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San Fernando Valley Line



The sprawling San Fernando Valley was a vast field of grain when the Los Angeles Pacific began building north through the Cahuenga Pass from Hollywood in 1911.  During the course of construction the LAP was merged with the Pacific Electric so that by the time of completion, the line was PE.



The San Fernando Valley line followed the Santa Monica Boulevard line as far as the intersection of Santa Monica and Highland Avenue (7.12 miles).  There it turned north on Highland Avenue, using the tracks of the Highland Avenue line to the mouth of Cahuenga Pass (MP 8.66) where its own trackage commenced.  This line originally negotiated Cahuenga Pass via a double track line located to the east of the highway.  Construction was quite difficult and its successful completion was regarded at the time as being somewhat of a triumph for the LAP construction crews.  Once through the pass, the line passed Universal City (11.11 miles) and arrived at Lankershim (North Hollywood) where the double track ended, 13.83 miles from the Subway Terminal.

From North Hollywood to Kester Junction, a distance of 2.26 miles, this line originally shared the right-of-way and finally the rails of Southern Pacific’s North Hollywood Branch.  Prior to 1938, PE had its own single track line paralleling the SP line to the south but severe floods in early 1938 washed out the Pacific Electric bridge in this portion of the line and it entered an agreement with SP whereby it leased the SP track and electrified same.

From Kester Junction this line proceeded on its own single track to the town of Van Nuys, passing through the town on double track to North Sherman Way, 19.93 miles, where the line branched into two lines.  One branch turned west on Sherman Way, arriving at Reseda, 24.91 miles, and finally at its terminus, Owensmouth (Canoga Park), 29.10 miles.  This was single track except for short portions of double track through the two towns.  The other branch continued north from Sherman Way via Mission Acres (MP 22.81), Plummer (MP 23.81) and the San Fernando Mission to the city of San Fernando (MP 27.47).  This also was single track save for about three blocks of double track operation in the city of San Fernando.  Aside from extensive track relocation in and near the Cahuenga Pass in connection with the construction of the Hollywood Freeway (for which relocation of the State of California financed), the route described above remained in effect until abandonment.



Los Angeles Pacific’s extension from Hollywood to Van Nuys got under way when preliminary engineering work was started in October of 1909; completed in December 1910.  Grading commenced in December, 1910 and work on bridges and track laying started in the following month.  First trolley wire was strung in May 1911.  On September 1, 1911, the 50% completed line was turned over to Pacific Electric.  Meanwhile, the Los Angeles & San Fernando Valley Electric Railway Company entered the field.  This company was incorporated on May 15, 1911 with some of Los Angeles’ outstanding business leaders (L.C. Bran, E.T. Earl, W.G. Kerchoff, J.F. Sartori, and Harry Chandler) the incorporators.  It was the announced intention of the company “to build an electric railway from Los Angeles via a northerly direction to and through Griffith Park and into the city of San Fernando, a distance of 25 miles.”  The company acquired rights of way for an electric railway extending from Van Nuys to San Fernando, and purchased a considerable quantity of construction materials, but built and owned no constructed road.  On March 19, 1912, this company was sold to Pacific Electric.  It turned over a right-of-way forty feet wide approximately 1,560 feet long in San Fernando between Porter avenue and Keween street.  PE agreed to complete the construction of the line as planned by this company within 90 days and thereafter to maintain and operate this line between Van Nuys and San Fernando and to render adequate passenger service over same to Los Angeles.  These terms were carried out.

Between Lankershim and Van Nuys, it was decided to utilize in part the right of way of the Southern Pacific's Chatsworth Park Line; from Lankershim to Kester (13,307 lineal feet) the new electric line was constructed adjacent to the steam line and in addition, 252 feet of SP trackage was operated by PE as a part of its new line.  By agreement dated March 15, 1912 and effective December 15, 1911, SP leased to PE the above-mentioned right of way and the 252 lineal feet of track for an indeterminate period.  Rental was based on the actual value of the land with PE paying monthly 1/12 of 5% of same; also monthly 1/12 of 2.5% of the value of the 252 lineal feet of track together with its portion of the cost of maintaining said joint track.  From Kester to Van Nuys, the new line was on its own right of way.

The Hollywood-Van Nuys Extension was completed in December, 1911, and the first car entered Van Nuys on December 16, 1911.  The day was a time of rejoicing and the Valley was connected to the City in a way which was to see its grain fields cut up into building lots and homes.  Construction crews were immediately shifted to the two branches: Owensmouth and San Fernando.  The Van Nuys-Owensmouth Extension was begun in January 1912, and final work was completed in July 1913.  It was possible to operate cars thorough to Owensmouth considerably earlier, however; Owensmouth welcomed its first big red car on December 7, 1912.  The Van Nuys-San Fernando Extension got under way in January 1912, also.  It was completed in March 1913, with the first car rolling into San Fernando on March 22, 1913.

