Los Angeles Railway

LARY 3011: High Society PCC

Posted on: April 13, 2015 by Pacific Electric 17 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

Near-new Los Angeles Railway PCC no. 3011 swings off of Larchmont Boulevard onto West 3rd Street in this 1939 photo.

LARY was very proud of their new PCCs. LARY got the 4th order of St. Louis Car Co. PCCs in the USA, behind Brooklyn & Queens Transit, Pittsburgh Railways, and San Diego Electric Railway. The LARY 3 Line operation along West 3rd Street and Larchmont Boulevard was the most "well to due" area that any Los Angeles streetcar line ventured into. Granted, many LARY car lines operated into some very nice neighborhoods, but the 3 Line operation in the Hancock Park and the Larchmont section of LA had to be at the top of the "high society streetcar" list.

Rail service in this part of town was gradually phased out starting in 1948 when the new 3 Line trolley coach replaced rail service west of Larchmont Blvd. The rail service had gone as far west as La Brea Avenue operating as the S line. Rail service along West 3rd Street past Wilton Place and up Larchmont Blvd. was now operated as the R line. The rail service along Larchmont Boulevard was unique in that the trolley wire center poles were left in place in the pavement after the private right of way along the boulevard was paved over. The lower portion of the poles were painted silver with black stripes in an effort to keep LA motorists from crashing into them.

This section of the 3 Line became a favorite filming location for comedy car chases. In one such film, "FALSE ALARMS," staring The Three Stooges, the boys drive a new 1936 FORD coupe at a high rate of speed up Larchmont all the while darting back and forth between the trolley wire poles, ending in a crash.

That rail service ended in 1954 with no bus replacement. LATL management figured that anyone living along Larchmont Blvd. could easily walk the 3 blocks that separated bus service on 3rd Street, Beverly Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. LATL management surmised that a short walk in this nice neighborhood would do wonders for the former rail passengers heart and vascular systems. There has never been reports of any former rail line passengers dropping dead while hoofing it along Larchmont Boulevard, so LATL management must have felt vindicated.

As a final note, as nice as the LARY PCCs were, they were "bare bones" as far as available options went. The LARY deleted "crank window lifts," heaters, and rear markers. All in all, they were still very nice cars.

I am sure that many, if not all, LA commuters that had been using the PCC-operated rail lines R-S-J-V and P were not very happy on the morning of April 1, 1963 when "Gutter Liner" bus service replaced the smooth riding cars. LA's loss would become Cairo, Egypt's gain.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

LATL R, S & J Lines: The Charm of Downtown LA Died With Them

Posted on: April 7, 2015 by Pacific Electric 1 Comment

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

Many post-World War II postcards showing vibrant downtown business districts across America had a tendency to include streetcars. What would any great city be without streetcars?

The high point of most US city rail transit systems was the modern PCC. Los Angeles was no exception. This postcard from about 1956 looking west on 7th Street at Broadway shows Los Angeles Transit Lines PCC car lines R-J and the H-4 operated S line doing what they did best — moving people.

What really makes this particular post card interesting to me is the 1941 Buick Limited 90F limo making the right turn from Broadway to 7th St. By 1956, prewar cars were becoming rare and to catch a low production '41 Buick Limo in this moment in time is really remarkable. By the looks of the Buick, its days of "high society and glory" are long gone. Buick produced limousines in direct competition with Cadillac. The last factory Buick limo left the Flint, Michigan, assembly line in February 1942. After the War, GM told the Buick Motor Davison "no more limos," and that was that!

When the last of LA's streetcar lines were abandoned on March 31, 1963, the charm of Downtown died with the last 5 car lines. Gone was the friendly sounds of streetcar bells resonating off the tall Downtown buildings — replaced by the loud, obnoxious, irritating standard BEEP BEEP horns used on most city transit buses at the time.

After 1963, only one major US city in the West where you could still enjoy the sounds of PCC bells was San Francisco. The decision by "Muni" (San Francisco Municipal Railway) to retain streetcars on Market Street was the best thing to happen to Downtown San Francisco.

