Pacific Electric

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

From their 1936 introduction until the end of 1939, almost 900 air-electric PCCs had been built and delivered to several US cities. While St. Louis Car Co. built the majority of the cars, Pullman Standard did manage to land a few orders. Until the end of 1939, all 900 cars were nearly identical. There were some minor differences in length, one- or two-piece head signs, the deletion or addition of rear marker lights and head light wings, lift or crank windows, and so on. But by in large, the cars were all the same. Then came 1940!

In early 1940, the St. Louis Public Service took delivery of 100 "all-electric" PCCs, six years before this equipment would become almost standard equipment on post-War PCCs. There were some postwar exceptions, but all-electric operation was almost standard unless otherwise ordered by the purchasing transit system.

The St Louis Public Service 1500s (nos. 1500 to 1599) had several new features such as a deeply slanted front windshield, new "super-resilient" wheels, built-in, factory-installed rear round marker lights (as opposed to the "PEP BOYS "tear drop" truck markers), and the longer trolley base shroud with air intake.

The new unproven all-electric 1500s, as beautiful as they were, proved to be very troublesome cars. Retirement of these handsome cars came early and by 1954, they were all scrapped save for 50 cars that had been pawned off to Philadelphia Transportation Co., and there too, all were gone by 1955.

Then came PE's revolutionary Pullman Standar-built MU-double-enders. They entered service in November of 1940. The PE PCCs were a sensation at the time. Trade publications gave the 30 cars full page coverage, like the one pictured above. I believe it is from RAILWAY AGE. Regardless, this was the beginning of "PCCs built to order." The first 25 all-electric postwar PCCs ordered by Louisville Railways looked nothing like the hundreds of standard "off the shelf" PCCs that were to follow such as LA's P-3s.

The service life of PE's beautiful PCCs fell victim to the "rails to rubber" hysteria that befell this country in the 1950s and after just 15 years of splendid operation, they were out of service.


This is St. Louis Public Service car no. 1515 just after entering service in 1941. Notice the new wheels, trolley shroud, and recessed windshield, features that would become standard on postwar PCCs six years later. It was also one of the first to sport a full width anti-climber.

Ralph Cantos Collection

PE 913: Forever Part of the Formosa Cafe

Posted on: January 16, 2017 by Pacific Electric No Comments

 

PE 913 outbound at Culver Junction, 1940. Harold F. Stewart Photo, Craig A. Rasmussen Collection

Editor's Note: News upon the sudden closure of the West Hollywood architectural icon Formosa Cafe, whose exterior features former Pacific Electric car no. 913, prompted transit historian and frequent PERHYS contributor Ralph Cantos to pass along this image and information.

By Ralph Cantos

There is only one PE car at the Formosa Café, and it’s the 913, part of it anyway. It was one of the last 800s still in service when this photo was taken, but the end was near. By the end of 1940, they were all gone, except for the four 800s that were made into box motors: cars 1495 to 1498. They lasted until about 1950. The trucks from the 1498 are out at OERM, and the 913 could be restored. That would be fantastic.

Harold F. Stewart Photo, Craig A. Rasmussen Collection

PE’s El Segundo and Santa Monica Air Line: Two of a Kind

Posted on: January 16, 2017 by Pacific Electric 3 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This very rare photo taken in 1914 shows Pacific Electric car no. 214 southbound on the new El Segundo Line, just after leaving Watts.

Like the Santa Monica Air Line, passenger service on the El Segundo Line seemed to be an "afterthought" to the PE brass. The big money on both lines, was FREIGHT, and in the case of the El Segundo, lots of it. While the Air Line handled all manor of general freight, on the El Segundo Line, it was BLACK GOLD....OIL that kept the green money rolling into the PE revenue books and lots of that too.

Passenger revenues on both lines — that was another matter.

Passenger service to El Segundo was inaugurated when the line opened in August of 1914. And again like the Air Line, passengers were not packing the cars in sufficient numbers to make the line as important to the PE's Passenger Department as other Southern District Lines, chief among them, of course, the Long Beach Line.

