Freight trains on the old Expo Line right-of-way in the early 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
The Expo Line may be brand new, but passenger rail service to the Westside is nothing Los Angeles hasn’t seen before – it’s just been a long time as in half a century ago. The path taken by Phase I of the Expo Line to Culver City and Phase II to Santa Monica was traveled by Pacific Electric’s Santa Monica Air Line, a passenger and freight rail service that ran on the same right-of-way. Passenger rail service carried passengers down to Santa Monica until 1953 and freight trains also used the tracks until the late 1980s.
The Air Line was a coveted track to work because it was an easy local run from downtown Los Angeles to the ocean. Only the highest seniority Pacific Electric rail men got the chance to work the Air Line – just ask Larry Fredeen, a former P.E. conductor.
“I was lucky to work the line at all,” said Fredeen, who worked the Air Line as a brakeman in the late 1970s. “I was so sad when I heard it was abandoned due to lack of business. I had a lot of good experiences working that track. I’m glad it’s returning, although in a different form.”
An Expo train at La Cienega/Jefferson station with the downtown L.A. skyline in the distance. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
First, a plug: If you’re planning to attend this weekend’s Expo Line festivities, go ahead and subscribe to Metro on Twitter at @MetroLosAngeles, so you can follow our coverage in real time and share with us all your Expo thoughts and photos.
Now, business: We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve published a whole bunch of posts about the Expo Line lately — about how Expo will work, its history, who was instrumental in making it a reality. So much so that a couple of great stories got pushed off the front page before many folks probably had a chance to read them.
So, without further ado here’s a recap of our Expo Line stories from the past month or so:
Beyond phase one: making connections to the Expo Line
More info on parking, biking and bus connections to the Expo Line
Expo Line timetable is here!
Riding safely on new Expo Line bike lanes
Expo Line map, destinations guide and art guide
Go Expo this weekend
Free rides on new Expo light-rail line during opening weekend celebration, April 28-29
Expo opening day celebrations
Go Expo to Everychild Playground Play Day
Photos of the Expo Line through history
The Expo Line’s earlier days: recalled by the men who worked it
Santa Monica Railway Station, Los Angeles & Independence Railroad, 1880. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Today’s Expo Line has its origins in a railroad between Los Angeles and Santa Monica that went into service in 1875. The Los Angeles & Independence Railroad later became the Air Line, the direct ancestor of the Expo Line.
The Los Angeles & Independence was sold in 1877 to the Southern Pacific, which built a half-mile wharf north of Santa Monica Canyon to provide ships with a place to unload their freight. At this point the Los Angeles & Independence Railroad became an important freight and passenger rail line.
The following photos show the rail line in its many incarnations over the decades.
Los Angeles & Independence Railroad Terminal at Fifth Street and San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, 1895. Photo courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Special Collections.
Santa Monica Long Wharf, Los Angeles & Independence Railroad, late 19th Century. Once a breakwater was built in San Pedro, freight ports in Redondo Beach and the Long Wharf were pretty much doomed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Map from 1912 of the Pacific Electric Railway. The Air Line, the forerunner to Expo, is highlighted in blue. In 1908, Southern Pacific leased the railroad line and the wharf to Los Angeles Pacific, which electrified the portion between Sentous -- east of Culver City -- and the Long Wharf. The remainder of the line was electrified three years later. Photo: Special Collections, UCLA's Young Research Library.
Santa Monica Air Line, 1940. Photo via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
Jim Stubchaer took this photo looking over the motorman's shoulder while riding the Air Line in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy Jim Stubchaer; click on the photo to visit his website.
This was a fan trip taken along the Santa Monica Air Line in 1950. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
Rail Fleet Services team oversee the rail car overhaul program at the Metro Blue Line maintenance facility. From left, Brian Rydell, Nick Madanat, Russell Homan. Photos by Gary Leonard.
The hefty Metro Blue Line rail cars make a hard day’s run between Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles, running the 22-mile stop-and-go course to the tune of 87,000 trips a year, 1.7 million service miles and 26 million boardings. Although the rail cars of the Blue Line’s original fleet are not slowing down — some have been running for two decades now – the cars are in the midst of a comprehensive overhaul of rail car components and systems that impact safety and reliability and appearance.
In the works for more than a year now, the $30-million rail car overhaul program will enhance and extend the revenue service life through the projected 30-year life span of the cars.
Fresh out of the paint shop, this rail car is refurbished inside and out.
The work is being done in the cavernous vehicle maintenance buildings of the Blue Line rail yard in Long Beach. Scores of maintenance specialists are poring over rail cars that pull in and out of the rail yard pit stops. With only six years to accomplish the overhaul, the tasks are handled one set of components at a time — in a fashion that keeps the overhaul process moving while providing cars for service each day.
Metro is offering two informational workshops for artists interested in upcoming art opportunities throughout our fast-growing transit system, including Phase 2 of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica.
April 3, 2012
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Santa Monica Main Library
601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Multipurpose Room—2nd Floor
Paid parking is available in the underground parking garage; enter from 7th Street. Visitors should enter the library and use the interior stairs or elevator to get to the Multipurpose Room.