Operation through to Owensmouth and San Fernando was terminated on June 1, 1938; thereafter the terminus of this line was at Van Nuys Boulevard and North Sherman Way.  On December 28, 1952, busses over the Hollywood Freeway replaced all rail service on this line.

Two small segments of this line were retained for freight operation after abandonment of passenger service. From the SP interchange in San Fernando to Nordhoff, a distance of about four miles, track was kept principally for the movement of citrus products; this isolated segment was dieselized in 1943.



In July 1929, the following schedules were in effect for the San Fernando Valley Lines:

Daily except Sunday, cars left Los Angeles at these times:

4:15 AM (cars from Hill Street Station), 5:34, 6:32, 7:11, 8:00, 8:45, 9:30, 10:15, 11:00, 11:45, 12:30 PM, 1:15, 2:00, 2:40, 3:19, 3:39, 4:15, 4:47, 5:10, 5:10 Local, 5:35, 5:54, 6:20, 7:20, 8:15, 9:45 and 11:30 PM;

Fastest of these was the 5:10 limited, which took 63 minutes to reach North Sherman Way; the front car was uncoupled beyond Cahuenga Pass and ran limited to North Sherman Way, then doing local work to Owensmouth; the second car performed local work from the Pass to San Fernando.  Transfer to or from San Fernando was required at North Sherman Way on the 5:34, and evening trains after the 5:54 train.  During the rest of the day, trains alternated between Owensmouth and San Fernando—the 6:32 AM going to Owensmouth, the 7:11 serving San Fernando, etc.  About an hour and 23 minutes was required to cover the distance from Subway Terminal to either Owensmouth or San Fernando.

Returning, Owensmouth cars departed at

6:05 AM, 7:02, 8:03, 9:30, 11:00, 12:30 PM, 2:00, 3:30, 5:01, 6:07, 7:04, 7:35, 8:01, 8:56, 9:50, 11:12, and 12:56 AM;

San Fernando cars departed at 6:05 AM, 7:02, 8:47, 10:17, 11:47, 1:17 PM, 2:44, 4:27, 5:21, 6:32, 7:11, 8:01, 8:56, 9:50, 11:12 PM, and 12:56 AM

Cars from both terminals ran only to Van Nuys; cars departing from terminals at the same times met at North Sherman where San Fernando patrons had to transfer.  Sunday schedules called for an approximate hourly service to and from North Sherman Way and Subway Terminal with cars alternating to the two outer terminals.  Coincident with the abandonment of the two branches beyond North Sherman Way, PE improved service to North Hollywood and Van Nuys considerably; base headway became 20 minutes to North Hollywood and 40 minutes to Van Nuys.  World War II brought even better service, with Van Nuys receiving 20-minute headways effective May 21, 1944 throughout the morning and early afternoon.  Two-man cars were operated until August 13, 1950, when one-man 5050 Class cars took over; however, a conductor was required on all cars between North Hollywood and Van Nuys until December 26, 1950, when two double light circuits were placed in service between Kester Junction and Calvert street, Van Nuys, where double track resumed.

Special Instructions:

The following Special Instructions are selected from PE Employees’ Timetable No. 34, effective 3:30 AM Tuesday, December 26, 1950:

Single-track operation between Vineyard & Ventura and Moorpark governed by absolute automatic block signals; normal indication: Stop.

Single-track operation between Wilcox avenue and North Hollywood Station governed by absolute automatic block signals.

Outbound ‘A’ signals at Wilcox avenue is preceded 1000 ft. by non-operating distant signal.

Inbound ‘A’ signals are located on south side of main track and siding track immediately west of Lankershim Boulevard at North Hollywood Station.  All ‘A’ signals normally indicate red and will clear to green when train enters approach circuit beginning approximately 30 ft. in advance of inbound ‘A’ signals and 280 ft. in advance of outbound ‘A’ signal.

Outbound trains arriving at North Hollywood Station must pull out of inbound approach circuits or ‘A’ signals will not clear for inbound trains.

In no case shall an inbound train enter approach circuit when preceding inbound train from same track has not passed east siding switch.

Rear-end protection will not be required for trains standing at ‘A’ signal, Wilcox avenue.

Operators on the following trains shall be held responsible for any interference between trains at this location.

