Clement Junction to Santa Monica

The Santa Monica Air Line

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Note: This route is no longer abandoned, and now serves as the Expo Line of the LA Metro transit authority.

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Amoco Junction facing east; track is out of service. MTA Blue Line crosses in the foreground, along with a dismantled UP freight spur (abandoned in 1990s). Blue Line is built on what was a four-track main during PE's glory days. A UP freight track passes in front of the parked trucks; it is less busy since the Alameda Corridor opened in 2002. Photo by Mike Palmer.

This branch was originally constructed by a predecessor of the Southern Pacific in the 1870s. It passed through a succession of owners, eventually becoming part of the Los Angeles Pacific and then Pacific Electric in 1911. The line actually branched off the the Pacific Electric's southern four-track main at Amoco Junction (near the corner of Long Beach Boulevard and 25th Street), and headed generally west to Santa Monica. The term "air line" referred to a direct rail route before commercial air travel became popular. Part of this line ran in the median of Exposition Boulevard, but there was no true "street running" except in Santa Monica. The section of line that passed between the University of Southern California and Exposition Park was used to display other rail lines' streamliner passenger trains during the 1930s. Passenger service ended in the early 1950s, and its private right-of-way and freight customers helped the line survive several more decades.

By the 1970s, the western end of track was at Fisher Lumber in Santa Monica. The route was later cut back further to Palms and Culver City, and ultimately a short section that ran only a few blocks from Amoco Junction to a siding at Jefferson Street. Part of the last segment is still intact, but it is out-of-service and grade crossing signals have been removed.

As of 2003, the line is still easy to locate, though some areas are paved over. It passes through a heavily built-up area, including abandoned industrial facilities used by transients, active businesses, and a wide variety of neighborhoods from working class to upper middle class. The Palms depot still survives but has been moved off line. The route roughly parallels the I-10 Santa Monica Freeway, which is frequently congested. Accordingly, there have been tentative plans to rebuild and reopen the rail line as part of LA's Metro or commuter rail system. Funding constraints and fierce opposition in some neighborhoods has prevented any significant progress.

The line served Amoco Junction, Nevin, Jefferson Siding, Grand Ave. Spur, University, Cienega, Airville, Sentous, Culver Junction (site of PE crossing and later SP junction), Winslow, Palms, Winship, Home Junction (site of a junction with another abandoned railroad), and Bergamot (Santa Monica).

Update: This right-of-way is now in use by Metro, the Los Angeles metropolitan transit authority, as their Expo Rail Line. You can find more information about this line on their website.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: 9340 Date: 4/19/1932 Section: 1
App. of Southern Pacific Ry, Co. and Pacific Electric Ry, Co., for certificate to abandon that part of the Santa Monica Air Line, extending from Santa Monica to Los Angeles, in Los Angeles County, California, a distance of 2.17 miles.
Length: 2.17 miles Citation: 187 ICC 410  
SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: 20099 Date: 2/24/1958 Section: 1(18)
Jt. app. and R to Q for auth. to Southern Pacific Co. to abandon a portion of its Santa Monica Air Line in the City of Santa Monica, Calif, and auth. to Pacific Electric Ry. Co. to abandon a portion of its Inglewood Line in the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles, Calif., and operations thereof.
Length: Unknown Citation: 295 ICC 836  
Also under this filing: The Inglewood Branch   

I just retraced part of this line, between Culver City and USC (Flower/Exposition), on 11-22-08. Grading for the MTA's double-track "Expo Line" (light rail line) is well under way along this route; many of the remnants from the SP/PE days along this segment have now been removed. Light rail service is planned to begin in 2011.

Mike Palmer
Torrance, CA
11/26/2008

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I suspect the boxcar my be gone at long last. Having access to the complete L.A. Times archives through my university library account, I found an old address for Sloane's at 10201 National Blvd. Since that's in Palms it seemed that would have to be the place. But I was unable to find any trace of the boxcar in the area using Google Earth.

