Return to ERHA homepage

 Pacific Electric logo Pacific Electric

Pasadena Short Line


The Pasadena Short Line, as its name suggests, was the shortest and hence the busiest of the PE's three lines between Los Angeles and the Crown City.



From 6th & Main Station, Los Angeles, the PSL followed the Monrovia-Glendora Line to Oneonta Park, 8.49 miles. There it turned north onto South Fair Oaks Avenue, over private way for a short distance, thence along paved street through the residential and business sections of South Pasadena and through the commercial and business districts of Pasadena to the car house at North Fair Oaks & Mary Street, 11.55 miles.  In Los Angeles, after 1916, cars entered via Main Street, looped through the station and left via San Pedro Street.  On September 27, 1942, PSL trains were rerouted into Los Angeles via San Pedro Street, 6th Street and Main Street.  On October 5, 1947, PSL cars were operated both ways on San Pedro Street, terminating on the elevated stub tracks at the rear of the station; this operation continued until final abandonment.  In Pasadena, cars originally ran up Fair Oaks to California, then ran east a block to Raymond Avenue, up Raymond to the rear of the carhouse, and through the carhouse; they then left by proceeding south on Fair Oaks.  In 1940 operation on Raymond Ave was discontinued, and thereafter Fair Oaks was used both ways.



In 1894 the Pasadena & Los Angeles Electric Railway purchased the horse car line on South Fair Oaks from Columbia Street to Walnut Street and reconstructed it as a double track narrow-gauge electric railway from Columbia to Bellevue and as a single-track narrow-gauge electric line from Green to Walnut.  In 1902-1903 PE reconstructed this trackage into a double track standard-gauge line from Columbia Street to Green Street and as a single-track standard gauge from Green to Walnut; in 1908 a second track from Green to Walnut was built.

The history of the portion of the PSL from Valley Junction to 6th & Main is given in the section devoted to the Los Angeles Terminal District.  That portion of the PSL between Columbia Street and Sierra Vista was opened on November 9, 1902 with a single car of the 200 (500) Class making half-hourly trips between the Raymond Hotel and the junction with the Alhambra Line.  To cross the tracks on the Santa Fe and the Terminal (now Union Pacific) railways as well as the cycleway of the California Cycleway Co. PE proposed an 82-foot-wide steel bridge.  The Cycleway, sensing a threat to its a-building wooden bicycle freeway via the Arroyo Seco to Los Angeles, secured an injunction, which held up PE construction crews for many months.  PE attempted to condemn that part of the Cycleway, which it wanted to cross, and it was not until November 22, 1902, that announcement was made that PE and the Cycleway Company had been able to reach an agreement.  PE therefore built the bridge (although reducing its width to but 52 feet) and linked the new PSL with the old Main Line that was immediately standard-gauged through to downtown Pasadena.  Between Sierra Vista and Los Angeles and the PSL cars followed the rails of the Alhambra-San Gabriel Line, the first all-Huntington line built in the Northern District.  Operation continued until September 30, 1951 when the PSL was abandoned and motor coach service substituted.



The PSL did not have freight service other than Less-than-Car-Load merchandise carried in box motors.  Southern Pacific retained all carload freight service to Pasadena.  After the SP obtained control of the PE in 1911, it abandoned its own passenger service between Los Angeles and the Crown City.  All Southern Pacific passengers traveling between Pasadena-Los Angeles and between Pasadena-Shorb (Alhambra) were handled by the Pacific Electric after May 1, 1912.  Tracks of the SP on Broadway in Pasadena were electrified and a small passenger terminal built at the rear of the SP station, located then at Broadway (now Arroyo Seco Parkway) and Colorado.  Special PE cars thereafter met every SP train at Los Angeles and Shorb, handling passengers and baggage to and from Pasadena.  This service terminated July 30, 1933 between Los Angeles and Pasadena, while the Shorb connection became a bus operation in 1924.  As of 1949, PE operated 45 trains via the PSL to Pasadena and 46 to Los Angeles.  The scheduled running time was 44 minutes in the morning peak, 41 minutes during base period, 45 minutes during PM rush and 37 minutes at night.  To provide this service during the four periods listed, PE supplied 15, 4, 16, and 3 cars respectively; six cars of the 1100 Class and ten cars of the 1200 Class was assigned to this service.  Average miles per hour during these four periods: 15.7, 16.8, 15.3 and 18.7.  Approximate headways in these periods were 10-20 minutes, 20-30 minutes, 10-20 minutes, and 40-60 minutes.  Cars were stored at Macy Street in Los Angeles and at the Pasadena carhouse. Prior to abandonment of Pasadena local lines in 1941, interurbans were stored also at the old South Fair Oaks yard at Columbia Street, site of the original P&LA car house and next door to the PE substation. As was the case with the Oak Knoll Line, a few PSL schedules operated to and from Altadena in rush hours. Operation of PSL trains via North Fair Oaks to Mariposa & Lake was discontinued on Saturday, January 18, 1941 when all PE local lines in Pasadena were abandoned.



