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Freight trains on Santa Monica Boulevard

Freight trains on Santa Monica Boulevard

Feb. 1970: Southern Pacific freight train passes P.J.’s on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood on old tracks that once carried Pacific Electric Railway’s Red Cars.

Times writer Doug Shuit on Feb. 12, 1970, reported:

Two Halloweens ago, bartender Al Solliday strapped on two six-shooters and staged a mock holdup of a Southern Pacific freight train.

Sheriff’s deputies, however, didn’t laugh.

This wasn’t an ordinary freight train. This one creaks and groans down the middle of Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood several nights a week–right past all the boutiques, bottomless dancing clubs, fancy restaurants and coffee shops.

When someone holds it up, traffic comes to a halt, rowdy bar patrons gather, street people shout encouragement and all hell breaks loose.

Usually, however, the train attracts little attention as it follows the spur line down Santa Monica Blvd. to Seward St. in Hollywood and then back through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles to the yards at Jefferson and La Cienega Blvds.

And although sometimes it’s a nuisance, says the bartender–in general agreement with other merchants in the area–the train really doesn’t seem to get in anyone’s way.

“It’s a fun train,” says Solliday, who works at the Palms Cocktail Lounge, 8572 Santa Monica Blvd. “Anyway,'” he adds, “there’s no way we’re going to get rid of it.”

But by 1972, Southern Pacific, citing lack of customers, began abandoning the line and removing tracks–which was a good thing as Shuit added in his column:

At Santa Monica (westbound) and Olive Drive, the tracks, which up to this point are level with the street, curve one way and the street curves another and many motorists follow the tracks and not the street, especially on rainy nights.

At least one car a day follows the tracks and, after getting its axles hung up on the rails, has to be towed away.

Once, a sheriff’s patrol car even ran up on the tracks.

This photo by retired staff photographer Boris Yaro accompanied the Feb. 12, 1970, column by Doug Shuit.

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