Pacific Electric: Newport-Balboa Line
In addition to the ever useful information from Electric Railway Historical Association I thought I'd share what I have discovered about the Newport-Balboa line that split from the Long Beach Line in North Long Beach, and followed the coast from Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and then to Balboa and at times to the edge of the peninsula. The footprint of the original right of way can still be seen if you look at google maps. Where I can I'll try to post relevant pictures along the route.

In Orange County, the Newport Line crosses over Alamitos Bay and the San Gabriel River at Naples and enters Seal Beach at the aptly named Electric Ave. Today the right of way in Seal Beach is mostly preserved as green space, however on Electric Ave between 8th and Main is the Red Car Museum, an actual PE Tower Car (1734/00161) that is open I think every other weekend (I have not gone myself).

[Image: 1933-09-14-seal-beach-historical-aerial-views-0221.jpg]
The San Gabriel River river in 1933. Seal Beach is to the right. The first bridge, at the bottom is Ocean Ave/PCH, the second is Marina Dr, and the third is the Pacific Electric.

[Image: photostream]
The Red Car Museum, Ex PE Tower Car 1734/00161 in Seal Beach.

Leaving Seal Beach, the line cross Anaheim Bay via a trestle, until it was rerouted in 1944 with the commissioning of NWS Seal Beach. The route was re routed, diverging from the original path in Seal Beach at Electric and 16th, carving a path until it reached and began paralleling PCH. The foundation of the bridge that crossed over the NWS Seal Beach tracks to the dock can still be seen.

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The trestle crossing Anaheim Bay/Landing in 1914, facing south, towards Sunset Beach.

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Anaheim Bay in 1936 with the trestle obviously being replaced.

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Anaheim Bay in 1947. The opening of NWS Seal Beach to supply ammunition to the Navy required the PE to move inland (also pictured).

It looks like from here, the right of way follows Sea Way in Sunset Beach, eventually being flanked by houses to the left and right. This space has also been mostly preserved as green space/parking and a former PE water tower still exists, albeit converted into a home, at PCH and Anderson St. Interestingly, another set of rails can be seen between the ocean and the first row of current houses in old photos. At Warner Ave there was another water tower, the area then being called Los Patos, which has since disappeared.

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The water tower in Sunset Beach in 1966. It can still be seen although it has been converted into a house.

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The right of way in Sunset Beach in 1966. Despite the fact that the line closed in 1950, the line probably looked very similar to this towards the end.

The right of way at this point is somewhere in between the Ocean and PCH, most likely being covered by the endless parking lining Huntington Beach's shores. Supposedly there are still some rails in the dog section of the beach, but I don't know exactly where. Not quite related, the Bolsa Chica section was once known as Tin Can Beach.

Once oil was discovered in Huntington Beach, towers were constructed almost everywhere, right up to the beach. Freight here included flatcars lumber for the towers and tank cars for the oil. Just east of Lake Street is where I think the Wintersburg branch of the SP ran inland to the Santa Ana Line. Originally, one could travel in a clockwise fashion from Huntington Beach, to Santa Ana, to Newport Beach and then back to Huntington Beach. The SP route between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach followed the PE route down the coast and after their merger was abandoned (in favor of the PE route which was at time practically in the surf). The circle route was never profitable, even by PE standards, and was clearly a pet project by Huntington's namesake (who also owned the PE/SP). Since the branch wasn't essentially double track, it remained, and the PE/SP continued to serve oil and Holly Sugar and sugar beet traffic. From what I gather, when the line shut down from Seal Beach to Huntington, this branch continued first to serve freight and then just oil and Holly Sugar, well past 1950. Further down the line was the Talbert Gap, marshland that for a long time was undeveloped in Huntington Beach. Here, two 1000 class cars were used as sheds for hunting in the wetlands.

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There are many pictures of this sight, Huntington Beach after the discovery of a vast oil field.

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The PE Huntington Beach Depot. It was eventually moved in 1941, although I am not familiar where along the line.

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Huntington Beach Pier in the 1920's.

Next was the Santa Ana River, spanned by a long trestle, that like most water crossings in Southern California, were washed out periodically by floods until all the rivers were straight jacketed. Notable, the mouth of the river itself has varied over time and until the development of Newport Beach, it used to exit into Newport Harbor, and probably only occasionally spilled out of where it currently does today. Undoubtedly though, it was rerouted because of the amount of silt it dumped into the already shallow harbor.

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The Santa Ana River trestle after the 1927 flood. The precursor to PCH can also be seen washed out to the right.

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The same bridge, rebuilt with plate girder spans, in 1958. Note that service ended 8 years prior. The river mouth is under further containment and the approach into West Newport can be clearly seen. This bridge unfortunately doesn't exist anymore, not even as a bicycle path.

The other end of the trestle is now more green space, West Newport Park. West Newport Park obviously ends and judging from original tract maps from the turn of the century, I think the PE followed Seashore Dr all the way to present day Balboa Blvd. The first two row of houses following Seashore Dr and in between Seashore and Neptune probably were not a part of the original tract map and built upon the original PE and SP right of ways.

