The Street Seen: Ocean Park Electric Trolley
From 1896 to 1908, a single-track electric trolley, the Ocean Park Loop or South Loop line, runs from downtown Santa Monica to loop through Ocean Park. The line goes from Ocean Ave - crossing the bridge at Colorado - then up Pico to 4th St; south down 4th to Hill St; then down Hill to Main St; north on Main to Pico; and then back to Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica’s firstrail transit operation opens in 1891, with W.D. Vawter’s Santa Monica & Soldiers Home Railroad Co. bringing veterans (customers) to Santa Monica.
The Vawterssell the line in 1895 to Sherman & Clark’s Los Angeles Pacific Railway Co (LAP). The purchase is made with LAP bonds. As an incentive, a clause in the sale contract agrees to return 5 bonds ($5,000), if the Ocean Park Loop line is opened by July 1, 1896. LAP completes the electric Ocean Park Loop line just in time, and the bonds are returned.
The Ocean Park Loop line opens July 1, 1896, and becomes a part of the LAP main line to Los Angeles – with all cars making this loop.The rails cut across the lot on the NEC of Main and Hill (now the Mendota Block) where there is an office and a maintenance shed.
In 1902, the LAP Venice Short Line (running from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Venice Blvd.) opens along Trolley Way (Neilson), and the Ocean Park Loop line is reduced to providing only local service between Ocean Park and Santa Monica. In 1908, the Ocean Park Loop line service is stopped altogether,and the rail lines are removed from the streets in 1910.
John P. Jones’ steam-powered Los Angeles & Independence Railroad opens in 1875, with two trains running a day on 17 miles of track between Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The railroad ceases operation in 1877.
The single track narrow gauge horse car Santa Monica & Soldiers Home Railroad line runs from the Sawtelle Soldiers Home (established in 1887) down Wilshire to 3rd St; then south through the business district on 3rd to Broadway; then west to Ocean Ave; over the bridge at Colorado, then up Pico to Main St; south down Main to Hill (and the Ostrich Farm). Three round trips (taking about 40 minutes each way) are made daily.
The Ocean Park Loop line runs past the Vawters Ocean Park real estate holdings.
The Santa Monica & Soldiers Home Railroad equipment sold consists of four cars, sixteen horses, two bridges, various buildings, and about six miles of track – plus the franchise rights.
Actually, the sale was to Pasadena & Pacific Railway Co (P&P) - a predecessor to the Los Angeles Pacific Railway (LAP). Railroads are important in Los Angeles' development and the history is very complex with extensive consolidations. We have chosen simplicity over strict accuracy. And, as always, we are using current street names.
Single track narrow gauge (42”) street car rails are installed down Pico, 4th, and Hill St. From Ocean to Hill, the light Santa Monica & Soldiers Home Railroad horse car rails are removed and replaced by heavier narrow gauge electric street car rails.
The incentive expires at midnight on June 30th, 1896. The work is delayed but on June 30th, after a day of strenuous labor on the part of the LAP, the first electric car of the Ocean Park Loop line leaves Ocean Ave at 9:55 p.m.
The LAP continues to operate the northern part of the horse car powered Santa Monica & Soldiers Home Railroad for 3 more years (i.e. till 1889), then abandons it for an electric line along San Vicente Blvd.
In 1906, the Venice Short Line is converted to standard gauge (56”) - which is incompatible with the narrow gauge (42”) Ocean Park Loop line.
Poorly removed rails on Hill St cause traffic problems, and LAP returns in 1914 to make repairs.