Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles includes the following segments:

The various routes possible on this lines are described from the perspective of trains leaving LAUS to head for each of the variety of lines that can be reached from these tracks. The ownership of each segment is covered in each of these descriptions,

Los Angeles Union Station

Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT) opened in May, 1939, replacing the Santa Fe’s Station (located along the west bank of the LA River) and the Southern Pacific’s Central Station (located on the west side of Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Union Pacific used the SP station after its own station at 4th Street on the east bank of the river had burned down a few years earlier.

The station originally comprised six concrete platforms, each serving two tracks, one on either side of it, for a total of twelve passenger loading and unloading “tracks” or “platforms”. The platforms were (and are) connected by a driveway across the south end of the station, along the north side of the trench containing US 101. Each platform has an umbrella shelter covering the vast majority of its length, protecting passengers from the weather but leaving space over the tracks for smoke and steam to escape. Each pair of platform tracks has an additional track located between them, once used for locomotives to escape, but latterly used for car setouts and the like. The mission-style station buildings are located to the west of the elevated tracks, and connect to the platforms by means of a pedestrian subway from which ramps extend in both directions on each platform.

The advent of Amtrak in 1971 vastly reduced the usage of the station, and for two decades only a few of the platforms were in active use. The platforms nearest the station buildings were demolished some years ago. In the late 1980s segments of the station were removed from service while the Red Line subway station “box” was built beneath the platforms and tracks. The pedestrian subway is open only at the western end, with its access completely controlled by the various “gates” between the station concourse and waiting room, to the west, and the subway to he tracks, to the east. In Amtrak’s first two decades, passengers were essentially escorted from the gates to the appropriate tracks, even though the track-level layout of the platforms and connecting driveway across the end permitted the knowledgeable to access any platform without having to pass through a “gate”.

Beyond the north end of the platforms is the usual maze of terminal station trackage permitting access to all of the platforms from each of the approach lines. Trackage in the terminal itself is controlled by Terminal Tower, on the east side of the tracks.  On the west side of the tracks, north of the platforms, are some stub-end tracks known as “the garden”, on which private cars are stored during visits to LA or between trips out of LA. On the east side of the station are tracks used for loading mail and express into the cars Amtrak uses to carry these commodities on the rear of some trains. North of Terminal Tower, the approach tracks turn eastward onto the alignment once used by the Southern Pacific’s eastward approaches to its Alameda Street trackage and Cornfield Yard, passing beneath a signal bridge with a comprehensive array of signals, to reach the locations controlled by Mission Tower (in the midst of the approach tracks). The terminal throat is four tracks wide between Terminal Tower and Mission Tower, around the turn to the east.

Cesar Chavez Avenue (formerly Macy Street) passes under the platforms themselves, with a concrete underbridge almost resembling a tunnel. Beyond the end of the platforms, Vignes Street also passes underneath using a similar underbridge. Terminal Tower is located next to the Vignes Street bridge on the southeast corner.

Today’s "Terminal Lead" starts at Los Angeles Union Station, variously MP 482.8 on the Southern Pacific (miles from San Francisco), undisclosed on the Santa Fe, and -1.8 on the Union Pacific, with Yard Limits extending to the ends of the platforms, whence there are four tracks. The Garden Tracks split off to the west; there are crossovers at Terminal Tower and crossovers at Mission Tower (variously, MP 482.2 on the SP, MP 140.0 on the Santa Fe and MP -1.1 on the UP), where the various connecting tracks split off. There is a flat crossing with the Santa Fe, a single track through truss bridge across the Los Angeles River (the original SP main line), a flat crossing with the UP East Bank Line, where the "Coast Connecting Track" splits off to the north, and an end-on junction with the SP West Line at Taylor Junction (MP 1.3), which is also where the "Northeast Connecting Track" comes in from the north.

Amtrak to the Santa Fe Fullerton Line

The vast majority of the West Bank Line originated as the Santa Fe Pasadena (formerly 2nd Sub) subdivision trackage through Los Angeles, extending from the bridge across the LA River used by the erstwhile main line through Pasadena (where the Gold Line’s concrete cantilever bridge now is), to the north, to Redondo Junction to the south, where the main line turned east towards Fullerton and the Santa Fe’s line to the harbor headed south and then west to Redondo Beach (and later to the LA/LB Harbor). Santa Fe’s station was located between First and Fourth Streets.

Trains from LAUS headed south on the West Bank Line leave the Terminal Lead at Mission Tower and traverse the 15 mph "Southwest Connecting Track" to "San Diego Junction" (MP 140.2), where there are crossovers. Train consists being moved between station and coach yard that must reverse in the process leave the Terminal Lead at CP Mission (MP 0.7) and traverse the "Northwest Connecting Track" to Broadway (MP 139.4), where there are crossovers, then continue north on the two main track Pasadena sub. until they have cleared the switches at Broadway. They then reverse and head south on the West Bank Line’s single track through the flat crossing (where they cross the Terminal Lead) to "San Diego Junction".

