100 Years Ago Today: Pacific Electric Railway Reaches Van Nuys, Launching “Wonderful Growth” In The San Fernando Valley

First Pacific Electric streetcar arrives in Van Nuys, December 16, 1911 (Los Angeles Public Library - click to enlarge)

Today marks another auspicious local transportation anniversary – a century ago, the first streetcars rolled into the small outlying town of Van Nuys.

(via Los Angeles Public Library - click to enlarge)

On December 16, 1911, Pacific Electric Railway Company launched its service to the San Fernando Valley.

Constructing the Pacific Electric rail line into Van Nuys, October 1911 (USC Digital Library - click to enlarge)

Van Nuys had been founded just ten months earlier when lot sales began on February 22.

(via Los Angeles Public Library - click to enlarge)

In a sweeping declaration embodying boosterism at its finest, the Los Angeles Times wrote that Van Nuys was

“cut out of the heart of land that for long generations had been part of a single great property, stretching in every direction beyond the compass of the eye’s sweep, the natal day of Van Nuys, the next town to be created out of the Van Nuys and Lankershim tract, was spectacular wonderful.  Nothing like it was ever seen in California.”

The streetcar line in the so-called “Town That Started Right” ran 19 miles from Los Angeles along Chandler Boulevard from Lankershim (now North Hollywood), turning up Van Nuys Boulevard to Sherman Way.

It eventually expanded to the future towns of Marion (now Reseda) and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park).

In 1913, over 368,000 passengers rode the line, and by 1926 that number topped one million.

By 1929, the San Fernando Valley Lines saw departures leaving Hill Street Station downtown at 4:15am until 11:30pm.

Van Nuys Boulevard at Oxnard Street, 2011 (Courtesy of Andres Di Zitti - click to enlarge)


Additional detailed information about the San Fernando Valley Line can be found on the Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California website.