Second Street Cable Car

Opposite: The Second Street cable R.R. building

One expedient method of "taming the wilderness" of Crown Hill was the establishment of the Second Street Cable Car Line. Boyle Workman in his 1936 edition of the The City That Grew, mentions the opening of the Second Street Cable Line in 1885. That was the year that Clayton Witmer and associates built the City's first cable car line. Earlier in 1874, Judge Robert M Widney had established Los Angeles' first streetcar line, a horse drawn system which ran two and a half miles from Mission Plaza down Main Street to Sixth Street for ten cents a ride. Eleven years later San Francisco's successful cable car engineer brought a new technology to Los Angeles and Crown Hill.

H.C. Witmer had recognized a need for accessible transportation up and down the hillside. It was logical for Clayton to investigate and then invest in a transportation system which would facilitate access from Crown Hill to the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Not only were the Witmer homes and much of the family owned real estate on Crown Hill, soon the Witmers would open a bank Downtown at the corner of Second and Broadway.

The accomplishment of Andrew Hallidie in completing the San Francisco Cable Car had not escaped the notice of H.C. Witmer and associates who hired the engineer to construct a similar cable line to Crown Hill. The first passenger run of the Second Street Cable Railroad Line took place on October 8, 1885. A single-track operation, just under 7000 feet long, the open-sided cars went up and over bunker Hill, the steepest cable grade in America. Even more impressive is the fact that the 27.7 % grade came within just 1% of being the steepest in the world.

In Street Railways In Los Angeles, Robert C. Post has written a sketch of the history of the Second Street Cable Car Line, which "...cost roughly $100,000," including "...the powerhouse at Boylston Street..." Post wrote that picnic lunches were a promotional lure and advertisements ran, "PURE AIR - NO FOGS; CHEAP LOTS IN THE WESTERN ADDITION OF THE CABLE ROAD." Moreover, "...lots were marketed for one, two, or three hundred dollars, depending mainly on the distance from the cable car line.

Cable Car Sketches