After just 15 years , PE pulled the plug on El Segundo passenger service; it was gone by the end of October 1930.

The El Segundo Line did not have the legions of loyal passengers like the Santa Monica Air Line did (all 75 of them), and so passenger service on the Air Line was whittled away until the final, one-car-a-day schedule went into effect in 1933 and lasted to the bitter end in October of 1953. Both Lines continued and thrived as freight lines for decades after the last passenger services made final runs on both lines.

Today, the Santa Monica Air Line has been reborn as the LACMTA Metro Rail-Expo Line. And someday, thanks in part to the passage of Measure M , passengers wishing to travel from Los Angeles and points in-between to El Segundo by rail, might again do so via an extended Metro Green line.

Only time will tell.

Ralph Cantos Collection

The Life and Times of Pacific Electric 1260

Posted on: November 19, 2016 by Pacific Electric 8 Comments

 

Here are a collection of images of Pacific Electric no. 1260, its many adventures and even a prominent mishap, all captured by photographers back in the day.

Jack Finn Print Collection. Craig Rasmussen print. From the PERyhs.org archive.  Photographer: Unknown Location: Westbound on the Santa Monica Air Line crossing Vermont Ave. Date: 1949 Railroad: Pacific Electric Line: Air Line Car#: PE 1260  PE 1227 Notes on back of print: Santa Monica Air Line: 1260 - 1227, W.B. at Vermont Ave, 1949 LATL Strike Collection of Craig A Rasmussen  Image notes: Photo appears in Interurbans Special Western District page 53. Photo credited to Magna Collection.

Jack Finn Print Collection. Craig Rasmussen print. From the PERyhs.org archive.
Photographer: Unknown
Location: Westbound on the Santa Monica Air Line crossing Vermont Ave.
Date: 1949
Railroad: Pacific Electric
Line: Air Line
Car#: PE 1260 PE 1227
Notes on back of print: Santa Monica Air Line: 1260 - 1227, W.B. at Vermont Ave, 1949 LATL Strike
Collection of Craig A Rasmussen
Image notes: Photo appears in Interurbans Special Western District page 53. Photo credited to Magna Collection.

Image from the Jack Finn collection. Photographer: Unknown Date: Unknown Location: San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles.  Notes on back of print: PE 1260 J 734 Image Notes: Scanned from a 3 /14 x 5 3/4 inch print

Image from the Jack Finn collection.
Photographer: Unknown
Date: Unknown
Location: San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Notes on back of print: PE 1260 J 734
Image Notes: Scanned from a 3 /14 x 5 3/4 inch print

Steve Crise Archive - Acme Photo - Photographer unknown Photographer:  Acme Photo - Photographer unknown Location: San Pedro Street south of 6th Street, Los Angeles, California Date: November 28, 1943 Railroad: Pacific Electric Locomotive: PE 1260 Notes on back of 8x10 print: LA 23697  (Los Angeles Bureau) TWENTY-TWO ESCAPE INJURY - LOS ANGELES - Twenty-two passengers of this Pacific Electric car miraculously escaped without even a scratch when it jumped the tracks and overtuned. Faulty brakes were believed to have been the cause of the accident. Bureaus Coast CREDIT LINE (ACME) 11-28-43  From Acme Newspictures, Inc Los Angeles Bureau, 1257 So. Los Angeles Street. Please credit Acme Photo. This picture is sold to you for your publication only and must not be loaned syndicated or used for advertising purposes without written permission from Acme.  Purchased from Historic Images  6073 Mt. Moriah Ext Memphis TN 38115 historicimages.com ney01237  October 2016

