Santa Monica Lookout
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The Last Train to Santa Monica
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jorge Casuso

May 23, 2016 -- While the arrival of the first Expo train to Santa Monica Friday garnered national headlines, few recall the day the last passenger train made its final trip to the beach city nearly 63 years ago.

By the time Pacific Electric car no. 5125 made its final run on September 29, 1953, the Santa Monica Air Line, as the route from Downtown LA was called, had been scaled back to a single car a day three decades earlier.

Part of the fabled red car system that replaced Southern Pacific's steam trains in 1908, the Santa Monica line never took off, and, despite having a dedicated right-of-way, "limped along" until it was shut down.

"Passengers complained of rough trips along the tracks formerly traversed by steam locomotives," Masters, the host and producer of "Lost LA" on KCET, wrote on the public station's web site. "Other lines," he said, "traveled through more densely populated neighborhoods."

Pacific Electric Railway passing station on Ocean Avenue. Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives.

Pacific Electric Railway passing station on Ocean Avenue. September 29, 1953

Longtime Santa Monica resident Patrick Regan, 77, who has lived in the city most of his life, recalls taking other trains and buses, but never the Air Line.

To get to the beach from Downtown LA, he would take the rail line down Venice Boulevard, then "transfer at the end of the line to take a bus to the Venice or Ocean Park piers or to the Dome theater in Ocean Park," Regan wrote in an email to the Lookout.

The old "Santa Monica Airline"  train. Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives.The old Santa Monica "Air Line". Photograph: Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives.

"The LA buses were here and I used to ride the Blue Bus to the terminal on Pico at Rimpau in LA next to the big Sears store that was there or the yellow bus from LA all the way down Wilshire to Beverly Hills to the movie theaters or shopping there."

Freight trains would continue to roll into the bayside city to service the warehouses and industrial buildings along the Olympic Boulevard corridor for another three decades, running to the the western end of the track at the old Fisher Lumber site at 14th Street and Colorado Avenue.

But the final passenger train to Santa Monica had long since made its final run shortly after 5 p.m. on September 29, 1953.

According to reports, there were a few transit workers on board, along with some railroad enthusiasts and a few regulars. The final ride was leisurely -- the train went at a speed of 25 mph instead of the usual 40 -- but the ride didn't go without a hitch.

Near La Cienga Bulevard, a man in a 1951 Chevy took a detour to view a Ringling Brothers Circus train stored in a train yard across the tracks. In an effort to maneuver his way back, the driver found himself hung up on the Santa Monica Air Line tracks.

"Then along comes the 5125 making its historic last run," Ralph Cantos wrote in an article titled "(Santa Monica Air Line Last Run (Meets Moron") on

The train stopped and waited, and "with much grinding gears, spinning tires, dust, and heavy lifting, the Chevy was finally freed from its captivity."

The car had survived the train, but with LA's growing freeway system, the reverse would not be true.

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