Expo Line Video

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

One of the fun things about all the streetcar lines weaving through Los Angeles again is the trackside view you get of the city.

I love that perspective. Riding the Gold Line to Pasadena or the Green Line to the South Bay gives you a look at neighborhoods you can't appreciate in the same way behind the wheel of a car, or riding the bus.

It's a glimpse of the back side, and also a trip back in time - a face of the city that's become hidden since we all started driving freeways.

You've seen it if you've ever arrived Downtown at Union Station by Metro Link or Amtrak. The train slides past rusty old factories from an earlier industrial age in the city. Then the more modern skyline bursts into view, and the contrast is a little thrilling.

I felt a similar thrill watching a video that's been making its way through the city's blogs and up the popularity chart at You Tube.

The concept is simple. All the video shows is the abandoned rail tracks across the lower Westside where Pacific Electric Red Cars used to rattle along on their slow trip between LA and Santa Monica.

Those same tracks are where Metro intends to expand the Expo Line, after the current construction is finished between USC and Culver City.

The work on that first leg is supposed to be done next year. If you travel along Exposition Boulevard or Rodeo Road you've probably seen the tractors and piles of dirt.

At La Cienega near Jefferson there's a new and soaring concrete bridge over the boulevard that's hard to miss. That's all part of the first leg of the Expo Line.

The second leg is the one that would go west from Culver City. The video of the route was made by a transit advocate who walked the tracks holding a camera.

He moves down hidden passages between warehouses and through parking lots you probably didn't know existed. At one point, he drops down into a shallow ravine where the rail cars used to sneak through the Cheviot Hills neighborhood.

The video is speeded up, so you quickly cover a few miles. The speed gives it the quality of those old silent films, where Buster Keatson or somebody else would ride through LA past mysterious roadhouses and groves of eucalyptus trees.

I always watch those clips carefully to see if I can spot any familiar landmarks, evidence of 1920's L.A. that remain today.

I get the same urge watching this video, and just enjoy seeing corners of the city that are usually hidden from view.

The tracks negotiate more hills and rough street crossings than I expected, and skirt past the Santa Monica Freeway unnoticed by the river of drivers.

In one scene the videographer comes upon a small group of boys playing on a stretch of track that looks especially rural. The illusion works. They could have been in Indiana or Kentucky, not deep within the nation's second most populous city.

I suggest you go over to kcrw.com/laobserved and watch the video, then let us know what it makes you think about.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.