Tunnel Vision

Standing with the Red Car outside the Belmont Tunnel, 1955

Only a limited portion of the fabled Pacific Electric Railway, which included the Red Car, was underground. At its peak the world’s most extensive public transportation system encompassed 1,100 miles of rail lines that ran from Redlands to Santa Monica. Less than a mile long, the subway opened on November 30, 1925, and accommodated four lines that began at downtown’s Subway Terminal Building and emerged from a tunnel in Echo Park. The last trip was made on June 19, 1955. For decades after, the Belmont Tunnel, as it’s known, served as graffiti canvas, de facto homeless shelter, and movie extra (MacArthur, Predator 2). A few years ago a huge apartment complex rose next to it, complete with a dog park. In a nod to its storied past, a mural of the Red Car now adorns the abandoned tunnel’s sealed exit.