THE STREET RAILWAY HISTORY OF LOS ANGELES began on July 3rd, 1873, when the City Council passed the first franchise ordinance, the opening clause of which reads as follows:
The second chapter opened on December 8, 1873, when J. R. Toberman, Mayor approved a franchise, for a street railway, the opening clause of which reads as follows:
This franchise also provided that in the event D. V. Waldron, to whom the first franchise was issued, should forfeit his rights, then the Widney franchise would extend from Temple and Spring Streets via Main to Alameda Street. Waldron forfeited his rights, therefore, Widney's franchise was thus extended.
Widney assigned his franchise to a company known as the SPRING AND SIXTH STREET RAILROAD CO. and this company completed the line and put it in operation in the spring of 1874.
The next or third franchise issued, was approved on September 14, 1874, by J. R. Toberman, Mayor, and provided for the extension of the SPRING AND SIXTH STREET RAILROAD from North Main and Alameda Streets via Alameda and private right-of-way to a point in front of the Old River Station of the Southern Pacific, then known as the upper depot grounds.
The fifth franchise issued, was approved March 24, 1875, by P. Beaudry, Mayor, and provided for ninety days extension to the SPRING & SIXTH STREET RAILROAD COMPANY to complete their line to the Southern Pacific Station.
The ninth franchise issued, also in connection with the SPRING & SIXTH STREET RAILROAD COMPANY, approved Dec. 3, 1875, granting a renewed right to extend this line from North Main and Alameda Streets, via Alameda and private right-of-way to a point in front of the Southern Pacific Station.
Evidently the company had not found it expedient to construct the line under previous franchise grants. These franchises contained some very general description as to routes. For instance, one franchise is for a line from Main and Alameda to the Southern Pacific Station, and reads in part:
In the ordinance approved December 3, 1875, being the ninth franchise issued, it is recited that the route shall be as follows:
The fourth franchise issued, was approved September 28, 1874, by J. R. Toberman, Mayor, the opening clause of which reads as follows:
The sixth franchise issued was approved March 31, 1875, by P. Beaudry, Mayor, the opening clause of which reads as follows:
The seventh franchise issued was approved June 26, 1875, the opening clause of which reads as follows:
The builders of this road were
Routing the line, as it would read today would be Arcadia, Aliso Street, Pleasant Avenue, First to Soto. At that time Aliso Street started at Los Angeles and continued along this route east to the city limits on First Street. This line was extended a few months later on Main Street to Temple Block to connect with the Spring and Sixth Street line and the Main Street and Agricultural Park Line.
First Street was not opened at this time.
At Easter Week in 1884, floods destroyed the Aliso Street Bridge and the Downey Avenue Bridge and left the Macy Street bridge—these being the only bridges across the Los Angeles River at that time.
For months after the flood the passengers from the Aliso Street car line walked over improvised gangplanks to cross the river and were thus transferred from car to car. This was the second line put in operation in Los Angeles. The Main Street and Agricultural Park line being the third.
The framework of the Macy Street Bridge today is the original bridge construction, but at that time it was covered. This covering was removed a few years ago.
The eighth franchise issued, to be found in the city archives, Volume 10, Page 201, (for the session of November 19, 1875)—date of approval not given in copy at hand—the opening clause of which reads as follows:
The description locates the route as follows: "Thence in a straight line along the said street northerly to a point opposite and east of second upper switch of said S.P.R.R. and distant not more than twelve feet east of the eastern iron rail of track of said Company; thence northerly to junction of the new street running east; thence along the same easterly and in the center thereof and across the Los Angeles River to Downey Avenue (now North Broadway) in East Los Angeles; thence along the same by the most convenient route over the streets in East Los Angeles to the workshop grounds of the S. P. Railroad."
The tenth franchise issued, approved January 5, 1876 by P. Beaudry, Mayor; the opening clause of which reads:
This extends the period of the franchise for one year for the completion of the building of the line granted on the previous franchise. This line was placed in operation to Washington and Main Streets previous to the granting of this last franchise, and the building of the line was completed under the new extension of time.
The eleventh franchise issued, approved May 26th, 1876; S. B. Coswell, Clerk of the Council; the opening clause of which reads:
There is no evidence that any portion of this line was ever built under this franchise.