Steve Crise Archive - Acme Photo - Photographer unknown
Photographer: Acme Photo - Photographer unknown
Location: San Pedro Street south of 6th Street, Los Angeles, California
Date: November 28, 1943
Railroad: Pacific Electric
Locomotive: PE 1260
Notes on back of 8x10 print: LA 23697 (Los Angeles Bureau) TWENTY-TWO ESCAPE INJURY - LOS ANGELES - Twenty-two passengers of this Pacific Electric car miraculously escaped without even a scratch when it jumped the tracks and overtuned. Faulty brakes were believed to have been the cause of the accident. Bureaus Coast CREDIT LINE (ACME) 11-28-43 From Acme Newspictures, Inc Los Angeles Bureau, 1257 So. Los Angeles Street. Please credit Acme Photo. This picture is sold to you for your publication only and must not be loaned syndicated or used for advertising purposes without written permission from Acme.
Purchased from Historic Images
6073 Mt. Moriah Ext
Memphis TN 38115
historicimages.com ney01237 October 2016

Robert X Loewing photo, Craig Rasmussen collection. Steve Crise Archive Photographer: Robert X Lowing Date: April 1949  Railroad: Pacific Electric Railray Car#: PE 1260 Location: Sentous Yard, La Cienega Blvd at Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, California. Present day location of the La Cienega Expo Line station.  Notes on back of 8 x 10 print: 1260 -1227 W.B. on Santa Monica Air Line at Sentous; 1949 (LATL Strike) Rob't X. Loewing Photo. Image notes: Photo taken during the 1949 Los Angeles Transit Lines strike. This explains the use of the 1200's on the Air Line.

Robert X Loewing photo, Craig Rasmussen collection. Steve Crise Archive
Photographer: Robert X Lowing
Date: April 1949
Railroad: Pacific Electric Railray
Car#: PE 1260
Location: Sentous Yard, La Cienega Blvd at Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, California. Present day location of the La Cienega Expo Line station.
Notes on back of 8 x 10 print: 1260 -1227 W.B. on Santa Monica Air Line at Sentous; 1949 (LATL Strike) Rob't X. Loewing Photo.
Image notes: Photo taken during the 1949 Los Angeles Transit Lines strike. This explains the use of the 1200's on the Air Line.

LAMTA 3148 at Watts: A fish out of water!

Posted on: November 3, 2016 by Pacific Electric 3 Comments

 

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This photo, taken by the late Jerry Squire, is from the Andy Goddard mega-collection. PCC 3148, St. Louis Car Co. class of 1948, rolls south at Watts in the early evening haze. It's February 1960 and the LAMTA is in the midst of "test runs" using PCC 3148 hijacked from the very busy P line. The 3148 is riding on borrowed San Francisco Muni standard gauge B-3 trucks taken from their car no. 1024. The tests were being run to evaluate the possibility of continuing rail operation on the historic Long Beach Line. I have to admit, that even I, who was most critical of LAMTA, was really excited about these test runs. And as the late great Paul Harvey would often say, "The view out of the rear view mirror is a lot clearer than the view through the front windshield."

He was indeed correct.

The LAMTA had everyone, myself included, "bamboozled" into believing that they really wanted to keep passenger service to Long Beach "a RAIL LINE." As for me, I was convinced from day one that the LAMTA was nothing more than Metropolitan Coach Lines with a new name. Even the MCL two-tone green paint scheme was retained. There was no way in HELL that the LAMTA was going to keep using rail equipment of any kind to Long Beach. There were no used PCCs to be had at the time. Toronto and Mexico City had snapped up just about every last available used PCC in the America, with Tampico picking up the crumbs that were left. And even if there were used PCCs available, that would have meant costly modifications to the 6th & Main Street elevated station where a reverse loop would have to be constructed.

And of course there was the twenty miles of SP-owned roadbed that would have to be completely rebuilt to accommodate the PCC's temperamental riding qualities. In reality, the LAMTA wanted out of 6th & Main, and anything and EVERYTHING else that ran on rails and was powered by electricity.

When the "BS" test runs were completed, the standard gauge trucks were returned to the MUNI and the 3148 went back to work on the P line, the busiest surface rail line in the US. About a year after the test runs were completed, hundreds of railfans, many from across the country, made the last run on the Long Beach Line, and like myself, with tears in their eyes.