Traffic signals on Lankershim Boulevard are synchronized for train movements and are not pre-empted by inbound trains until the approach circuit for ‘A’ signal is entered.  Due to short distance traffic signals are pre-empted, inbound trains will make safety stop at west side of Lankershim Boulevard and will not proceed until traffic signal so indicates.

Joint single-track operation of SP and PE trains between North Hollywood and Kester governed by absolute-permissive automatic block signals.

Normal indication of home ‘A’ signals—Stop.

Normal indication of switch indicator and intermediate ‘A’ signals—Proceed.

North Hollywood house track west of derail must not be used for storage of either freight or passenger equipment.  This track may only be used by SP and PE freight trains spotting cars for loading or unloading at the house.

When through trains execute meets at the North Hollywood Station, inbound trains shall take siding.

Single track between Kester and Calvert street governed by two double light circuits; block limits and switches located at Kester, Circle Drive and Delano street, Van Nuys.

Inbound and outbound cut-in and cut-out switches and light signals are located on poles to right of tracks, as seen from approaching trains, in advance, of fouling points at Kester and Circle Drive.

Inbound cut-in switch and light signal for Calvert-Circle Drive block is located on ornamental light pole on west side of Van Nuys Boulevard on the north side of Delano street.

Outbound cut-out switch is located on ornamental light pole east side of Van Nuys on south side of Delano street.

Under normal conditions fare transactions for boarding passengers shall be completed before light circuit switches are operated.

Normal position of east switch at Kester and east switch at Circle Drive is set for siding.

Trains shall be operated under control between the east and west switches at Kester.

Responsibility for safe operation shall be with the motorman of approaching train or trains.

Double-track rules govern operation of trains between Calvert and Sherman Way.

Local trains terminating at Cahuenga Pass shall use crossover located just north of Pilgrimage Play Bridge.

Inbound trains will make safety stop north of crossover at the Stop sign.

Outbound trains will approach this crossover not exceeding 10 miles per hour during last 50 feet before reaching the fouling point.

Trains laying over at this point shall remain at crossover on outbound track until leaving time and a member of the crew shall remain on the train.

These additional Special Instructions are from the PE Employees’ Timetable dated Wednesday, August 6, 1941:

Use of Retainers:

Descending grades inbound from Hollycrest to Santa Monica Boulevard:

All retainers will be turned up; also, as many handbrakes as may be necessary to control train.  At any other point when in the judgment of the motorman retainers are necessary, they will be used at his request.

Yard Limits are defined by “Yard Limit” signs at North Sherman Way and West Hollywood.

Railroad Crossing:

SP crossing, Van Nuys, 18.68 miles from Los Angeles.  Stop not less than 15 feet from near rail.  If crossing is seen to be clear and no conflicting movement is observed, proceed.

Telephone Stations:

Subway Terminal, Beverly Boulevard, Park avenue, Occidental Boulevard, Hollywood Junction, Western avenue, Cahuenga avenue, Highland avenue, Cahuenga Pass, Barham Boulevard, Universal City, Los Nogales, North Hollywood substation, Wilcox avenue, North Hollywood, Tujunga avenue, Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Kester, Circle Drive, SP crossing and North Sherman Way.

Single-track operation between Wilcox avenue and North Hollywood Station is governed by manually operated double-light circuit.

Single-track rules govern operation of trains between Kester and North Sherman Way.

Between these stations all trains are first-class unless otherwise designated; inbound trains are superior to trains of the same class in the opposite direction.

Train Registers are located at Kester and North Sherman Way.


Cars for this line were stored at the following locations:
Toluca Yardcapacity 33 cars
Subwaycapacity 36 cars
West Hollywoodcapacity 190 cars
North Hollywood Substationcapacity 5 cars
North Sherman Waycapacity 12 cars



The San Fernando Line was never a good freight producer, probably because in PE’s day the character of its development was chiefly farming and light residential.  The four miles of the line from San Fernando to Nordhoff had been retained because of citrus packinghouses, but the remainder of the line had negligible value as a freight carrier.  Based on the three-year average of 1935, 1936, 1937, the segments of this line compared as follows in freight revenue:

Hollywood-Van Nuys: $ 153/ mile of line

Van Nuys-Canoga Park: 543/ mile of line

Van Nuys-San Fernando: 6,287/ mile of line

North Hollywood at that time needed but 15.5 cars annually to meet its freight demands; Van Nuys required 13.5 cars, Reseda was somewhat better, taking 73.5 cars; but it remained for San Fernando Mission to set the pace: 895.5 cars annually.