P. Beaudry, Mayor approved the twelfth franchise issued, on October 9, 1876. The opening clause of which reads;
The route covered was on Main from Washington south to Jefferson, and on Jefferson west to Figueroa and was used in connection with the Main Street Line.
The sixteenth franchise issued, was approved by F. A. MacDougall, Mayor, on January 12th, 1877; the opening clause of which reads:
The route covered by this franchise, described as follows: "From a point in the space north of Temple Block, between the junction of Spring and Main Streets, said terminus not to exceed within five feet of the prolongation of the eastern line of Temple Block***Thence along Temple Street to Pearl Street (now Figueroa); thence along the extension of Temple Street, as laid out by M. Kelleher, City Surveyor, to the City Limits, on the western side of the city, (Hoover Street)."
This was to be a horsecar line.
E. F. Spence, Mayor approved the thirtieth franchise issued, on March 14th, 1885. The opening clause of which reads:
"Commencing at the intersection of Second Street with the westerly line of Spring Street, and running thence westerly along said Second Street on each side of the center line thereof, to Lake Shore Avenue; thence westerly along said Lake Shore Avenue on each side of the center line thereof to Diamond Street; thence westerly along said Diamond Street on each side of the center line thereof to the west boundary of said city."
This is the franchise under which the West Second Street Cable Railroad was eventually built.
Diamond Street and what is now (1921) known as West First Street are the same street.
The construction of this line was started in the spring of 1885, when Isaac W. Lord turned a spade-full of earth at the corner of Second and Spring Streets, and in a few months the line was in full operation to First and Belmont, and continued in operation until the Fall of 1888, when it was closed down and the entire property scrapped, the INVESTMENT BEING A TOTAL LOSS.
The thirty-third franchise issued was approved September 7th, 1885, by D. E. Miles, Mayor pro tem, and W. W. Robinson, Clerk of the Council. The opening clause reading as follows:
This provided for the building of a car line from First and Spring Streets east on First to the junction of First and Aliso Avenue (which is now First Street and Boyle Avenue); thence along Aliso Avenue (now First Street) to First and Indiana. For a period of thirty years, cars to be "propelled by cable wire."
This ORDINANCE was amended by another ORDINANCE which was approved on the 28th day of April, 1886, by E. F, Spence, Mayor, and provided that the cars may be "propelled by electricity, horse or cable wire."
This line was constructed to First and Evergreen Avenue, being completed in the Spring of 1886, by W. H. Workman and J. B. Hollenbeck. It was broad gauge. They only operated it a short time when they sold out to the Los Angeles Cable Railway Company for Twelve Thousand ($12,000,00) Dollars.
The company built a bridge across the river on First Street; it was a wooden affair and was washed away by the floods in the winter of l887-l888, and the operation of the line was discontinued; the Boyle Heights region being served by the Aliso Street Line. No cars were operated on First Street between Main and Boyle Avenue from the time of this discontinuance until the cable started in August, 1889.
From 1873 to January 1st, 1887, there were issued by the City Council of the City of Los Angeles, and approved by the various Mayors, forty-three (43) streetcar franchises. Many of these are trivial in their nature to correct errors in previous franchises, or slight changes of routes.
In 1887 the LOS ANGELES CABLE RAILWAY COMPANY was organized;
The Los Angeles Cable Railway Company purchased a number of the then existing lines and built some others, until on the first day of August, 1888, it operated the following lines, with horses and mules as motive power;
BUENA VISTA STREET LINE: From First and Main Streets, via Main, Marchessault, Bellevue Avenue (now Sunset Blvd,); Buena Vista (Now North Broadway) to College Street.
ALISO STREET LINE: From the east side of Main Street on Arcadia, Aliso Street, Pleasant Avenue, First Street to 1st and Evergreen. Single track narrow gauge.
BLUE LINE: From Temple Block via Main to First Street; First to Spring; Spring to Ninth Street; Ninth to Pearl Street (now Figueroa,); Pearl to Pico Street; where the name changed from Pearl to Figueroa, via Figueroa to Washington; thence along Washington to Vermont Avenue where the car barn was located; double track; broad gauge.
OLIVE STREET LINE: From Pritchard Street and Downey Avenue (now North Broadway); along North Broadway; Olympia Street, San Fernando Street, Alameda Street, Main Street, First Street, Spring Street, Fifth Street, Olive Street, Twelfth Street, Figueroa Street, Washington Street to Vermont Avenue. Double track, broad gauge.
