The last large Pacific Electric railroad grade separation, located in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles, is scheduled for removal in the near future. Last week, I took the opportunity to take photos of this structure while I still could.
Located at the flag on the map.
The structure is located along the former PE Northern District’s main line. The rail line here had four tracks. Outer tracks for local trains, inner tracks for express trains. Trains passed through here bound for downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Monrovia, and Alhambra. It was built in 1936 as an upgrade to alleviate traffic congestion along busy Mission St. Passenger platforms were constructed at both ends of the structure, both of which exist today.
After the tracks were removed in the 1960’s, the bridge was rehabilitated for highway use. The fill at both ends was partially removed and the bridge deck was paved. The former catenary poles remain as light posts.
Slowly, the remnants of the Pacific Electric in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area are going away. While it is a loss of history, Los Angeles is working toward a future with more rail lines. It won’t ever be the “PE”, but it will go a long way toward a better future.
On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, I took the opportunity to ride up to Burbank and get some videos of the North Burbank UP with my GoPro camera. Despite the extreme heat, I managed to at least get some good video. These videos show the North Burbank Underpass and ancillary structures from all directions. They were taken to show what they were like before the closure and removal.
Northbound along San Fernando Blvd
Southbound along San Fernando Blvd
Southbound from San Fernando Blvd to Victory Place (Future San Fernando Blvd)
Northbound Victory Place to San Fernando Blvd
Southbound from I-5 at Buena Vista St to San Fernando Blvd
After serving the traveling public faithfully since 1941, the North Burbank Underpass on San Fernando Blvd in Burbank will close permanently on May 20, 2014. It is one of the more significant structures on old US 99 in the San Fernando Valley. Somewhat ironically, the structure will be replaced with a new interchange at Empire Ave. San Fernando Blvd will be rerouted back to its pre-1941 alignment, this time without a grade crossing. So, get out there and take your pictures while you can. Do the same for any other sections of old highway. You never really know how long they will last.
For more information:
Even in heavily built up Orange County, there can still be places where old highways can be seen. One of the best examples is located in Brea Canyon, where the Orange Freeway winds its way through open and undeveloped lands between Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Before the freeway, State 57 followed Brea Canyon Road. This two-lane roadway has changed little through here and has a few interesting features.
Northbound video from Lambert Road to Diamond Bar:
In the 1930’s, Los Angeles County began construction of an additional roadway over the San Gabriel Mountains via the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. About half of the roadway, complete with with some larger bridges and a tunnel, was constructed. Work had progressed as far as “The Narrows” by 1938. However, the March 2-3, 1938 storms caused much of the roadway to be washed out. The project was then abandoned, leaving a large arch bridge stranded many miles upriver. The tunnel still exists as well, just north of the “Bridge to Nowhere”, though it has been sealed at both ends.
In the 1950’s, a new road building project commenced in the canyon. This new alignment would stay high above the canyon floor until it got nearer to the “Bridge to Nowhere”, allowing that earlier work to come to some use. Progress on this roadway was slow, mostly due to poor funding. Convict labor was used for most of the project, similar to many other road building efforts at the time in Los Angeles County. Two tunnels were constructed as well. These still exist and are mostly intact. This project too was cancelled, leaving another large scar in the canyon. This road is presently known as Shoemaker Canyon Road.
Today, the canyon is protected from future development through the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area. Even without this protection, the geology of the canyon makes for a very expensive project. Maintenance would also be costly, as seen with State 39. In time, all these structures and cuts will wash away, leaving the canyon with only bits of concrete and asphalt to show what was once here.
I took a trip recently to the Corona area to check out some of the old alignments of US 91. I had been there before, but it has been a long time. Starting from the Green River exit off of the 91 Freeway, I headed east along the south side of the freeway. Here, the roadways named Green River Road and Palisades Drive cover the pre-freeway alignment of US 91. This section is also a portion of the 1939 Prado Dam Relocation. This realignment took the highway out of the riverbed to the north and pushed it closer to the hills. A significant portion remains today relatively intact.
Near the Green River Road interchange, an abandoned portion of the roadbed is revealed by a 1939 culvert. The pavement has long since been removed. A portion of the old median, complete with curb divots, remains to the east. The best portion, however, is on Palisades Drive. This section has a fairly continuous old median, old bridges, wooden railing, and even a mile marker from Route 91. This whole section was bypassed in the early 1970’s along with a change to the 91 / 71 interchange.
On Sunday, June 16, I went on a motorcycle ride out toward Palm Springs. On Hwy 74 just east of Hemet, I stopped to inspect an abandoned concrete arch bridge to the side of the current bridge. The “new” span, where Hwy 74 crosses today, was built in 1929. This makes the abandoned span most likely from the 1910’s. It appears to have been longer, though the rest is long since washed away. I originally saw this bridge on a previous motorcycle ride, having missed it on every driving trip through here. It just goes to show that you see more on two wheels – be they motorcycle or bicycle wheels.
After leaving the bridge, I headed east on Hwy 74 up into the mountains. The roadway was recently repaved, which was badly needed. The new pavement was quite fun to ride, even with the extra twisty passing areas. The tires seemed to grip the road better allowing me to ride faster than I did before. I didn’t originally plan to go all the way to Palm Springs, but somehow I decided “Why Not?” and did it anyway. It was rather hot while I was there, so I didn’t stay long. Leaving town was almost as difficult as dealing with the heat. Strong west winds, typical for the area, were blowing and made riding somewhat unnerving at times. The winds finally subsided once I got to the Beaumont area and temperatures decreased quite a bit as well.
In 2008, Lake Shasta was dropping to near historic lows. I took a trip up there to hike many of the exposed alignments. I also got out in the water in my wetsuit when I needed to. The whole trip was a lot of fun. Here are the photos from that trip.
Salt Creek Inlet and Lakehead Area:
Pit River Area:
I know it has been a while since I’ve posted anything. Many things have happened. I’ve done a lot of traveling, some by train, some by car, some by bicycle, and now a new addition. Travel by motorcycle. I never saw myself on a motorcycle. I could easily talk myself out of one. I don’t own a car anymore, not since August 2011. I’ve been riding a motorcycle since November 2012 and I’ve put many miles on it so far. My motorcycle is a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 500R. Now, before you all think I’m some crazy sportbiker… mine is a bit different. It has a more upright riding position and hooks for a cargo net. It does go fast… its name is “Leonardo”. The bike is a lot of fun and is great to travel with.
Skipping a lot of travel… though I will try to post more photos from my trips as I can… I recently was on Mesa Grande Road near Lake Henshaw in northern San Diego County on my motorcycle. It was there I found this neat WPA bridge with brass letters still in place. Adjacent to it was the original bridge, or what was left of it. I figure it was from the 1910’s or earlier by its construction.