From the Archives: New viaduct for Red Car train

Pacific Electric Red Car stopped on Pico Street viaduct with people and autos below.
Nov. 2, 1927: A Pacific Electric Red Car train stopped on Pico Street viaduct with people and autos below.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

On Nov. 2, 1927, Los Angeles city and county officials gathered with executives from the Pacific Electric Railway to dedicate a new 1,000-foot viaduct.

An article in the Oct. 24, 1927, Los Angeles Times reported that the new viaduct cost $290,000 and was 1,160 feet long. It “was built to separate the street and railway grades and thus eliminate dangerous crossings.”

For years, this unpublished image remained a mystery. The original glass negative only had a typed label attached. The label stated, “New P.E. Pico street viaduct.” The only date was “circa 1927.”

As with all images in this series, I conducted followup research on the photo.


First stop, the ProQuest Los Angeles Times online archive, available through many public libraries. There I found articles about the Pico Viaduct from Oct. 24, 1927, and Oct. 31, 1927.

The Monday, Oct. 31, 1927, article reported: “Dedication of the new 1000-foot viaduct bridging Pico street and serving to eliminate the grade crossing at this point is scheduled for Wednesday when city and county officials, together with Pacific Electric executives, will join in an inspection of the structure.”

A search of ProQuest turned up no followup articles on the dedication in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 3, 1927, the day after the ceremony was scheduled.

Man exits Pacific Electric Red Car train sitting on new viaduct in 1927
Nov. 2, 1927: Enlarged section of the above image shows a man exiting the Pacific Electric Red Car.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

The photo includes the final clues. First, a man is getting off a middle car, indicating the train is stopped — as shown in this enlarged section of the photo above.

Second, there is a large group of people gathered on the right side of the image. And third, on the viaduct is a large banner stating, “This Grade Separation Sponsored by The Los Angeles County Grade Crossing Committee composed of representatives of the state, county and City of Los Angeles, Railroads and Automobile Club of Southern California. Public support of similar projects assures early construction.”

My conclusion: An unknown Los Angeles Times photographer took this image on Nov. 2, 1927, about the time of the dedication of the Pico Viaduct.

The original glass negative is at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA. What I love about the 4-by-5 format is the amount of detail possible even after extreme enlargements. It also helps to have a high-quality scan done by the staff at UCLA.

This post originally was published on March 28, 2011.