapid transit would have required a tunnel under the pass...as in fact was done with the L.A. subway line built in the '90s.

At Mulholland Highway Stop

The next shot shows this same scene as it looks today.

Cahuenga Pass Today

After crossing the top of the pass, outbound trains descend into the Barham Boulevard stop. The photo below shows an inbound train at the Barham stop.

Barham Boulevard

As the trains approach the end of the freeway, the tracks cross the outbound freeway lanes and Vineland Avenue to reach the right of way that runs along the west side of Vineland. The line is single-track for a short stretch where it crosses over the Los Angeles River. In the photo below an outbound car crosses the L.A. River on the single-track section.

Crossing the Los Angeles River

The Valley line follows Vineland to the Southern Pacific railroad right of way, about a quarter mile north of Magnolia Avenue. At that point the line curves west paralleling the Southern Pacific freight line as far as Old Tujunga Wash. In the photo below an inbound car has just left the Camarillo Street stop in North Hollywood. (After this line was converted to bus in 1952, Vineland Avenue was widened so that the southbound lanes of Vineland now occupy this right of way.)

Train in North Hollywood

In the next shot we see a Van Nuys-bound train about to load a group of passengers at the North Hollywood stop. Lankershim Boulevard is in the background.

Loading Passengers at North Hollywood

On the east bank of Old Tujunga Wash the Pacific Electric line merges into the Southern Pacific track. The PE trains have trackage rights over the SP as far as Kester Junction, just east of Ethel Avenue. In the photo below (by Carl Blaubach) a train is running on this joint track, in the median of Chandler Boulevard, west of Whitsett Avenue (in the background). The line is single-track from Old Tujunga Wash to Calvert Street in Van Nuys.

Chandler Boulevard

After crossing Hazeltine Avenue, the line curves into the median of Circle Drive to Van Nuys Boulevard. The line then enters the median of Van Nuys Boulevard which it follows to Calvert Street. At Calvert St., the line becomes double-track and enters street trackage, which continues for 0.7 miles to Vanowen St., where private right of way in the median of Van Nuys Boulevard begins again. The line then continues another quarter mile to the terminal at Vose Street. The following shot looks up Van Nuys Boulevard in 1948 in the Christmas season.