Before “Subway To The Sea,” There Was “Streetcar In The Sea”: Creating Artificial Reefs Off The Los Angeles Coast In 1959

The recent photo essays in the New York Times and Fast Company featuring stunning photos of NY MTA subway cars being dumped into the sea inspired us to tell our own similar story from half a century ago.

The July, 1959 issue of Mass Transportation magazine featured an informative article about six “old” Los Angeles Transit Lines streetcars being placed off the coast at Redondo Beach to create an artificial reef.

The site was selected after months of research by the California Fish And Game Department revealed a sandy area of the ocean floor that offered no protection for sea life.

The article notes that “no doubt the signs on the stretcars will puzzle the fish. These read, “Enter Front,” and “Exit Only” but because all the windows were removed before the heavily ballasted cars were lowered into the sea, perhaps the signs won’t matter too much.”

It leaves us wanting to know much more, but it is yet another piece of our transportation history worth sharing.

Los Angeles Transit Lines was created in 1945.

After National City Lines purchased the company from the Huntington estate, the new owners changed the name to Los Angeles Transit Lines and sought to substitute buses on most of the street car lines.

That company was acquired by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) in 1958.

More information about what happened to the streetcars of Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Railway can be found here.

A “family tree” explaining the complex creation, merger and purchase histories of Los Angeles’ historic transit agencies can be found here.