Anyway back at Balboa Blvd is where things really get interesting. Newport Blvd was the original path for the Santa Ana-Newport Beach Railroad, from McFadden Warf/Newport Pier to Santa Ana. That railroad was eventually purchased by SP and continued operating into the 1920's. The route inland was abandoned int he 1920's after SP bought PE, but in between the triangle formed by Seashore Dr/32st, Newport Blvd and Balboa Blvd was a wye and a separate interchange between SP and PE. Even though this route to Santa Ana was supposedly abandoned by the 1920's, the tracks still remained in this vicinity at least into the 1940's. Service included the pier and the boat yards that still line Newport Blvd.

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Newport Beach in the 1940's. The tracks, the pier and the boat yards are all clearly visible.

Finally, up until the 1940's service included Balboa, right down Balboa Blvd, up to the Pavilion and on at least two occasions all the way to the jetty. The railroad being instrumental in the construction of both Balboa and the jetty (and subsequently Newport Harbor). Additionally, there were supposedly ambitions to tunnel underneath the entrance of the harbor to Corona del Mar. Being a glorified sand bar, anyone who has ever been to a beach knows this is fool hardy at best and after the Long Beach Earthquake the route was abandoned.

Edit: I almost forgot. Lido Isle in Newport Beach, was once Electric Island, and under the ownership of Huntington. I doubt though trains ever ran across this sandbar before homes were built.
FANTASTIC !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Post all you have!!


Awesome writeup, thanks for taking the time to do it and post photos. Although it's fun to explore the old ROW, I would've loved to see this line in existence today. If it's still around I wonder if they would've connected this line to the line running south along the coast from San Juan Capistrano so that the coast line would follow more of the coast before heading to LA.
Very cool, thanks for posting this.
Great stuff, thanks.
WOW! Nice first post, thankyou for sharing and welcome to the forum!

Tim~ Bike Riding Foamer
(10-07-2011, 07:03 AM)orange choo choo Wrote:  If it's still around I wonder if they would've connected this line to the line running south along the coast from San Juan Capistrano so that the coast line would follow more of the coast before heading to LA.

Doubtful, as they are (were) lines of 2 different companies.


(10-07-2011, 07:03 AM)orange choo choo Wrote:  If it's still around I wonder if they would've connected this line to the line running south along the coast from San Juan Capistrano so that the coast line would follow more of the coast before heading to LA.

Even after all passenger trains became government controlled, I somehow doubt they would have done this simply because the Newport/Balboa Line was a much longer route. That being said, if it had survived into the early 1990s, it would almost certainly be an active Metrolink or Metro line in its own right, as there is plenty of traffic from Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach to LA.

A bit tagential, but as we are discussing coast running railroads, supposedly the main reason that SP bought the PE and the other electric railroads in LA was a plan underway to extend the lines into Santa Monica with a coastal line up to Santa Barbara. SP wanted to kill this line (SP had once had very successful passenger lines in the LA Basin that were killed by the interurbans - and they wanted to nip it in the bud before it got worse).

(10-07-2011, 07:03 AM)orange choo choo Wrote:  Awesome writeup, thanks for taking the time to do it and post photos. Although it's fun to explore the old ROW, I would've loved to see this line in existence today. If it's still around I wonder if they would've connected this line to the line running south along the coast from San Juan Capistrano so that the coast line would follow more of the coast before heading to LA.

Its very doubtful. Even in it's heyday the line was constantly either being washed out or buried under sand. Like most PE lines the whole purpose was to sell and develop land and facilitate urban sprawl. When PCH opened the cost to benefit ratio got even worse. By contrast the Santa Fe (BNSF/Metrolink) route that still exists today served productive farmland. Oceans look nice but there's a reason you don't see big cities along Big Sur. Even this past year PCH closed for a couple of months. Plus if you look at what happened to the right of way, it was swallowed up by housing. The land today is probably worth billions of dollars.

Edit: At times reviving the route has come up, the most recent one that I know of was in 1989ish and was handily rejected by Newport Beach. The problem of course again is a lack of right of way. The Blue Line to Long Beach is mostly built upon PE routes that never outlived their usefulness.
I updated the original post with more pictures. Many are from the OC Archives but a few are from other local history sites that have even more photos and back stories. If you copy the URL, higher resolutions are available for most of the images I have posted.

[Image: 5020266120_efca705713_b.jpg]
This is a map of Newport Beach in the 1920's. The harbor is still in its infancy. Note all of the development still planned from diverting the Santa Ana River and its silt, to extending the Jetty to dredging the channel.

SP tracks can be seen venturing from the Newport Pier down modern day Newport Blvd to Santa Ana as well as the aforementioned Wye and interchange with PE. PE tracks can be seen approaching from the West, down Seashore Drive, then Balboa Blvd and down the peninsula. Both the original and extension to the jetty were only made possible with the railroads. Moreover, at this point, the city only exists where the railroads are. By contrast Balboa Island and Corona Del Mar, are founded and being developed at the same time and are eventually annexed because they don't have facilities like trains, electricity and running water.

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