In the 1930s the Santa Monica via Beverly Hills line had the highest patronage of any inter-city or suburban line of the Pacific Electric Railway. Yet it was converted to bus operation in 1940, unlike the various PE suburban lines that survived World War II.
The early bus conversion of this line was due, in part, to competition from Bay Cities Transit -- a motor bus operation that became part of Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines in 1951. Bay Cities had started in the World War I era as a jitney operation. Because of hostility of the Santa Monica population, and especially its business elite, to poor service operated by Pacific Electric, the city refused to ban competing jitney service, unlike the city of Los Angeles. In particular, Bay Cities operated a bus line on Santa Monica Blvd, from Westwood to Ocean Ave., and along Main St. to Venice, which directly paralleled this PE line.
Until the Depression of the '30s, this line was the Venice via Sawtelle line. "Sawtelle" was the original name for what came to be called West Los Angeles -- the area centered at Sawtelle and Santa Monica Blvds. Until 1915, Sawtelle was an independent city. In the '30s, the terminal on this line was cut back from Venice to Santa Monica, to cut costs. Service between Santa Monica and Venice was provided in the '30s by two other PE rail lines -- Venice Short Line and the Venice via Hollywood Blvd. streetcar line.
A trip from downtown on this line begins at the surface station of the Pacific Electric on Hill Street, on the south side of the Subway Terminal building. The following photo was taken in the '40s, after abandonment of the Santa Monica rail line. The buses on top of the bus deck in the background were the replacement for the Santa Monica rail line, which previously left via the surface rail terminal below.
Trains on the Santa Monica via Beverly Hills line traversed street trackage on Hill Street and Venice Blvd to Arlington Ave., where trains entered a private right of way in the median of Venice Blvd. At Crenshaw Blvd. the tracks swung over to the north side of the street, to the junction at Vineyard, beneath the West Blvd. bridge. In the next photo, taken from the West Blvd. bridge, an outbound Santa Monica car has just departed Vineyard and is heading towards the viaduct over Pico Blvd. The Santa Monica via Venice Blvd. line comes in from the left. A Sears department store was built just behind the substation at right not long after this photo was taken. The Vineyard Subway, if it had been built, would have run west through Pico-Union or the Westlake neighborhood and eventually reached the existing PE lines just beyond the substation building. Pacific Electric owned a private right of way from Irolo Ave., near the Ambassador Hotel, to Pico and Mullen Avenue. The plan was to build the Vineyard Subway in open trench on that right of way, and then in subway from the Wilshire district into downtown. (The subway portion might have followed a route like that of the present Red Line subway.)
In the next photo an inbound car from Santa Monica is traversing the viaduct that ran in the median of San Vicente Blvd. from Highland Ave. to Pico Blvd. This viaduct was built in 1927 as part of the proposed Vineyard Subway project.
The next image gives us another view of the same viaduct. In this shot we see the entire length of the two-block long viaduct. The photo is looking towards Pico Boulevard. The train on the viaduct is outbound. The viaduct was eventually demolished in the '60s when San Vicente Boulevard was widened.
At McCarthy Vista, just south of Wilshire Blvd., the Santa Monica cars passed Carthay Center — originally developed as a pedestrian-oriented shopping district in the 1920s for the new professional/managerial class residential area around it. This shopping center is pictured in the developer's advertisement, below.
After traversing the median of San Vicente Blvd. and the median of Burton Way, the trains arrived at the Beverly Hills station, at Canon Dr. In the photo below, an outbound train pauses at the Beverly Hills station, with the Beverly Hills city hall in the background. (Photo is from the book "Pacific Electric Stations", available from the Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California)
In the next photo an inbound train is passing the 20th Century Fox "ranch" in 1941. This site is just west of the Beverly Hills city limit.
The next photo shows the same view in 1999. Century City's 9 million square feet of office space was built on the "ranch" site in the late '60s.
In the next photo an inbound car has just crossed the bridge over Beverly Glen Blvd. The SantaGlen market is visible behind the car. When this photo was taken in 1937, there were still many vacant lots in this part of the Westwood area.
In the photo below, taken in 1937, we see an inbound car at the curve in the right of way between Little and Big Santa Monica Blvd. just east of the Westwood Blvd. grade crossing, which is visible in the right background.
In the next shot, taken in 1926, we see an inbound car about to pick up some passengers at Sawtelle Blvd. We are looking west down Santa Monica Blvd.
The next photo looks west on Santa Monica Boulevard towards 4th Street in Santa Monica. The tall building is the Bay Cities Guaranty Building, built in 1929.
The next photo shows a train at the Santa Monica station on Ocean Ave. in the late '40s. By this time the Santa Monica via Beverly Hills line has been converted to bus operation. But the scene at this station hasn't changed much since the '30s.
Not far from the Santa Monica station is the Santa Monica Municipal Pier, which we see below in a 1920s postcard.
In the 1920s the Santa Monica line — then called the Venice via Sawtelle line — stopped at this station in Ocean Park, at Pier St.
Until the 1930s, the Santa Monica line terminated at the Venice station, at Windward and Pacific Avenues. By the 1930s, the PE station and waiting room was located in the groundfloor of the building at the left, in the postcard below.
The destination for quite a few passengers would be the "Coney Island of the West" at Venice. Below we see a 1920s postcard view of Ocean Front Walk at Venice.