Urban archeology: Lost Underworld of Los Angeles


Gale Banks (legendary Southern California hotrodder and auto engineer) shares this photograph of the old Los Angeles Subway Terminal. This image of unknown date and origin is remarkable to me, as an LA resident, in part because our city is not thought of as a "subway city." Throughout the 20th century, the growth emphasis here was all about freeways and cars, and public transportation sucks.

Gale's personal story about this "internet-found" photo follows…

I actually broke into this terminal many floors below the Subway Terminal Building on Hill Street south of 4th, in 1962. The entry hall was boarded-up with plywood so it took a little covert effort. At the time this area was full of Civil Defense Jeeps and 6 by 6 trucks plus drums of water and crates of K-rations. Every thing was lit by a single overhead light bulb (probably signed by Thomas Edison) and the tires were flat on the vehicles.

I walked all the way to the end of the tunnel (used as a set for the movie "MacArthur") near Belmont High, lots of vermin and dripping water…real nasty and quite a challenge for my 2 cell non Mag-lite. All the rails had been removed. When I was a kid I rode the street car out of this place to my uncles shop on Glendale Blvd. Check out the hi-tech control tower.

I have no idea of the photo's origin, but it was probably shot in 1925-'26, as this is (I believe) when the whole thing was built. There are high rise building foundations now blocking the tunnel. The last train was in 1955.