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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Neighborhood Fixture: Atwater’s Red Car Pylons

Concrete Red Car Pylons once supported a trolley-line bridge/Luis Lopez

By Marni Epstein

Situated next to the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge are the Red Car Pylons, support structures built in 1929 that allowed the Red Cars of the Pacific Electric Railway to shuttle busy passengers between Silver Lake and Atwater Village along its route, which extended into Glendale and culminated in downtown Los Angeles.

According to “Images of America: Atwater Village,” the line boasted a fleet of Presidential Coach Cars (PCCs) which promised, “to meet every travel need between the hearts of Glendale-Burbank and Los Angeles.”

Today, these five concrete relics of Los Angeles’ transportation heritage emerge staunchly from the soft-bottom section of the L.A. River  downstream from the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, reminding residents of a time their still-blossoming metropolis had an extensive passenger rail network.

Current Mayor and former District 13 Councilman, Eric Garcetti set out to bring Angelenos back to the river and their Red Car River Pylons eight years ago. In 2005, with the help of Friends of Atwater Village, Garcetti designated the Red Car River Park a pocket park that serves as the only river access point from Atwater Village.

According to the Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California, the Red Car crossing at the park’s edge transported Eastside commuters until 1955 when the line was shut down, and the tracks dismantled in favor of the burgeoning freeway system. Today, all that remains of that crossing are those Red Car Pylons.

As Los Angeles once again turns to the rail lines with planned expansions of the Blue, Gold, Green, and Purple lines, Atwater Village residents find new relevance in their beloved Red Car Pylons.

So what will become of these historic pylons as the Hyperion Bridge retrofit and restoration project continues on its course? Will they become a part of the effort for a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly retrofit of the corridor? Can these relics of the railways once again rekindle their usefulness, transporting residents from Atwater Village to Silver Lake and back?


View Red Car River Pyons in a larger map

Neighborhood Fixture  provides a bit of history and background about buildings and places that catch our attention.  Got info about a neighborhood landmark? Send details to hello@TheEastsiderLA.com

 Marni Epstein is an entertainment, music, and lifestyle Journalist and resident of Echo Park. She has previously worked in the film and digital media industries with FOX and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She is currently also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.



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10 comments

  1. It would be a real shame if the bike lobby derails the pedestrian/bike bridge for this site. How often are you actually able to reuse a functional resource that’s already there? I’ve long advocated for this specific reuse of these bridge footings. It would give pedestrians (and bike riders) a safe way to cross the river away from the pollution and traffic on the Hyperion Bridge, while giving them a scenic view of the Hyperion Bridge – think of the photo ops! Sounds like an excellent historic tourist attraction.

    Really – how many of you want to walk next to that many cars whizzing by at high speeds?

    • If I’m going from Atwater to the river bike path, this bridge is perfect (though there’s already a bridge for that at Sunnynook Park). Even for places by Riverside Dr it’s ok. But the problem is that this bridge doesn’t get me into Silver Lake. From Riverside Dr, to get to Silver Lake I have to either get up Glendale Blvd (which is just as steep and scary with cars as the Hyperion Bridge span is) and then backtrack on Rowena, or I have to climb the steps up to Hyperion underneath Waverley.

      Of course, this bridge would serve that purpose if they extended the bridge not just on the existing Red Car pylons there, but also over the 5 and Riverside Dr and somehow up to the top of the ridge, near Rowena. But I suspect an amazing sudden grant of cash for this huge bridge would only make sense if it were being used as part of a transit line along the old Red Car line all the way into Echo Park (and hopefully downtown).

    • Lots of people would like this site to be used for something valuable, including some from this “bike lobby” you’re trying to portray as a single-minded entity. If whatever project is proposed gets derailed, one can only hope it’s because it doesn’t meet the needs of the majority of cyclists or pedestrians it intends to serve. I’m sure you know that no cyclist or pedestrian wishes to be exposed to cars whizzing by at high speeds (especially if they’re over the limits) but for the many who want safe connections to Silver Lake, the Red Car bridge doesn’t appear to fit the bill (by itself) and little promise has been shown for Fletcher, Glendale, or Hyperion.

    • Thanks Diane! You successfully answered your own question. Who wants to ride next to cars whizzing by at high speeds? No one does. So the solution would be to diet the bridge thus slowing those whizzing cars.

    • This article was intended to provoke exactly the response you typed. Bravo on being the winner of The Eastsider LA’s “misinform on pedestrian and bicycle issues” internal straw poll.

      The crux of the “the bicycle lobby ™” complaints about the Hyperion project are that cars are driving too damn fast on the bridge now and at every community meeting held on the bridge people from the community have asked that car speeds be lowered.

      Whether or not a bunch of additional money gets spent on a nice aesthetic/recreational park below the Hyperion brdige complex – that is a big “Meh, depends on if we can get someone else to pay for it.”

  2. “As Los Angeles once again turns to the rail lines with planned expansions of the Blue, Gold, Green, and Purple lines, Atwater Village residents find new relevance in their beloved Red Car Pylons.”

    The Blue Line is being expanded? To where?

  3. The PCC actually stood for Presidents’ Conference Committee streetcar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCC_streetcar

  4. Whatever is done to/with the pylons, I think they should be painted RED. Get it? You’re welcome.

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