Historical image of LA's Red Car on the Fletcher Street Bridge.

Lost L.A.: The Abandoned Corralitas Streetcar Line

In the triangle-shaped neighborhood between the Silver Lake Reservoir, the Glendale Freeway, and the I-5 Freeway is a little piece of Los Angeles history that is lost, but not forgotten. The Corralitas Trail is a little-know urban hike that follows an abandoned Pacific Electric streetcar line that used to run between downtown Los Angeles and the city of Glendale. Before L.A.’s urban landscape was dominated by automobiles and freeways, the Pacific Electric Railway–L.A.’s “Red Cars”–operated one of the most extensive inter-urban mass transit networks in southern California. The Red Cars were a network of light rail trains and streetcars that integrated downtown Los Angeles with outlying urban areas such as Long Beach, Santa Monica, Burbank, Glendale, and San Bernardino, among others. In the 1940s, the Pacific Electric Railway system, along with the Los Angeles Railway’s “Yellow Cars,” were sold to National City Lines (a company whose investors included Firestone Tires, Standard Oil, and General Motors), a move which resulted in the dismantling of L.A.’s popular urban rail network. For more history on L.A.’s Red Cars, click on this link from the University of Southern California or this link from the Orange Empire Railway Museum.

While some portions of the old Pacific Electric Railway have been incorporated into the modern, publicly-run Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, some abandoned remnants of the old Red Car infrastructure, like the Corralitas Trail, can still be seen throughout Los Angeles. I first heard about the Corralitas Trail from the Modern Hiker website who explored it after the L.A. Weekly said it was a “haunted hiking trail” where “relics of the big red cars” were still visible. With my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I organized an urban hike with some friends to explore the abandoned streetcar line and document a little piece of L.A.’s lost history. The Google Map below shows our hike along the Corralitas Trail with some points of interest. Click the points to read additional information or click the link below the map to see a larger version.

View Lost LA: The Corralitas Abandoned Streetcar Trail in a larger map

Although we couldn’t find any railroad tracks on the Corralitas Trail, the right-of-way through this neighborhood has somehow remained undeveloped. The trailhead at the corner of Lake View Avenue and Allesandro Way leads you to a concrete path sandwiched between private property on your left and the Glendale Freeway on your right. This path leads you all the way down to the Corralitas Drive cul-de-sac, but at the bottom of the hill you’ll see a field open up to your left. I’m calling this the Corralitas Open Space even though this area is not an officially designated trail or open space. Beyond this field, the trail winds through a dense wooded patch, which eventually brings you to an unpaved road known on Google Maps as Silver Lake Court. This “street” is really just an unpaved easement used as a driveway by the few residents who live in these wooded lots. Incidentally, while it’s a nice hike in the day, I wouldn’t recommend exploring this trail at night. The abandoned right-of-way continues on past Silver Lake Court snaking through some more wooded areas (yes, wooded areas in LA!) and eventually opens up on the hill behind the Arco station at Fletcher and Riverside Drives. Stretching down the hill, you can see several sets of old concrete pylon foundations marking the location where the old steel bridge used to carry streetcars over Fletcher Drive.

We continued the hike on the other side of Fletcher Drive walking up the concrete stairwell that goes up the hill behind the restaurant Home. The right-of-way continues on the north side of Fletcher Drive, paralleling Riverside Drive. We explored the walkway and hill at the top of the steps but found that there wasn’t really a trail we could use to explore this stretch of the abandoned rail line, so we decided to just head back. In the end, we didn’t find any actual train tracks or abandoned cars, but we saw a fascinating and hidden part of Los Angeles history. The surviving relics we did see included old water/sewer infrastructure in the Corralitas Open Space, abandoned stair platforms along Silver Lake Court (possibly for getting on and off the train), and the old streetcar trestle foundations on the hills on both sides of Fletcher Drive.

After doing some additional research using Sanborn maps from the 1950s, I found that the rail line used to run from downtown Los Angeles along Glendale Boulevard and Allesandro Street (where the Glendale Freeway starts in Silver Lake). As the streetcar passed the small hill at Lake View Avenue, it turned north through the Corralitas neighborhood. The Sanborn map from the mid 1950s still showed a wood and steel trestle crossing Fletcher Drive, though it probably wasn’t being used at that point since the Glendale Freeway had already been built.

The map also shows the Pacific Electric Railway right-of-way continuing on the north side of Fletcher Drive, alongside Riverside Drive down to Glendale Boulevard. Here the streetcar turned eastward, crossed the L.A. River on another steel trestle, and continued on towards downtown Glendale. Today, there is a large apartment building on part of the Pacific Electric Railway near the corner of Riverside Drive and Glendale Boulevard and the streetcar bridge over the L.A. River no longer exists. However, a concrete foundation can still be seen in the L.A. River alongside the Glendale Boulevard bridge.

When the Glendale Freeway was built in the mid 1950s, the Red Car line that ran alongside Allesandro Street was paved over, leaving the abandoned rail line through the Corralitas neighborhood. A section of the neighborhood around Corralitas Drive was also demolished during construction of the Freeway. You can see evidence of this in some of the digitized maps included below.

Here are some of our photos of the Corralitas hike with other Red Car documentation:

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