And as the late Paul Harvey would say, "and now, you know the rest of the story." May he and LA's long-gone streetcars rest in peace...

Ralph Cantos Collection

A Letter from LATL

Posted on: April 7, 2015 by Pacific Electric No Comments

 

Alan Weeks Collection

Alan Weeks Collection

By Alan K. Weeks

I recently found this letter among my collection, long forgotten and brown with age. Many times I have wondered what made us interested in rail transit (in my case, also buses).

My interest started early on when my father would drive by the Street Car barn near where we lived. (Division 5) Then he would take me to where there was a little Steam Engine switching the Wingfoot Spur. He asked the crew if we could get in the cab. They let us in and gave us a few blocks ride. Never forgot that night with the fire flashing in the firebox and steam hissing everywhere.

That was the root of my interest. But I think the enclosed letter explains how it turned into a life-long passion. In 1946, I went to the LATL Building at 1060 S. Broadway and asked if I could see the President of the Los Angeles Transit Lines. They sent me to see his secretary, Minnie Kellogg. She arranged the meeting with E. Roy Fitzgerald, the founder of National City Lines. And that led to introductions with the heads of all the other Departments. Eventually I was allowed into any of the many properties to wander and take pictures. Can you imagine that today?

In 1966 after leaving Mobil Oil Co. I was hired by RTD in the same LATL building twenty years after my first visit. And Minnie Kellogg was still there — just as friendly as always. I had kept up with her over the many years. I am sure that the openness and friendliness of the people at LATL are what kept my interest in transportation going until this day.

Alan Weeks Collection

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

These 2 photos from different angles were taken on an over cast morning at 67th Street and Crenshaw Blvd. The date is Sunday, May 22, 1955, "the morning after the night before."

Rail service on LATL car lines 5-7-8-9-F and the northern end of the W line had ended in the early morning hours on this date. Officials of the LATL invited Civic leaders of Inglewood for a photo op to celebrate a "new era in transportation" for Inglewood by staging the "old and new" modes of transport for photos.

It was a massive abandonment of 5 profitable car lines.

LATL management would have probably preferred to keep the 5 cars line in operation and leave the dirty deed of killing off LA's city streetcar system to the forth coming LAMTA. But the construction of a one-mile stretch of the Harbor Freeway built OVER the rails of Grand Avenue between Jefferson and Santa Barbara Boulevards doomed the car lines. Grand Ave was used by the 5-F and 9 lines, but the loss of this track cut off access to Division 5 located at 54th St and Second Avenue.

It was the same dirty tactics that ended PE's Northern District when a one-mile stretch of Aliso Street was condemned for the Hollywood Freeway construction.

But the long-gone rail service is being vindicated all over greater Los Angeles.

Sixty years after these photos were taken, construction is now under way to return rail service to the EXACT location. The new METRO RAIL - CRENSHAW -LAX rail line will follow the route of the old 5 line for several miles in South West LA.

As a final note to history, after the abandonment of the 5 Line, business at the Chili Dog stand went to hell. Revenues of the penny scale out front of the stand also fell off drastically. The cars had stopped in front of the Chili Dog stand for decades, but the new bus stop was located one block south of the private right-of-way, leaving the Hot Dog stand high and dry.

Within a year, the stand, along with the once profitable penny scale, were history, the last dirty deed of the May 22, 1955 abandonment had been done!

Ralph Cantos Collection

Los Angeles Railway No. 3016: When Patriotism Rode the Rails

Posted on: January 25, 2015 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

 Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This very rare color photo of Los Angeles Railway PCC no. 3016 was taken in 1943 on West 6th Street near Westmoreland Avenue. The 3016 is eastbound on the rails of the 3 Line.

Throughout World War II, many US transit systems across the country painted both buses and streetcars in patriotic themes, with schemes promoting becoming a "trolley pilot" to buying War Bonds. World War II united this country like no other war before or since.