Little wonder PE kept that isolated segment, turning cars over to its parent at the SP’s San Fernando Station.  This isolated trackage remained in service for many years, being dieselized in 1943 and single tracked in 1952.  Freight crews for the Valley worked out of West Hollywood terminal, deadheading by auto to San Fernando to switch the packing houses, then returning to West Hollywood to switch Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood.  The isolated motor at San Fernando was a 1560 Class until dieselization, then the rebuilt gas-electric 1648 and then the diesel-mechanical 1647.  For many years a 1560 Class motor tied up on a siding adjacent to Ventura Boulevard; this was used to switch the North Hollywood-Van Nuys business, light as it was.  The last remaining freight spur on the post-1936 Valley Line was located at Van Nuys; it was removed in September 1948, and thereafter this portion of the line (as distinguished from the San Fernando “Island”) had no freight service whatsoever.  A box motor was run daily from Central Station (5th & Central, Los Angeles) to Canoga Park and San Fernando; in 1936 it left Central Station at 11:40 AM and arrived back there at 5:30 PM; this express car also served Hollywood.


PASSENGERS (Fare & Transfer)
YearPassengersCar MilesRevenue
1913368,688276,895$ 81,917
1916454,942315,820$ 88,879


MILEAGE TABLE (As of July, 1929)
Mile PostDistance
Los Angeles0.0
Highland & Santa Monica Boulevard7.09
Highland & Hollywood Boulevard7.84
Cahuenga Pass8.56
Hollywood Way9.99
Universal City11.10
Rio Vista11.59
North Hollywood14.18
Kester Junction16.17
Circle Drive17.72
Van Nuys19.11
North Sherman Way19.89
Mission Acres22.81
San Fernando27.47
Canoga Park (Owensmouth)29.10



From the opening of the line until 1938 the San Fernando Valley Line was served by wooden interurban cars of the 800 Class.  Usually fifteen were assigned to the line.  In 1938 Valley patrons demanded better equipment, with PCC cars being mentioned.  PE thereupon rebuilt 15 of its 700 Class (“Hollywood”) cars, Nos. 735-739; giving them rewound motors (raising their top speed to 42 mph), larger destination signs and a striking red & cream paint job.  In 1939-40 the remainder of the Hollywood cars were rebuilt (600-714, 750-759) and 735-749 eventually received the same treatment; tubular frame seats, speeded up motors, metal skirts, lifeguards and improved lighting.  The last change came in 1950 when one-man 5050 Class cars were assigned to this line: these were Hollywood cars equipped with folding center doors, treadles and other minor detail changes.



The last regular car left Subway Terminal at 1:20 AM Sunday, December 28, 1952—car 5138.  The last car ever was the 5146, that ran as the Pacific Electric-Chamber of Commerce Special inbound, leaving Van Nuys at 11:30 AM Monday, December 29, 1952.  The line went dead officially at 3:00 PM that same afternoon when power was cut off.  The 17 5100s used on the Valley run were placed in dead storage at West Hollywood immediately.  All trackage was pulled up except for two blocks of the inbound track on Highland avenue from Santa Monica Boulevard to Lexington, kept for freight use, and the SP trackage in the vicinity of North Hollywood.  The “dream” right-of-way through Cahuenga Pass was paved over in 1957 to add two additional lanes to the Hollywood Freeway.



The San Fernando Valley Line had the following exclusive facilities, all of which were located in the Valley proper:

Substations: North Hollywood and Van Nuys, supplied power for the Valley Lines.  North Hollywood was constructed in 1911, was housed in a concrete building and contained (as of 1939) one motor-generator set of 600 kw.  It was designated Substation No. 30.  Van Nuys Substation was built in 1912, was Number 31 and was also housed in a concrete building; it had one rotary converter of 750 kw.  The problem of low power plagued the Valley lines until the abandonment of the branches beyond North Sherman Way; as early as 1915 plans were afoot to construct another substation in the city of San Fernando; this proposition was considered again and again but the heavy expenses attendant thereto kept it from assuming concrete form.

Bridges: Two major watercourses had to be crossed by this line: the Los Angeles River and the Tujunga Wash.  In 1911 double track pile trestles were built at a total cost of $12,767.55, with several extensions, replacements and improvements being made from time to time on account of washouts.  In 1929-30 both trestles were replaced by single-track steel bridges; the new Los Angeles River bridge was 291’-9" long, and the bridge over the Tujunga Wash 270'-9".  Each consisted of three steel open deck girder spans on concrete piers and cost a total of $82,800.

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