WEST NINTH STREET LINE: From Sixth and Pearl Street (new Figueroa) along Sixth Street, to Hill, to Fourth, to Broadway, to First, to Spring, to Main to Marchessault to Upper Main (now North Spring Street); to San Fernando, to Olympia to Downey Avenue (now North Broadway) to Chestnut Street (now Avenue 20) to Pasadena Avenue to Daly Street and thence to Avenue Thirty-Three. Single track, narrow gauge.
The operation of this line was extended from Sixth and Figueroa Streets by way of Figueroa and West Ninth Street to Ninth Street and Grand View Avenue in the last week of August l888.
KUHRTS STREET LINE: From Plaza North by way of Main Street to the River, crossing River on the bridge, and by way of Kuhrts (now East Main Street) to Mission Street Road and along Mission Road to a point near where the big cut is now (1921) opposite the Selig Zoo.
Number of cars in operation on all lines Thirty-eight (38).
There were also in operation, on the first of August, 1888, the following lines, which were each operated by separate Companies.
TEMPLE STREET CABLE RAILWAY: Single track cable railway line on Temple Street from the West side of Spring Street via Temple to Belmont Avenue.
This Company was incorporated on November 3, 1885; and the contract was let for the construction of the line, on November 1st, 1885, to what was then known as Texas Street (now Union Avenue). The line was completed and started operation on July 4th, 1886, distance being l.6l miles. The line was extended, the last week in August, 1888, from Union Avenue west to Hoover Street via Temple Street. About January, l889, work was started to double track the line from Spring to Union Avenue which was completed and the double track section was put in operation in August, 1889. This line was sold under foreclosure proceedings on February 28th, 1898. Previous investment being a complete loss.
Another cable line in operation on August 1st, 1888, was the WEST SECOND STREET CABLE RAILWAY. It started at Second and Spring Streets and routed west via Second, Lake Shore Avenue, First to Belmont Avenue.
At First and Belmont Avenue a dummy line connected with the cable road and ran to what is now Hollywood. Its route was: Belmont Avenue to Temple Street, Temple to Coronado Street thence south over private right-of-way to First Street; on First and private right-of-way to Western Avenue at the point where Temple Street now (1921) crosses Western Avenue; thence north along Western Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard; west on Hollywood Boulevard, and private right-of-way over the present (1921) line of the Pacific Electric tracks to a point near Gardner Junction, where it terminated in the midst of gardens.
The Hollywood Line was discontinued when the Pacific Electric line was built to Hollywood; they having purchased this dummy line.
MAIN STREET AND AGRICULTURAL PARK LINE: Temple Block south to Jefferson; to Wesley Avenue (new University Avenue) and to Agricultural Park (new Exposition Park), thence to a point just south of the present site of the Museum, where the car barn was located.
Another branch of this line routed from Washington and Main Streets via Washington, Figueroa to Jefferson Street. One-half of the service was operating each way.
The route from Washington and Main Streets via Washington to Figueroa to Jefferson was discontinued in 1892, and the franchise abandoned on account of the expense entailed by the paving of Figueroa Street.
PICO STREET ELECTRIC RAILWAY, known as the LOS ANGELES ELECTRIC RAILWAY
Commenced on Los Angeles Street at the Plaza; south on Los Angeles to Third Street; east on Third to San Julian; south on San Julian to Seventh; west on Seventh to Maple Avenue, Maple Avenue to Pico Street and thence west on Pico to Lorde Street (now Harvard Boulevard)
Another branch continued south on Maple Avenue to West Adams Street, terminating in the center of an orange grove, (trees being grubbed up to make way for the rails.) The Los Angeles Electric Railway Company built this line in 1886 and 1887 – Chas. H. Holland being President and General Manager, and W. H. Best, Superintendent. (Col. Holland is now deceased. Mr. Best is living (1921) in Brooklyn, N.Y.; he visited Los Angeles in 1915.)
These lines were being operated only intermittently and frequently one had to wait two hours for a car. Operation was discontinued in the Fall of 1888.
VERNON LINE: From Plaza south on Los Angeles Street to First, thence on San Pedro Street to Third; Third to Wolfskill (now Central Avenue) then via Central to Seventh; private right-of-way to Eighth; Central Avenue to Slauson. This was single track; frequent turnouts. Horses.
