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Ghost Streets of Los Angeles (bldgblog.blogspot.com)
121 points by ingve on Dec 5, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

These are all ex-railroad tracks.

I wish this documentary was available for streaming somewhere but if you're into this stuff it's an amazing documentary and I can highly recommend it.


It has some bonus materials as well including going around with a P.E. history buff as he points out some of these places.

Why would a country like the US with plenty of money get rid of train tracks when other countries are building or upgrading theirs? It seems like a really strange thing to do when you have a large metropolitan area which clearly has a need for mass transit?

The documentary mentioned 2 things.

1. The trains never made a profit past 1929 (the great depression). I'm not sure if they said why.

2. The train companies had made deals to maintain the roads. As cars got more popular that made maintenance too expensive and provided an incentive to switch to buses which would transfer maintenance of the roads to the city.

Of course I agree that it was shortsighted of the city to let the trains go. They probably should have run them themselves or made some new deals or something. Now they're paying billions to build new lines and they take forever to build. The purple line that goes down Wilshire is supposed to take until 2035! to be finished down to UCLA :(


These tracks could have been spurs off of a main line, back when the areas in question were more industrial. Once the need for the spur no longer exists, it would make sense to reclaim the land for better use.

There's also this, though: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_consp...

A lot of these spurs were torn up in the 40s and 50s when the freeway was going to be the savior of all our transit needs. In Los Angeles especially, they're now reactivating a lot of lines when they can as money comes in, because there's a lot of real estate that was wisely bought up by the local transit agencies when the various private transit companies stopped running.

Totally different situations. All of these removed rail spurs are from when these neighborhoods would have been industrial/shipping and not residential/light commerce.

They wouldn't have very much use in a commuter transit scenario.

Trains. There's similar scars in San Francisco. Potrero Hill & Mission District particularly.

There's a site where you can see this really clearly, http://www.historicaerials.com/ ... it's a pretty bad site but the only one I know that actually presents the data in this way.

The first image: http://historicaerials.com:?layer=T1963&zoom=16&lat=34.09750... ... if you go to the compare drop-down, select slide, then do 2012, you can clearly see this.

Were you aware that Google Earth has a "History" icon that opens a slider for historic aerial data? It's pretty fantastic.

One of my pasttimes is to compare different map sources/times for the same location.

I wrote a python2 tool that parses any URL like the one you gave, and outputs links to the geo location at many map providers:


Well now I have to explorer SF in 3D in 1938. This might take a while.

in fact here's one I just stumbled on: https://www.google.com/maps/@33.8424464,-118.0499788,14z

See that giant diagonal from the top left to the bottom right that spans the length of the map?

That line is in a lot of long term plans to be reopened, and in fact, work is starting on the southern half of it to be used as light rail. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Santa_Ana_Branch


I actually noticed this one day in Noe Valley. You would have a block of old houses (early 1900's) and then in the center of the block would be buildings built in the '50s or '60s. Why is that?

This is a nice zoomable map of SF from 1938 that shows why. There used to be an elevated set of train tracks that ran from 27th and Dolores down to San Jose and Randall. The rest of the tracks were at ground level.


The removed the tracks and filled in the gaps with new homes.

The one in Protrero Hill, on each side (NW and SE) seems to indicate there was, or is, a tunnel under the hill. Is that so?

Edit: Found the answer myself. http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Potrero_Commons_18th-Wisc...

For me this article contained a Ghost Address: the Ogden Drive swimming pool highlighted in the article is located just a few buildings south of a place I lived for four months in 2007. It was only four months because I unexpectedly applied to and was accepted by Y Combinator, and thus had to move to the Bay Area on short notice. Nevertheless, I walked past that building dozens of times—never seeing the oddly shaped pool, never knowing I was walking past a ghost.

The Bay Area too, if you know where to look http://imgur.com/4kBUHie

Next stop Monte Vista!

That is because foothill expressway was a railroad line until the early 1960s(?). You can still see the old train station in downtown los altos (it's now a high end French bakery).

San Jose also has a crapload of abandoned industrial trackage, some of which has gone to BART, some completely abandoned, some trails, and a very small amount still in use. Once you know what to look for, the scars of rail ROWs are everywhere.

63 or 64 IIRC.

Former railroad tracks. Duh.

Land ownership often reflects where railroad tracks were. When the tracks are removed, that doesn't mean that the land becomes part of the neighboring lots.

Another in SF, heading southwest for several blocks from the intersection of Harrison/22nd in the Mission

2901 22nd St San Francisco CA

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