1902-1903: 200 Class (500 Class)

1903-1912: 300 Class (800 Class)

1912-1924: 950 Class

1912-1950: 1000-1100-1200 Class

1950-1951: 5050 Class Numbers in parenthesis are post-1911 numbers.  The 5050 Class cars began operating on PSL October 8, 1950; from October 22, 1950 until abandonment all service was run with one-man crews. The 950 Class cars were numbered in the 700 Class during the years they served the PSL.



Pasadena's world famous Tournament of Roses was established even before the P&Los Angeles pioneered interurban transportation between Los Angeles and Pasadena.  Quickly the interurban took over the major share of carrying thousands to and from the Rose Parade each New Year's Day.  Even after the private auto rose to eminence, PE trains bore down on Pasadena from the farthest points on the system each January 1st.  After 1936 Santa Anita race crowds further burdened this unique operation.  Three-car trains from the Southern and Western Districts were assigned to the Pasadena and Santa Anita service, dead-heading between their home terminals and 6th & Main Station during the night of December 31st or running direct to Pasadena with passengers the next morning.  New Year's morning found 6th & Main Station thronged, with Pasadena trains leaving as fast as they were loaded.  These trains operated via not only the three Pasadena lines but also via the Sierra Madre Line.  The last of these unique spectacles occurred January 1, 1951, although the last through operation via the 6th & Main Station concourse and Main Street took place a year earlier.



Trackage used by the PSL exclusively (Oneonta-Colorado Street) and by the PSL and Oak Knoll Lines jointly (Colorado Street-Mary Street) is here listed by weight of rail and year laid:

Oneonta-Monterey Road60lb.1902
Monterey Road-Mission Street128lb. Girder rail1943
Mission Street-Hope Street90lb.1914
Hope Street-Columbia Street128lb. Girder rail1926
Columbia Street-California Street91lb.1915
California Street-Green Street128lb. Girder rail1914
Green Street-Colorado Street128lb. Girder rail1930
Colorado Street-Mary Street128lb. Girder rail1914
(Above trackage on Fair Oaks)
California & Fair Oaks-Raymond & Green128lb. Girder rail1914
Green Street-Colorado Street
(Old route via Colorado and Raymond)


A double transmission line of the Southern California Edison Company paralleled this route from Los Angeles to El Molino, with 600-v. DC power primarily being provided by substations 1 (Central, 2600 kw.), 3 (Valley Junction., 3500), and 45 (Maple, 1500) in LA; 2 (Pasadena, 5200); 8 (Altadena, 1200); and second 52 (Sierra Park, 1000).



The Pasadena Short Line was served for the most of its life by three types of interurban cars: the 800s from 1903 to 1912, the 700s (950s) from 1912 to 1924 and the 1100s from 1924 to 1950. Other types used were the 200s (500s) for about a year when the line first opened, the 450s when they could be spared from Mt. Lowe runs, and the 1000s and 1200s from 1945 until 1950.  Then came the fall from glory as one-man 5050s took over the PSL in 1950.  The PSL with the Oak Knoll Line formed what was widely regarded among PE trainmen as a unique clique—it was traditional that motormen and conductors on these two lines were the oldest, most dignified, and satisfied on the whole sprawling system.  They lived in their own little world, which had as its center at the Pasadena Barn on North Fair Oaks at Mary Street.  In the old days the Northern Division superintendent was stationed there and had a certain degree of independence insofar as 6th & Main was concerned.  It was indeed the end of an era when the Oak Knoll Line was abandoned and one-man 5050s ousted the solemn 1100s.


