Southern Pacific's Santa Monica Tunnel
1898 movie clip

About 1891 SP built a line to the mouth of Santa Monica Canyon, just north of Santa Monica CA to their "Long Wharf," which they envisioned would be the beginning of a great harbor for the Los Angeles area.  Turned out, however, after battles in and out of court, that San Pedro was selected to become the seaport, and both the wharf and SP's line became unnecessary.

The line was an extension of the Santa Monica "Air Line" and ran from the Espee station near Ocean and Colorado, westerly in the ravine and through a right-curving tunnel to the beach, then north along the bottom of the high, unstable bluffs.  A ways north of present-day Entrada Drive was located the wharf, upon which the tracks ran out into the bay.

The Pacific Electric eventually took over the route, at least to the foot of the wharf, electrified it and ran trolleys on it with decreasing frequency until the early 1930's.  After abandonment, the state Division of Highways promptly took over the right-of-way and it has been part of the "Coast Highway" ever since.

Besides the Long Wharf, the most notable feature of the line was probably the tunnel through the palisades bluffs and under Ocean Avenue.  Being highly photogenic, the tunnel became the backdrop for a number of film scenes by the early silent movie producers in Hollywood..."Keystone Cops" chases, rescues of damsels in distress, and the like. The tunnel was converted to automobile use and carried Olympic Blvd. traffic to the beach...and it is in exactly the same spot as today's tunnel at the west end of Interstate 10, the Santa Monica Freeway.

Before the commercial photographers, however,  Thomas Edison's photographer visited California in 1897 and 1898 with his motion picture camera, and made a number of short films here and there, both to demonstrate his invention and to help promote travel to Southern California.  The film was apparently made for or obtained by Southern Pacific, from whom it eventually made its way to the collections of the Library of Congress

Here, then, is a 50-second film made by Edison on a train ride through the tunnel and out along the sandy flats in 1898.  Select the format you prefer...


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