Plaza University trolley car of the Los Angeles Railway Company, showing two conductors posed in front, ca.1900-1910. Photo: Public Domain

Plaza University trolley car of the Los Angeles Railway Company, showing two conductors posed in front, ca.1900-1910. Photo: Public Domain

Photo by Seth Babb

Photo by Seth Babb

This week we’re taking a detour from the works of Ralph Cornell for a quick post about some unearthed light rail tracks I’ve long admired. A few years ago, while Vermont Avenue was being re-paved, I came upon the tracks of a long gone rail line that once ran across Vermont Ave until the late 1950s. It wasn’t anything grandiose or marked historical, but it’s appearance speaks to the many layers still there underneath every city.

Cities change over time, and identifying these layers is important to help us see the failures of the past. But these remnants also help to lay out future possibilities by providing an understanding of the present and the requirements of a city as it evolves. The Vermont rails and the counties wide system are now defunct pieces of Los Angeles history, but as Bruce Springsteen once wrote, “But maybe everything that dies someday comes back,” – an idea reflecting the possibility that our city’s past can be reborn as something relevant today.

Junction at Main Street, Spring Street, and 9th Street, Los Angeles, ca.1917. Photo: Public Domain

Junction at Main Street, Spring Street, and 9th Street, Los Angeles, ca.1917. Photo: Public Domain

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