EAST SECOND STREET LINE -- known locally as DAVIES LINE. Second and Spring east to Santa Fe Station, via Second, Stephensen Avenue, Third, Santa Fe Avenue, back to Alameda Street Via Second Street making a loop at the Santa Fe Station.
MATEO STREET LINE: From First and Santa Fe Avenue South via Santa Fe Avenue to Fourth, private right-of-way to Mateo, Mateo to Ninth Street. Narrow gauge, horses.
In September 1888, the LOS ANGELES CABLE RAILWAY COMPANY, being in financial difficulties, the controlling interest was sold to C. B. Holmes, and associates, of Chicago, Ill. They organized a new Company, known as the PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY, capitalized at $5,000,000.00 and finished the construction of the cable lines, which when completed covered the following streets, with double tracks:
Commencing at Grand Avenue and Jefferson Streets, on Grand Avenue to Seventh Street; Seventh to Broadway; Broadway to First; First to Spring; Main; Marchessault; San Fernando to Upper Main (now North Spring Street); North Spring to College and then over a viaduct over the Southern Pacific tracks to San Fernando Street; on San Fernando to Olympia; Olympia to the Los Angeles River and over the present bridge as it stands now (1921); to Downey Avenue (now North Broadway); to Pritchard Street; also, from Seventh Street and Alvarado east on Seventh to Grand Avenue; and, from First and Spring Streets east on First to First and Evergreen Avenue, at the southwest corner of Evergreen Cemetery.
The principal power station was at Seventh Street and Grand Avenue, the site where J. W. Robinson’s Dry Goods store now (1921) stands.
The east Los Angeles Power House was at the corner of North Broadway and Workman (the southwest corner.)
The Boyle Heights Power House was at First and Chicago Streets, on the land now occupied by the Public Library and the little Park; First Street having been cut through the site since then,
The cable railway proved to be a financial disaster and was closed out at public auction on October 19, 1893, less than four years after the investment had been made. The millions of dollars invested from Chicago being a total loss. The following item, quoted from the Los Angeles Evening Express of October 19, 1893, might well be termed the obituary of the Los Angeles Cable Railway Company.
"Judge Van Dyke has confirmed the sale of the cable railroad to the electric company and to Clark John Dunsmore falls the task of canceling 173,000 bonds and coupons, representing about $5,000,000 in value. For this the county will be paid $165."
This investment absorbed the entire wealth of C. B. Holmes of Chicago, the promoter, who was considered a wealthy man, and caused him to lose his position as leading Traction Financier in the United States. He was thrown out of every company he had any connection with and died a few years later a poor and broken man.
Also J. F. Crank, S. P. Jewett and others were heavy losers in these lines.
In October, 1890, the Los Angeles City Council, consisting of the following members;
The financing of this road resulted eventually in the failure, in 1893, of the Pacific Bank and the Home Savings Bank of San Francisco, controlled by the McDonalds.
The company who built this road and operated it, was organized in Phoenix, Arizona;
Construction was commenced December 17, 1890, by tearing up all the old cable line on Second Street between Spring and Olive Streets. The line was constructed to Westlake Park, terminating at Seventh and Alvarado Streets, and routed as follows — mostly through virgin territory, no streets graded, and where there were no streets there were cuts and heavy fills:
From Second and Spring to Olive; to First; to Bonnie Brae; to Ocean View Avenue; to Westlake Avenue; to Sixth Street, to Alvarado; to Seventh Street. The line was placed in operation July 1, l891.
This Company soon acquired title to the DAVIES line to the Santa Fe Station, to the VERNON line, to the old PICO STREET ELECTRIC LINE and with the new and extensive franchises which had been granted them were in a position to proceed with the work and soon constructed what is now known as the UNIVERSITY line. Construction gradually extending up North Broadway to the River, across the River, on Pasadena Avenue to Pasadena Avenue and Daly Street; from Second Street and Spring by way of Spring, Fourth, San Pedro, and Fifth Street to Southern Pacific Station at Central Avenue.
