Historic Structures

Lynwood Pacific Electric Railway Depot, Lynwood California

Date added: June 17, 2021 Categories: California Train Station

In 1917 the old Lynwood Station Shed which was once adjacent to sugar beet fields was replaced with a larger station (now existing) for passenger operation, at the intersection of Fernwood Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard. The present tracks are located on the southwest side of building and did not parallel any highways. The line was originally a double track but the southern track was removed in 1940-4l.

The station was built by the Lynwood Company for the Southern Pacific. In 1953 the Pacific Electric (a subsidiary of Southern Pacific) sold all of its passenger services to Metropolitan Coach Lines. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority took over bus and rail services and the station was finally abandoned in 1958.

The Station was moved in 1974.

Lynwood's history was tied to open land, beginning with the Rancho San Antonio of Antonia Maria Lugo and still bears reference to this heritage in name and deeded title. Dividing of the land among subsequent heirs and unrelated purchasers still maintained its agrarian use and so it was found when the Pacific Electric Railway built a line between Los Angeles and Santa Ana in 1906 passing through what is the center of present day Lynwood.

Ranching had given way to farming and the railway line traversed beet fields which it served in hauling their yiald south to a sugar refinery in Santa Ana. The railway attracted new residents and stimulated land development. In 1906 part of this land between present day Long Beach Boulevard and Alameda Street was subdivided into the Modjeska Park Tract. The subdivision failed to develop because of failure to connect a right of way with adjacent communities and later was absorbed in a new subdivision formed in 1913 under the Lynwood Company. Thus what was to be the city begun with an active sales promotion in Los Angeles newspapers known as "The New Half-Way City" (between Los Angeles and Long Beach), bringing in potential buyers by excursion bus, rail and car. In 1921 the city incorporated having become an active community along the railroad right of way.

The Pacific Electric Railway was financed with Southern Pacific Railroad money loaned to Henry Huntington to build it. In 1910, the Pacific Electric sold all of its holdings to the Southern Pacific. The following year some 63 electric railway lines, including the old Pacific Electric Railway, merged to form the Pacific Electric System which the Southern Pacific operated as a subsidiary.

When Henry E. Huntington formed the Pacific Electric Railway in 1901 he also established the Pacific Electric Land Company to develop Huntington properties and growing communities. Huntington attracted land buyers and riders by developing business and recreational facilities along the interurban routes. It is not known if any of the early Lynwood subdivisions were financially related to Huntington's venture, however without doubt the people involved in promoting Lynwood took advantage of the railroad's presence. Because of its history and location Lynwood was destined to remain primarily a residential community and, as the area developed around it, it came to rely on the railroad as a commuter line. Everyone rode the Pacific Electric to work and "flocked aboard the 'Big Red Cars' for weekend outings".

The first interurban line built by the Pacific Electric was the Long Beach line opening in May of 1902. Lines to Newport Beach and San Pedro opened in 1904 and the Santa Ana line in 1905. By 1907 the Pacific Electric network reached most Southern California communities, declaring itself "The Greatest Electric Railway System on Earth". The Pacific Electric offered conducted trolley tours which included the Triangle Trolley Trip from Los Angeles to San Pedro, Long Beach and down the coast to Newport Beach and Balboa, then doubling back through Huntington Beach to Santa Ana and back to Los Angeles with Lynwood enroute.

The Pacific Electric had several stops in Lynwood, the first and apparently most elaborate being Modjeska Park. Nothing remains of this depot today and its existence is solely committed to memory. Other stops included Lynwood (Long Beach Boulevard), Lugo and Morton (Atlantic Avenue). The Lynwood stop was originally a simple shed-type shelter and bench adjacent to sugar beet fields. Other structures along the right of way included "Beet Dumps" consisting of elevated platforms with scales for weighing and loading the beets for hauling by rail. As the land was subdivided the beet farming declined and the dumps became idle. Public objection to the structures finally signalled their demolition.

The Lynwood depot faired better. In 1917 the old shed shelter was replaced with a larger station for passenger operation, including a lunch room, at the intersection of Fernwood Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard. The station was built by the Lynwood Company for the Southern Pacific in return for other improvements to the intersection by the railroad which included landfill, site grading, installation of drainage culverts and relocation of a new cattle guard. Drawings of the depot have yet to be found; possibly they were destroyed with other records when a former wooden City Hall structure burned prior to 1927.

The Southern District was the last of the three major Pacific Electric districts to take shape, and outlasted all the others. It was entirely the work of Henry Huntington and a partner, Epes Randolph. Randolph understood topography and growth factors of the countryside between Los Angeles and the southern beaches and the Pacific Electric lines followed his layout exactly. The Southern District was the only district to have been standard gage operation from the beginning. The Long Beach line was the "guinea pig" for using the larger gage and was successful from the beginning with high speed interurban cars. The Southern District also had the Santa Ana line and the Watts Local.

Lynwood was on the Santa Ana line just east of the Watts junction. The distance from Los Angeles to Watts was 7.45 miles and to Lynwood 9.70 miles. The tract literally ran in a straight line from Watts to Santa Ana. Besides Lynwood, the towns served included Bellflower and Garden Grove. The Santa Ana line was 12.52 miles long from the Watts junction to the Los Angeles County line and 13.89 miles from the county line to Santa Ana.

The Santa Ana line had superior equipment. The diagonal route of the line in relation to the highways permitted a better than average operating speed. The trains consistently bettered highway time. Because the line did not parallel any highways it was saved from abandonment several times. The line was originally a double track. The southerly track was removed in 1940-41 and thereby also much of the ability to render superior service.

Oddly enough at the time when Lynwood was getting a new and elaborate (by comparison) railway passenger station the Pacific Electric began to lose public support with the increase in automobile traffic. In order to survive the Pacific Electric began in 1930 to purchase and by 1936 had purchased competing interurban bus lines. It planned a rehabilitation program between 1939 and 1941 for abandoning its major rail network. World War II interrupted the move, pressing into service all available rail equipment to handle both passenger and freight traffic.

At the war's end the Pacific Electric was faced with needing new equipment, track rehabilitation and declining patronage. In 1953 it sold all of its passenger services to Metropolitan Coach Lines. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority took over bus and rail services in March 1958. Passenger service on the line between Bellflower and Santa Ana was discontinued July 1950. The Bellflower line was finally abandoned in 1958 and with its passing Lynwood lost its only link with rapid transit.