At least one other LARY PCC was painted in a war-themed paint job, that car being the 3010. While many other railway systems painted older relics in war-themed paint jobs, to my knowledge, no LARY "Standard" or H class cars were every given patriotic themed paint job. Only the modern progressive PCCs in LA enjoyed these special paint jobs.

The PE painted PCC no. 5000 in a very attractive blue paint job for the US Navy.

It is safe to say that we will never see ANY US transit vehicle painted up in such patriotic messages ever again. These days, hand painted messages on US transit vehicles have given way to "shrink wrap," advertising everything from "BIB MACK'S" to "Crunchy Tacos."

Ralph Cantos Collection

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

Los Angeles Transit Lines PCC no. 3029 is seen here working the 3 Line, stopped at 6th & Rampart Blvd. in the Spring of 1947. Trolley Bus overhead is up and bus stop signs are in place.

In just a few months, transit history will be made here in Los Angeles for the second time, and its nothing to be proud of.

The PCC-operated 3 Line will be replaced by trolley buses. The 3 Line will go down in history as the second PCC-operated rail line in the United States to give way to rubber tire transit.

The dubious distinction of abandoning the FIRST rail line with PCCs in America goes to our own beloved Pacific Electric, who "pulled the plug" on the East Broadway line in Glendale in 1946 (it had been PCC operated since 1941). August 3, 1947 would see the PCC-operated 3 Line change over to Trolley Bus operation, for better or worse. This abandonment represented a terrible blow to the esteem of the PCC in its bid to rescue rail lines across America.

Not long after the 3 Line fell to rubber-tired transit, the dignity of PCCs took another major hit when the PCCs of San Diego Electric Railway gave way to buses in one fell swoop in 1948. That dastardly deed was perpetrated by trolley hater Jessie L. Hough, who had purchased the San Diego Electric Railway just months before, wasting no time in dispatching the near-new PCCs into dead storage, to await sale to anyone smart enough to snap them up. That same SOB would scuttle the PCCs on the Glendale-Burbank a few years later.

The "RAILS TO RUBBER REVOLUTION" had begun and it was going to get ugly before things would get better a half-century later.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Pacific Electric No. 5011: LA’s PCC Wonderland

Posted on: December 8, 2014 by Pacific Electric 6 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

In the land of American traction, just four United States cities shared the distinction of having two different transit systems using the modern PCC. Those cities were Los Angeles, St. Louis, Cleveland and if you count the Red Arrow St. Louis Car Co.-built modified double end PCCs, Philadelphia.

Of those 4 operations, only in Los Angeles and St. Louis could the PCCs of 2 different systems be photographed in one scene.

In these two photos, the PCCs of the Illinois Terminal Railroad and the St. Louis Public Service are seen at the only place such photos could be taken. The other photo depicts the PCCs of PE and LATL on 7th Street in Downtown LA.

The photo of PE no. 5011 is truly remarkable for at least three reasons.

  1. Number 1: Here you have PCCs of different car builders. The 5011 was built by Pullman Standard and the LATL car was built by St. Louis Car Co.
  2. Number 2: The 5011 is standard gauge and the LATL PCC is narrow gauge.
  3. Number 3: The ONLY place in Los Angeles where this photo could be taken was on 7th Street between San Pedro St. and the entrance to PE's "6th Street Surface Yard" below and next to the Main St. elevated Station.

The 5011 was on a fan trip, and the LATL PCC is in regular service on either the R or J lines. No other place in America could such a photo be taken of two very different PCCs of two systems on the same street.

The PE PCCs would last just 15 years in service, while the LATL prewar car would enjoy 26 years of service before the entire LARY / LATL / LAMTA PCC system was scuttled in March of 1963.

As a note of interest to all PCC fans everywhere, the eight Illinois double-enders delivered in 1948 (and nearly identical to SF Muni's "Torpedos") would have the distinction of the shortest PCC service life. All 8 cars were retired in 1956 after just 8 years of service.