The fast moving electric cars were serious competitors to the slow moving cable cars and drained the financial resources of this Company to such an extent that it was soon in serious financial difficulties. Foreclosure of the property on October 19, 1893 resulted, and the purchase of same by the Consolidated Electric Railway Company, who took over all the cable lines & the horsecar lines. There were being operated at this time 31 cable cars and 19 horsecars, a total of 49 cars.
Street railways in Los Angeles in those days were anything but a safe investment, and although we find that almost all the lines of the city are now (1921) under one control they still were not successful financially.
On March 24th, 1895, M. H. Sherman and associates turned the property over to the care of Morris Tremble, a broker of Chicago, Ill. of the firm of Peabody, Houghtaling & Company, for the benefit of the bondholders. Mr. Trumbull was only in charge of the road a short time and the property was placed in the hands of Mr. F. W. Wood on April 4th, 1895. In August 1895, the property of this Company was sold under foreclosure proceedings and was purchased by the bond holders, who organized a new Company called the LOS ANGELES RAILWAY COMPANY to take over the properties. Mr. F. W. Wood was continued as General Manager.
W. S. Hook came here from Illinois in 1895 and organized the LOS ANGELES TRACTION COMPANY, and commenced to build a system of car lines. The first line starting at the Santa Fe Station, then by way of Third Street to Hill Street, Hill to Eighth Street; Eighth to Figueroa Street; Figueroa to Eleventh Street; Eleventh to Georgia Street; Georgia to Sixteenth Street; Sixteenth to Burlington Avenue; thence on Burlington Avenue, Hoover, Twenty-fourth and Vermont Avenue to Vermont Avenue and Thirty-ninth Street. This line was put in operation from the Santa Fe Station to Sixteenth Street and Burlington Avenue on the 29th day of August, 1895. The construction continued and in a few months the line was completed and in operation to Vermont Avenue and Exposition Boulevard and a year later was extended to Thirty-ninth Street.
Franchises were obtained by the Los Angeles Traction Company, as follows:
From Eighth Street, Lake, Seventh and Commonwealth Avenue to First and Virgil Streets.
From Twenty-fourth Street and Vermont Avenue by way on Twenty-fourth, Normandie and West Adams to Western Avenue.
From Jefferson and Wesley Avenue (now University Avenue) west on Jefferson to Fourth Avenue.
On East Fourth Street and connecting streets from Third and Stephenson Avenue to First and Fresno Streets,
All these lines were built and in operation by 1898.
The Hooks sold their interests in the Los Angeles Traction Company to the Southern Pacific Company who continued to operate these lines until 1910 when they were transferred to the LOS ANGELES RAILWAY.
In January 1896, a Committee representing the Bank of California, William Alvord, Houghtaling & Co, of Chicago, and the Pacific Rolling Mills, Purchased the controlling interest in the MAIN STREET & AGRICULTURAL PARK RAILROAD COMPANY from W. J. Brodrick and Francisco Jesurun, and built a line on San Pedro Street from Fifth south to Thirtieth Street.
The Main Street rolling stock and rails were scrapped and the line entirely rebuilt, and new cars purchased and operation by electricity started on April 1, 1897.
The line built on San Pedro Street was placed in operation on August 1, 1898.
Both the Main and San Pedro Street Lines were transferred to the LOS ANGELES RAILWAY October 1, 1898.
The Los Angeles Railway purchased the Mateo Street Line in April, 1901.
The operation of the cable lines was discontinued in 1896 to be put into operation as electric lines.
Mr. H. E. HUNTINGTON acquired the stock of the Los Angeles Railway Company and took possession of the property on October 1st, 1898. He proceeded at once to re-construct the entire system. In fact, scrapped it all, tearing out all cable lines and the road-bed of all the electric lines, replacing them with new rails and ties and new cars throughout; and extended the lines in every direction where needed and built new lines, and new car houses.
In the meantime, Mr. Huntington had also developed The Pacific Electric Railway Company. In 1910 he disposed of his interests in the Pacific Electric Railway Company and the Redondo Railway Company south of Hawthorne and Vermont Heights, to the Southern Pacific Company; and he acquired the Los Angeles Traction lines within the city and the Temple Street line.
Numerous extensions of lines have been made; a cross-town line built; new car barns constructed; extensive plans of rerouting carried out, in order to keep pace with the demands of the growing population of Los Angeles.
The number of cars in daily operation on January 1st of various years gives a striking illustration of the investment this has required.