South of "San Diego Junction" to Redondo Junction there is a single track, maximum speed 30 mph. The line runs along the LA River, passing under Cesar Chavez Avenue, the US 101 freeway, and First Street, all of which cross overhead on bridges. The first four tracks west of the main line are Santa Fe 4th St. yard tracks, primarily used to store overflow intermodal cars.  The fifth track is the “roundhouse lead” used by Amtrak to connect their 8th St. coach yard to "San Diego Jct."  Everything east of the roundhouse lead is MTA property. There are Intermediate Signals at First Street (MP 141.1). The line passes under the Fourth Street bridge, the massive Sixth Street bridge, and the Seventh Street bridge.

Amtrak’s coach facilities are on the west side of the line south of Seventh Street, including a carriage washing machine through which the train consists pass as they are moved from the station to the coach yards. Main line and coach yards pass under the I-10 bridge. The line passes under the Olympic Boulevard Bridge and then turns east, crossing the SP lines to the harbor with a flat crossing, and Washington Boulevard, the LA River and Soto Street on bridges in the process before they become the San Bernardino subdivision, with a 10-degree (15 MPH) curve.

To the UP Riverside Line and the SP State Street Line

South of the UP bridge at Mission Tower, the East Bank line was the Union Pacific (formerly Los Angeles and Salt Lake). The original LA&SL station (and their milepost zero) was at 4th Street. North of this point was the UP Pasadena Branch, south was the main line to Riverside and beyond.  Beginning in the 1920s the California PUC and the City of Los Angeles arranged trackage rights for SP trains on this line in order to reduce the number of trains operating on the SP San Pedro Branch in the middle of Alameda Street.  Dozens of SP trains currently use this line daily, mostly en route to the harbor

Passenger trains headed for either the State Street Line or (formerly) for Riverside via the UP leave the Terminal Lead at Mission Tower (MP -1.1/MP 482.2), maximum speed 15 mph, cross the "West Bank Line" on a flat crossing (separate from the flat crossing between the Terminal Lead and the "West Bank Line"), cross the LA River on a girder bridge and join the "East Bank Line" at Pasadena Junction (MP -0.9/MP 482.4), adjacent to the SP Los Angeles Transportation Center (Shops Yard), where there are crossovers. Trains headed for the State Street Line leave the "East Bank Line" immediately, still at Pasadena Junction, curving away east and uphill around the south side of Shops Yard. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited uses this route out of LAUS.

Trains headed for the UP Riverside line continue south on the single track, CTC, "East Bank Line", under the Cesar Chavez Avenue bridge, the US 101 freeway bridge and the First Street bridge. There are signals and intersections at First Street (MP 0.0, with some very busy spur tracks and the UP 4th St. Yard along the east side of the line, where the speed limit is 35 mph. The urban fabric at this point is one of the grittiest areas of the city (unlike the gentrifying warehouse district across the river, where warehouses have been converted into upscale loft apartments). On the east side of the river at this point is Boyle Heights, location of the Los Angeles Police department’s infamous Hollenbeck District, with the highest crime rates in the city.

The line continues under the Sixth Street and Seventh Street bridges, under the I-10 bridge, and then under the Olympic Boulevard bridge. There are signals north of the latter, and intersections underneath it, at Ninth Street (MP 1.7). Here, the line turns east, away from the river, and the connection to the SP’s bridge across the river to the line to the harbor departs to the south to form the west leg of a wye. Around the curve to the east, at Soto Street Junction (MP 2.1), the "East Bank Line" ends as it joins with the tracks coming across the LA River on the UP Los Angeles subdivision (the UP Riverside line).

Amtrak to the ex-SP Colton Line

Southern Pacific’s exit from Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal crossed the bridge at Mission Tower. Trains heading east continued directly ahead onto the line to Colton.

This trackage is entirely encompassed by today’s "Terminal Lead", discussed above.

Amtrak to the ex-SP lines in the San Fernando Valley

The northernmost stretch of the "West Bank Line" (out of service, in 1991), north of the Santa Fe bridge and including the crossing of the LA River at the north end of the line, originated as the Southern Pacific’s original main line from the north to its freight facilities in the Cornfield yard, located between Spring Street and Broadway and its passenger station further south on Alameda Street. The northernmost segment of the "East Bank Line" comprised the direct connection between the Southern Pacific’s original line from the north and its easterly extension out towards Colton. Southern Pacific’s exit from Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal crossed the bridge at Mission Tower. Trains going north or west (all went west according to the railroad itself) turned north on what is now the "Coast Connecting Track" and continued up the "East Bank Line" on UP trackage rights as far as the ATSF bridge, where SP ownership began.