Of the 8 cars, two of them survive in trolley museums. The 2 museum cars were leasted from the Trolley Museum and returned to regular service for a few years on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit. The 1700-class St. Louis Public Service PCC rolling along below the IT bridge would go on to have a long service career in such places as Tampico, Mexico, Cleveland's Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, San Francisco Muni. and to this day, one car, San Diego Trolley no. 529 still rolls along nearly 70 years after it was built in 1946.

I only wish that one of PE's PCCs — arguably the most beautiful PCCs ever built — could have been saved for preservation at OERM, but it was not to to be, and like the equally beautiful Butterfly 12s, they were lost to history...

Ralph Cantos Collection

Two Bells (LATL Employee Magazine) for March 1947

Posted on: November 12, 2014 by Pacific Electric No Comments

 

Check out what it was like to work for the Los Angeles Transit Lines in March of 1947 with this employee magazine from the archive of Alan Weeks.

Click here to download

Alan Weeks Collection

LARY-LATL-LAMTA 3001: Destined for Immortality

Posted on: October 30, 2014 by Pacific Electric 1 Comment

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

Of the 165 PCCs that roamed the streets of Los Angeles, almost all of them served LA's transit system in obscurity.

But nine of the PCCs do stand out for one reason or another.

Car no. 3001, the first PCC delivered to the LARY, is pictured here in the fall of 1962 at Georgia Street. The thunder of the 3001 was stolen by no. 3002 by having Shirley Temple pose with it for the grand unveiling of the new streamliners. The 3002 would go on to fame as the "Crying PCC" decorated with crying eyes on it front dasher "GOODBYE OLD SWEET HEARTS and PALS!" plastered on it flanks as the end of LA's PCC era came to an end.

PCC no. 3035, the only LA PCC to be scrapped after a "run in" with a Santa Fe Diesel switcher outside Vernon Yard.

Car no. 3062, the so called "Guinea Pig P," was used to test various alterations to the standard LARY/LATL PCC design, most notably a single row of seats on the right hand side of the car's interior forward of the center door.

Car no. 3075 was the first PCC to be painted in LAMTA's two-tone green.

Car no. 3096 was the first of 30 "War Babies" to go into service in November of 1942. (The LARY wanted more than 30 PCCs, but because of war restrictions, was lucky to get the 30 P-2 class cars.)

All-Electric no. 3126 got all the press coverage upon its arrival in LA in September of 1948.

Car no. 3148 was the only LATL/LAMTA PCC to operate on the former Pacific Electric Long Beach Line using borrowed San Francisco Muni Standard gauge PCC trucks. (In my humble opinion, the experiment by the LAMTA using the 3148 was a total fraud, a white wash, by a corrupt management that did not give a DAMN about rail transit in LA.)

And last but not least, the no. 3165, the last new PCC delivered to the City of Angels.

The 3001 lives on today in all its splendor at OERM to the delight of thousands of visitors that ride aboard this legendary PCC for all eternity.

Of special interest: notice that both the 3001 and the 3063 display advertising cards for the "Ice Follies" at the historic Pan Pacific Auditorium. The Pan Pacific Auditorium would outlast LA's PCC system by about 9 years, closing its doors in 1972 with the opening of the LA Convention Center complex, ironically on the very site of this photo. The Pan Pacific burned to the ground about 1988.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Dewbert L. Bourland and Los Angeles Traction Company No. 86

Posted on: October 17, 2014 by Pacific Electric 5 Comments

 

Guen Hodgson Sheets Collection

Guen Hodgson Sheets Collection

This absolutely stunning image was sent to us by Guen Hodgson Sheets, and here is her story:

Dewbert L. Bourland [conductor, standing on the steps] was my step great-grandfather and I know he worked for the Los Angeles Railway Co. in 1918. In this picture he looks much younger than 39 and is why I say it is early 1900s. At this time in his life he lived in Orange County.

We believe this image may actually date from the late 1890s, but we welcome any comments. And we graciously thank Guen for contributing this wonderful image to share with Los Angeles traction fans.

Guen Hodgson Sheets Collection