In 1875, the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad connected central Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Bay. Southern Pacific bought the steam line two years later, and, by 1911, it had electrified and rebranded the “Santa Monica Air Line.”

An advertisement for the 1923 Country Club Highlands housing tract (now part of the Cheviot Hills neighborhood) touted the adjacent “‘air line’ to the beaches.” In 1934, the area’s American Legion post successfully opposed Southern Pacific’s effort to drop passenger service, and it carried passengers until 1953 and freight until 1988.

Each spring in the early-1950s, the 35-car Clyde Beatty Circus train would park on a railroad siding between Overland Avenue and Westwood Boulevard for the circus’ performances up the street at Overland and Pico Boulevard.

In 1990, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, a predecessor of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), bought the railroad right of way from Southern Pacific. In 2016 – after a 63-year hiatus – Metro restored passenger train service between Los Angeles and Santa Monica with its Expo Line (later “E Line”) on the old right of way.

This early Edison film shows a steam engine passing through a Los Angeles & Independence Railway tunnel in the area that is now the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica.  The Los Angeles & Independence Railway ran on right of way that later carried the Santa Monica Air Line then the “E” Line light rail line.
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