Railways of Mount Washington

So I came across this website, with a fantastic history of Mount Washington’s early builders/dweller/hoteliers, and then went to the main page, to discover oodles of other pages, all compiled by the Electric Railway Historical Society. Ok, ok–I’m sure LA City Nerd‘s known about this resource forever, but I’m amazed to see all the detailed info compiled here. Some favorites: the view from Mount Washington:


…and the “trackless trolley” of Laurel Canyon, apparently abandoned after two years:
“The failure of the Hollywood trackless trolley which was quite thoroughly investigated by us at the time, was largely due to the fact that the roads were not paved.”


Runner-up, the Los Angeles Railway Corporation and its fantastic acronym: LARy.

It’s fascinating, the degree to which LA was actually quite well-served by public transportation and rail. Obviously all that fell out of favor with the rise of the car, and the fact that LA had yet to become the suburban megalopolis it is today. The short-sightedness of the folks who ripped out the train and trolley tracks still befuddles me, but doesn’t surprise me: People have always been thus (linked because this, of all the towns I visited in Italy, showed the most obvious “layers” of building, with the vast Estruscan stones at the bases of the buildings, the awkward Middle Ages rough-hewn rocks above that, then some skyward-straining Gothic stuff, then the evenly spaced and Golden-Mean-measured Renaissance architecture, then the baroque…literally beginning below the ground and transforming, time-travelling as it extended upwards…), plunking one layer on top of another on top of another. It’s just fascinating to see our own various urban archaological strata laid down in our own lifetimes, ongoing as we walk the streets, history happening right here and now.

4 thoughts on “Railways of Mount Washington”

  1. Super Cool Stuff!!

    If i recall correctly, General Motors or the Oil companies actually bought some of the train companies and stopped them from running. Shut them down even though they worked etc. May have been inevitable but the race to the end was certainly hurried along.

  2. So much for LA being a city with no history!!! Just because we don’t have layers upon layers of built environment like Tuscany, that does not mean we are without history. There are records we now have where we’ve determined that Native Americans lived in villages in this area for 4,000 years… one particular such village (though quite a distance from LA but still in the region) was Temeku people in the Santa Margarita River canyon inland from Camp Pendleton.

    Hey – if the Etruscans can be used as an example of a long histiry, why not the Temekus, Gabrielenos, Salish, and the many others? Soutern California, and the LA Basin in particular, had the most diverse collection of tribes in one region of any group of Native American peoples.

    Hmmm… sounds like LA today! The more things change, the more they stay the same…

  3. Very true on the native tribes. I grew up in Chatsworth and did a lot of hiking in the area–Chumash, mostly–and it was indeed reminiscent of being in Italy: the sense that many lives have transpired in the same place, for centuries beforehand.

  4. Railroads and Indians blend where Jefferson Blvd runs to the sea. One of the old rail lines connecting downtown to the beach ran down Jefferson Blvd (maybe that’s why it’s such a straight shot) and linked up with a north/south line running up from Manhattan Beach and crossing Ballona Creek on the same concrete bridge that still connects Marina del Rey with Playa del Rey. That’s why that bridge is so substantial—it used to carry railcars. As for the Indians, they gathered waterfowl, fish, crustaceans, for millenia from the rich lagoon which used to occupy much of the area which now includes Playa, the Marina’s Silver Strand, and the hideous new Playa Vista. The Indians lived, in part, on the bluffs to the west of Lincoln Blvd. These priceless archeological sites are the same bluffs which the Playa Vista developers recently rushed to bulldoze and desecrate so they could build the crappy new houses you now see on those bluffs. As so often is the case in LA, developers’ profits take precedence over preservation of history. Much of the Playa Vista development, which grows like a voracious cancer originating at the corner of Jefferson and Lincoln, is built over old oil fields. The buildup of explosive gases under the site is considerable and was an issue scarcely explored when LA city pols gave Playa Vista the go-ahead. The old Indian ghosts may yet have their revenge. By the way, Howard Hughes used to have a massive aircraft plant on the site and hangared the largest aircraft ever built, the Spruce Goose, there. The developments in Westchester to the south originally housed the aircraft workers. The big feeder roads like Sepulveda and Jefferson used to be jammed with workers heading to the plant in the morning and leaving at 5 or 6 o’clock. Among their amusements, now gone, were a golf course in the hills to the east of the 405, near the present day cemeteries, and a drive-in movie theater off Sepulveda which lay abandoned until the ’90’s. Eateries surviving from that era include Peretti’s, the big steakhouse at Jefferson & Sepulveda; Dear John’s, the little bar-restaurant near Culver & Sepulveda (check out the Little League pic of Frank Sinatra & Frankie, Jr.); and Diana’s, still purveying flapjacks & chicken soup. Layers of lost worlds indeed. The lost world I would have liked to see most is the one of the great Ballona Creek lagoon before modern man desecrated it. How it must have teemed with life! It is thought that as recently as the early 19th Century the Los Angeles River occasionally ran to the ocean down the Ballona floodplain rather than miles to the south where it debouches today. In rainy season, its volume could be as great as that of the Mississippi. Hard to believe when we behold the styrofoam-befouled trickle than runs down Ballona’s concrete streambed. But before we paved the basin over and drained its aquifers, it had vast stores of underground water which could join forces with the immense runoff from the San Gabriels during big rains. This is what fed the area’s formerly rich wetlands.

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