April 5, 2012
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Palms-Rancho Park Library
2920 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Free parking is available in the library lot.
Each workshop will cover the same material. Interested artists should plan to attend just one workshop.
For information about the Metro Art program, visit metro.net/art.
Metro will be hosting a job fair for military veterans on Friday, April 13. The fair starts at 10 a.m. and is located at Metro Headquarters Building, One Gateway Plaza. Some of the participating organizations include Metro, LAPD, LAFD and Metrolink.
Job Fair for Military Veterans
Artisans at the artwork fabricator, Mosaïka Art & Design, working on Gonzalez’s art panels. Highly skilled artisans translated the artist’s original black and white linoleum prints into pieces of hand-carved, hand-glazed porcelain.
Daniel González’s artwork for La Cienega/Jefferson Station illustrates the history of the Ballona Creek and the surrounding environs, including the people who have called the area home.
The art panels reference the Mission and Californio periods, the film industry and contemporary art scene, as well as the Baldwin Hills dam break of 1967. The Ballona Creek flows through several art panels, constant and recognizable, visually linking the images across time. (Here’s a link to more information about Gonzalez’s work for La Cienega/Jefferson Station.)
Detail of Engraved in Memory at La Cienega/Jefferson Station
Artisan at Mosaïka Art & Design working on an art panel
More photos of the artwork are after the jump.
A proposal from 1961 would have linked El Monte to Westwood via downtown. The threat of a Soviet nuclear attack meant planners could pitch subway stations as fallout shelters too.
It’s a simple idea: Connect the jobs-rich and traffic-choked Westside of Los Angeles County to downtown L.A., the heart of the region’s economy and public transit network. Yet, as of this moment, I can’t hop on the subway in Westwood and make it to downtown in about 25 minutes — though that’s the future when the current Westside Subway Extension comes to fruition.
It’s well known — part of the city’s legend, really — that there have been seemingly a dozen proposals for such a transit line, many dating back to the middle of the last century. With such an illustrious history, I’m sure many of you are wondering skeptically: What makes this Westside Subway proposal different from all those others?
That’s a fair question. Before traipsing back in time through the various iterations of the Westside subway concept, we’d like to highlight a key difference between then and now: The current Westside Subway Plan has funding both through the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008, as well as federal dollars. The Metro Board of Director’s vote on the final environmental study for the project later this year will clear the way for finalizing the engineering and then putting actual shovels in the ground.
All other subway plans for the Wilshire Boulevard have died on the vine at various phases. So I sat down with Metro Librarian Matthew Barrett to get the story on each of the erstwhile proposals that have paved the way for the Westside Subway Extension.
Jose Lozano standing in front of an art panel before it’s installed
Jose Lozano presents a series of Lotería cards, based on a Mexican game of chance, in his artwork for Expo/La Brea Station.
Similar to Bingo, Lotería uses images on a deck of cards instead of numbers. In text at the bottom of the cards, Lozano plays with the station name “La Brea,” keeping the Spanish language prefixes “La,” “El,” or “Los,” and substituting “Brea” with passenger interactions commonly encountered while riding Metro.
Each of the eight art panels portrays a different scene: “El Luggage” shows a smiling man surrounded by overstuffed luggage, “La Prisa” (the hurry) shows a mother and child walking quickly across a platform. (Here’s a link to more information about Lozano’s work for Expo/La Brea Station.)
Original design for one of the 8 art panels (seen above with the artist) comprising LA Metro Lotería at Expo/La Brea Station
Detail of LA Metro Lotería, displaying “Los Stairs” and “La Nurse,” at the artwork fabricator, Winsor Fireform.
Detail of LA Metro Lotería, displaying “Los Romantics” and “Los Metro Guys,” at the artwork fabricator, Winsor Fireform.
More photos of the artwork being installed at the station are after the jump.
Original design for one of the 20 art panels comprising Urban Dualities at Jefferson/USC Station. Unusual juxtapositions—an arm sticking out of a car window, a man riding a bike and a mythical amphibian-like creature—are intended to capture both literal images seen while traveling on public transit and those inside riders’ daydreaming minds.
Samuel Rodriguez presents images with fragments of building facades, vintage rail cars, human figures, and fictional characters in his artwork for the Expo Line’s Jefferson/USC Station.
Each of the 20 art panels is visually divided by the silhouette of bike frame parts, resembling the layout of a comic book. The artist chose bicycle imagery to emphasize the human-powered modes of transportation alongside the rail line. Each panel is an invitation to engage the mind in a playful fantasy along the route between starting point and destination. (Here’s a link to more information about Rodriguez’s work for Jefferson/USC Station.)
Hand-glazed ceramic tiles are matched to the artist’s original artwork designs at the mosaic fabricator, Mosaïka Art & Design.
Highly skilled artisans at Mosaïka Art & Design cut each piece of hand-glazed ceramic tile into tiny mosaics and place them into art panels.
Many more photos are posted after the jump…