Jim
Los Angeles, Palms area
9/24/2009

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The picture taken near La Cienega was the location of Sentous Yard, a small freight yard maintained by Pacific Electric to facilitate freight movements on the Air Line. Also, the abandoned boxcar was cut up for scrap when the Sloane's building was demolished a few years ago.

Bob Bray
Los Angeles, CA
6/23/2010

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a few years ago i was told that phase 2 would end at the sears auto site , it has recently been torn down and buildexpo.org has the rail ending at 4th street near colorado , sooo i guess it will have to push thru from 10th street jump over lincoln and right thru where they park the blue buses ... http://www.buildexpo.org/phase2_map.php

stanley thomas
culver city, CA
8/13/2010

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I have a scan of a photo that I took of the abandoned (probably "bad-ordered" because of a broken coupler knuckle on the back end and a missing coupler pin, knuckle and bar on the front end; which was facing EB toward Venice-Robertson, and seemingly written-off and/or forgotten) boxcar at the former location of the W&J Sloane Furniture Plant at 10151 National Boulevard in the Palms District of West Los Angeles. The Sloane Furniture Assembly Warehouse/Plant was demolished in the middle of 2005 to erect a Price Self Storage location.

I lived in the area (4 blocks away) for 12 years previous to that day (I think it was July of 2005) and was driving by the day after they had leveled the 95% of the building down to ground level and was astonished to see this old Southern Pacific 40' AAR Boxcar with SP-Type Panel Doors sitting on a siding - the build date was 4-41 and it had the old "Southern Pacific Lines" herald. The car was probably abandoned there sometime before 1961 because by the end of 1961, all of SP's boxcars had been re-painted with the large "Southern Pacific" logo where the old herald had been previously. I had to stop and investigate this curiosity so pulled over and parked.

The roof, port side and both ends were whitewashed with paint but the starboard side just had a bit of graffiti on it so; being a railfan, I took a "roster-type" photo with my 35mm film camera for "old times" sake. Note in the image that the boxcar's door was slightly ajar and the inside looked, and smelled, like it was a home for some local transients over the years.

I drove past the boxcar 4 days later and there were 2 large wheeled loaders, a Caterpiller bulldozer/loader and half a dozen welders there dismantling the boxcar and cutting up the rails. 2 days after that, everything in the image that you see was gone from the site - the rails, the boxcar and the 5% that was left of the building's foundation. All I found in the dirt was a rusty spike, which I still have.

I did some looking around online and at the TransitTalk.ProBoards.com site I found a photo taken on July 17, 1953 of the Palms Depot area and its passenger station and adjacent freight house. For reference, here is a YouTube video link of the abandoned Air Line as of 8 months ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EEd72CDAgc

Note that in the video, you can see the left-hand turnout at 00:26 which sloped down below grade to where the original freight house was and later occupied by the railroad loading dock for the W&J Sloane Furniture Warehouse/Plant with the industrial rail siding which held that old SP boxcar prisoner for probably 44 years!

Don Gomez
Los Angeles, CA
5/10/2011

[Thanks for the picture, Don!  —Greg Harrison]

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In case anyone here isn't aware of it, the new Expo transit line is now in operation between downtown L.A. and Culver City Station (Robertson / Venice, actually barely in Culver City).

Eventually the line will go to 4th Street in Santa Monica. Although this isn't supposed to come on line until 2016, demolitions have already begun at some station locations as their commercial tenants have decided it wiser to move on.

Dark Penguin
Palms, Los Angeles, CA
6/27/2012

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I remember putting rocks on the rails along Olympic Blvd. and watching the trains crush them. There was a Pabst Blue Ribbon warehouse and I think the train stopped there. This was in the early 70's.

raymond
santa monica, CA
7/18/2012

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Prior occupants of the "Sloan" building at 10151 National Blvd. was the "Tootsie Roll" candy factory and Douglas Aircraft Co. The P.E Red Car "Palms Streetcar Station for Palms and Cheviot HIlls and freight junction was located behind the factory.

Jerry Steiner
Los Angeles, CA
1/28/2014

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I believe picture 12 is facing west not east. I worked in the red brick building to the left in 1979.

Tom Baker
Upland, CA
9/16/2014

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