The following information covers the common code trackage from Valley Junction to El Molino.  The Pasadena Short Line, Pasadena Oak Knoll Line, Mt. Lowe Line, Sierra Vista Local Line, Alhambra-San Gabriel Line, Sierra Madre Line, and Monrovia-Glendora Line used this trackage.  Freight movements were made over all this trackage with the exception of the Pasadena lines.  This trackage constituted the backbone of the Northern District, and its four-track system afforded electric railway operation of interurban, local and freight traffic of a magnitude encountered nowhere else in America except for PE's other four-track system between Los Angeles and Watts on the Southern District.



From Valley Junction (MP 3.11) a double track electric railway ran northerly on private way to Indian Village (MP 4.47); at this point it became a four-track electric railway proceeding in a generally northeasterly direction through the settlements of Rose Hill Park and El Sereno to Sierra Vista (MP 7.43).  Here the Alhambra-San Gabriel Line diverged and here also the Sierra Vista Local Line terminated.  Continuing almost due north from Sierra Vista, the four track system passed La Cresta and curved due east, encountering immediately Oneonta Park (MP 8.28) where the Pasadena Short Line diverged.  Continuing easterly, the four-tracks next crossed at grade the Southern Pacific's Pasadena branch (MP 8.53) and continued to El Molino (MP 9.81) where the Pasadena Oak Knoll Line turned north on double track and where the four-track system ended—it became a double-track line from this point east (see Monrovia-Glendora Line).



A double-track electric line (standard gauge) was built in 1902 by PE from Columbia Street, Pasadena, to Indian Village, thence into Los Angeles via Mission Road, Gallardo Street, Aliso Street, Los Angeles Street, 1st Street and Main Street.  In 1906-07 the Los Angeles Inter-Urban Electric Railway built a double-track standard gauge electric line from Valley Junction to Indian Village.  Two additional standard-gauge tracks of a four-track system were built by LAIU in 1910 from Indian Village to Oneonta Park.  PE built a double-track standard gauge electric railway from Oneonta Park to El Molino in 1903.  Two additional tracks of the four-track system were constructed by LAIU in 1910.



From Valley Junction to Indian Village all trains operated on common trackage.  At Indian Village the Sierra Vista Local Line trains switched to the outside tracks and performed all local business as far as Sierra Vista with all other lines' trains operating limited between these two points.  Freight trains also used the center tracks as did express cars.  At Sierra Vista, Pasadena Oak Knoll Line cars switched to the outer local tracks and performed local service between Sierra Vista and EL Molino.  Sierra Vista Local Line cars (500s before 1933, 600s from 1933 to 1950, and one-man 5050s from 1950 to abandonment) ran on the following headways in 1948:

10-12 AM Peak, 12" Base, 10-12 PM Peak, and 14-20 night.  Running times for this period were 34min., 32min., 36min., and 30min.  Thirty-two cars were required* of which 28 were 600s and 4 were 1100s fitted up with fare boxes.  Average miles/hour: 13.1, 13.9, 12.3, and 14.8.  The Sierra Vista Line was through-routed with the Watts Line of the Southern District from 1938 to 1950; total length of the line from Watts to Sierra Vista was 14.83 miles, of which the Main Street Station-Sierra Vista section was exactly half.  Of the total number of passengers handled by the Watts-Sierra Vista Line only 35% were carried on the north end of the line.  Car storage for this line was provided at Macy Street and at Sierra Vista.

(* Watts-Sierra Vista though service)


The history of the local service on the four-track system is interesting.  Local service was provided by the EL Molino Local Line from 1910 until 1915, when it was terminated at Sierra Vista.  On September 3, 1915, the Sierra Vista Line was absorbed by the Alhambra Line but on December 3, 1916, was reestablished, looping through Main Street Station from San Pedro Street to Main Street.  On January 25, 1917, Sierra Vista was rerouted, operating both ways via Main Street into the Station.  On November 8, 1918, the Alhambra Line once again absorbed Sierra Vista, continuing until Sierra Vista was reestablished, except nights, on February 1, 1920.  On January 1, 1922, full-time service was again provided by Sierra Vista. On June 1, 1938, Sierra Vista was though routed with Watts, operating through Los Angeles on Main Street From May 15, 1943 until April 30, 1948, Sierra Vista owls were run through to Colorado & Fair Oaks on the Pasadena Short Line.  On October 22, 1950, Sierra Vista was separated from Watts and rerouted into Main Street Station via San Pedro Street in both directions; trackage on Main Street was abandoned at this time.  On September 30, 1951, the Sierra Vista Line was abandoned.

Return to ERHA homepage