Inside the Lost Subway Tunnels of Los Angeles


Los Angeles isn’t normally thought of as an underground city. Subways don’t play a huge role in the popular image of the city, especially compared to the area's tangle of freeway networks. But despite the fact that the current system only opened in 1990, Los Angeles has had subways for a century.

Southern California-based television station KCET took a trip inside Los Angeles’s first subway tunnel as part of a new show titled Lost L.A. The series, a collaboration with historians and the USC libraries, digs into the city’s history with the help of the region’s rarely seen archives.

Downtown L.A.’s subway tunnel, a grandiose piece of infrastructure that opened in 1925, was a short-lived transit route. Only 30 years later, in 1955, its tracks were ripped out and the subway shut down, victims of the city's preference for automobiles. Later, it became a storage space for Cold War rations intended for theoretical survivors of a nuclear attack, a movie set, and a graffiti haven. Most of it is now sealed off, though part may eventually reopen as part of a residential development that sits above the eastern section of the tunnel.

The new show combines archival photos never meant for the public eye (and still not digitized) with new footage of under-the-radar corners of Los Angeles most people will never get the opportunity to see. Get a sneak peek in the promo above, including some footage that didn’t make it into the show.

KCET’s Lost L.A. premieres January 27 at 8:30 p.m Pacific time. New episodes will premiere every Wednesday. If you live in California, you can find your local KCET channel here

Banner image screenshot via YouTube