In December, the city's Bureau of Street Services announced that it would remove the railroad tracks running down Alameda Street's center lane between First and Seventh streets. Lying dormant for years, the rails--tormentors of automobile suspensions--represent one of the last remnants of Southern California's first railroad: the Los Angeles & San Pedro.
Built between 1868 and 1869, the 21-mile line connected Los Angeles with the nascent shipping harbor on San Pedro Bay. The railroad was the brainchild of Phineas Banning, an entrepreneur and political operator. It was Banning who made some of the first improvements to the harbor, dredging a channel and building a wharf, and who developed the port town of Wilmington. As a California state senator, Banning sponsored a bill authorizing the City and County of Los Angeles to finance construction of the railroad. The city and county obliged--and then awarded Banning the contract to construct the line. When it opened on October 26, 1869, a crowd of 1,500--roughly one-quarter of L.A.'s population at the time--converged on the rail depot at Alameda and Commercial to celebrate Banning's triumph.