Trains headed for the north via the East Bank Line leave the Terminal Lead at the east flat crossing, traverse the single track, 15 mph, "Coast Connecting Track" to East Bank Junction (MP 481.9) and continue north on the two main tracks of the East Bank Line, maximum speed 20 mph. The line crosses North Main Street at grade at the east end of that street’s bridge across the river, passes under the North Broadway and Spring Street bridges, under the Santa Fe bridge, and then under the Pasadena Freeway bridges, to Glendale Junction (MP 481.5), where the UP Glendale Branch once headed away on the east side and ownership becomes SP. The single track, out-of-service line, coming across the river from the west, joins at Dayton Avenue Tower (MP 480.7), whence the line passes under the Figueroa Street and I-5 bridges. North of the latter, the area of the SP Taylor Yard lies on both sides of the line (it was formerly all to the west, with the main line running along the west side of San Fernando Road), with crossovers at Main Line Tower (MP 479.4), where the maximum speed rises to 40 mph and the line becomes Double Track, current-of-traffic (Rule 251), Automatic Block Signals. After a short stretch alongside the river and a grade crossing with an access road, the former SP Taylor Shops are alongside on the west side of the tracks at Los Angeles (Taylor Yard) (MP 478.5). (Note that the popular name for this area was “Taylor Yard” however it was never so designated by the SP.  The name “Taylor” came from a feed mill on San Fernando Road served by the SP.)

The whole area from Dayton Avenue to "Los Angeles" was once the site of SP’s massive Taylor Yard, the hub of SP’s general merchandise operations in the Los Angeles area. Replaced by the West Colton Yard and the move to intermodal operations, Taylor Yard has been completely removed from the area, the main lines have been slewed west, away from their former location alongside San Fernando Road, the land has received an environmental cleanup and is now available for development as an industrial and warehouse park. Even the Taylor Shops are now largely unused and falling into dereliction.

North of the crossovers at Taylor Yard, the line passes under the Glendale Freeway and then immediately passes over Fletcher Drive on a bridge. From here to Burbank Jct. the line follows the original “B” line of the original Southern Pacific transcontinental main line, constructed in 1874. There are signals at Industrial (MP 477.9), and the tracks pass over Glendale Boulevard on a bridge. Until 1955 this was the site of the Glendale Interlocking, controlling the grade crossing of the SP and the Pacific Electric Glendale line. Just north of Glendale Blvd. is the Glendale Amtrak station (MP 477.1, el. 432 ft.), which has a magnificently-restored former SP mission revival style depot building on the east side of the tracks, with parking to its north and south, also on the east side of the tracks. Amtrak bus connections to San Joaquin and San Diego Surfliner trains also use the station.

After the Glendale station, the line becomes Two Main Tracks, CTC, maximum speed 50 mph, and crosses over Los Feliz Boulevard on a bridge. Along here, the route heads north through some of the earliest industrial areas of greater LA (including the original airport facilities in the area-no longer connected to an airfield-at Grand Central Air Terminal). There is a grade crossing at Chevy Chase drive, a bridge over Colorado Boulevard, a grade crossing at Broadway, a spur to lineside industry on the west side of the track, detectors on both main tracks at MP 475.3, signals at West Glendale (MP 475.0), and a grade crossing at Doran Street. Route 134 passes overhead on a bridge immediately north of that road crossing, with San Fernando Road alongside the tracks on the east. Just north of Route 134 is Glendale’s Grayson power generating facility and the Verdugo Wash bridge.

There are grade crossings at Grandview Avenue and Sonora Avenue. Western Avenue passes overhead on a bridge. There are crossovers at Allen Ave X-Overs (MP 473.4), a bridge over Alameda Avenue, Burbank, and then I-5 passes overhead on a bridge, as does Olive Avenue. Magnolia Avenue passes overhead on a bridge, Burbank (MP 472.1), where the SP Burbank Branch diverges to the west with a wye from the west track, followed by the Burbank Boulevard bridge over the tracks and the junction at Burbank Junction (MP 471.3, el. 594 ft.), where there are crossovers, two main tracks diverge to the west and one continues straight ahead.

Freights along the East Bank Line

Freight trains heading from the lines northward from LA (via Tehachapi Pass or the Pacific Coast) use the East Bank Line to connect to their onward routes. From East Bank Junction, trains from the north heading east use the two main track "Northeast Connecting Track" to reach Taylor Junction and the SP West Line (the Colton line). Trains heading to the harbor continue south on the two main tracks from East Bank Junction across the east diamond (MP 482.2) to reach Pasadena Junction, where the "San Gabriel Connecting Track" trails in from the west and the Balloon Track, used by freight trains moving from the SP West Line at Taylor Junction towards the harbor, trail in from the east. North of East Bank Junction and south of Pasadena Junction, the line is as described above. At Ninth Street, most freights take the west leg of the wye to head across the LA River to the harbor line.