Metro Transportation Library and Archive: History of Transit in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County has been served by public transit since 1873. During this time, at least 220 private and public companies have operated transit systems that have included horse cars, cable cars, incline railways, steam trains, electric streetcars, interurban cars, trolley buses, and gas or diesel powered buses.

The Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA or Metro), 1890 to the present, is the largest transit operator research collection in the US. It is a partner of the National Transportation Library, a member of OCLC the world's largest library network, a member of the Western Transportation Knowledge Network, a member of the Getty/USC LAasSubject archives forum, and an affiliate of the National Academies Transportation Research Board. We are a strong advocate of using social media tools to connect communities and research. For more information, visit [Metro Library]( or email us [](

Los Angeles & Aliso Street Railroad Company

The Los Angeles and Aliso Street Railroad Company was franchised in June, 1875 and regular service began in February, 1877. Baseball fever increased ridership and a second line, the East First Street Line, was built. It became a cable railway in 1899.

Main Street Railroad Company

David B. Waldron was authorized by the Los Angeles City Council on July 3, 1873 to "lay down and maintain two iron railroad tracks, theron propelled by horses or mules, and to carry passengers thereon..." With this charter, he formed the Main Street Railroad Company. Waldron was not strongly motivated to pursue this venture and the enterprise did not become a reality.

Spring and West 6th Street Railroad

In 1874 the Spring and 6th Street franchise was issued to Judge Robert M. Widney (also one of the founders of the University of Southern California). The company served the downtown Los Angeles area from Main Street to Spring Street, to First Street, to Fort Street (now Broadway), then to Fourth Street, Hill Street, and finally Pearl Street (now Figueroa Street). This single track horse car driven line began public transit in Los Angeles.

Main Street & Agricultural Railroad

The Main Street and Agricultural Railroad was the first suburban line in Los Angeles. This company was chartered in November 1874 and began operation in 1875 from Old River Southern Pacific on North Spring Street. The line operated through the city on Main Street to Washington Boulevard and extended to Agricultural Park (now Exposition Park), traveling by way of Washington, Figueroa, and Wesleyan (now University Avenue).

East Los Angeles & San Pedro Railway Company

Also founded by Robert Widney, this line was incorporated on May 1, 1875 but did not begin construction until March 1876. It ran north from Fourth Street and was intended to lay track to the new Southern Pacific depot. It reached only to College Street and North Broadway. Due to low patronage, the railway company folded after just four years.

City Railroad Company

This line was chartered in 1883 and became the first line dedicated "exclusively to public transit." Other lines under development were primarily focused on promoting real estate. This horse car driven system ran from the Southern Pacific Depot south and west to a terminal at Washington Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

The Central Railroad Company

Also chartered circa 1883, the Central Railroad Company was developed to consolidate with the Los Angeles & Aliso Railroad and eventually merged with the City Railroad on May 1, 1886.

Main & Fifth Street Railroad

As the name suggests, the Main & Fifth Street Railroad (which began service on July 30, 1887) ran from First and Main Streets to Fifth Street and Central Avenue. It was electrified by the Los Angeles Railway Company in 1897.

Los Angeles & Vernon Railroad

This company operated a horse car line on Central Avenue from Fifth Street to Vernon Avenue. It was purchased by the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway in May, 1891.

Second Street Cable Railroad Company

Founded in March 1885, the Second Street Cable Railroad Company was a single track system opening from Spring Street to Texas (Belmont Avenue).

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