The next order of business on the LAMTA agenda: wipe out and destroy the well-liked and profitable PCC operated R-S-J-V and P rail lines , and the LAMTA would stop at nothing until that dirty, dastardly deed was completed. Again quoiting Paul Harvey, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

PE/MCL 5124 at 6th and Main: Midnight at the Oasis

Posted on: October 23, 2016 by Pacific Electric 1 Comment

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This tranquil 1956 photo at 6th & Main Street Station, once the hub of Pacific Electric's comprehensive Northern and Southern District rail operations, belies the dire conditions of the Southern District and at this point, it was getting worse by the month.

Car no. 5124 prepares to depart on one of the last late-night runs along the 7-mile route to Watts. Anti-rail, pro-bus Metropolitan Coach Lines management had managed to destroy the Western District rail operations in less than two years after purchasing PE's passenger service. The wonderful Subway Terminal tunnel was now a tomb for the worlds most beautiful PCCs , left unguarded to rot and endure horrible damage by sick vandals.

The four Southern District lines were now operating under the most deplorable conditions. The elevated terminal was now a rail island in a sea of green MCL buses. About 45 Blimps and 15 Hollywood cars were now on an RFT (run till failure) status. Except for replacement of broken windows, all cosmetic maintenance on the cars ceased the day Metro Coach Lines took over the rail operations. Only minor mechanical repairs on the cars were made under primitive , open-air conditions at Fairbanks Yard, using "arm strong" tools.

The loyal passengers of the Southern District (myself included ) endured filthy and unkempt cars. All the while, MCL management continued to request the complete abandonment of the rail system to the PUC, to no avail. That dirty deed was left to the LAMTA. The Southern District rail line did not stand a chance for survival, as the new LAMTA did not have to answer to the PUC or anyone else for that matter. The Southern District along with the 6th & Main Street Station were now doomed.

By the time the Watts line was abandoned, only one extra car was available to meet basic rush hour service requirements. Four unserviceable Hollywood cars, stripped of usable parts, sat in the weeds at Fairbanks yard. Finally in April of 1961, only about 30 or so operable Blimps, now in disgraceful condition, were still serviceable. Only one car (1543) received a new coat of paint, the first new paint since the big car left Torrance Shops back in 1947. The rest of the Blimps died with their RED PE boots on.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Pacific Electric 578: Post Cards and the PE

Posted on: September 13, 2016 by Pacific Electric 7 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This nice post card dating from about 1923-25 shows Pacific Electric car no. 578 westbound on the East Broadway Line in Glendale.

The HOTEL GLENDALE dominates the intersection of Glendale Avenue and East Broadway. This was a very important intersection in the City of Glendale. It was here that the PE interchanged with the struggling Glendale & Montrose Railway. The G&M operated along the center of Verdugo Road from downtown Montrose on the north to an interchange with the Union Pacific Railroad in south Glendale. A short branch to connect with the Los Angeles Railway E Line diverged off the Verdugo Main line via Wilson Avenue-Broadway-and-Colorado Streets where the LARY connection was made in Eagle Rock. (The 5 Line)

PE's 500s were the backbone of the railway's suburban operations until the coming of the Hollywood cars in 1922-23. Even though the Hollywood cars were designed and built specifically for service on the Hollywood Boulevard line, the PE brass soon realized that they had a winner in the Hollywood cars, and the 600s began to replace the 500s en masse.

Today, except for the G&M car house in Montrose, most all traces of the little railway are gone. The building at East Broadway and Glendale Avenue that was once the HOTEL GLENDALE still stands today, although repurposed as another enterprise.

The PE equipped the East Broadway Line with its beautiful Pullman PCCs in 1941. A dubious distinction befell the PE PCCs when in 1946, the East Broadway line was abandoned. It was the first PCC-operated car line in the USA to be abandoned. But as history would soon prove, abandonments of PCC-operated streetcar lines in the 1950s would become all too commonplace. After the East Broadway Line, all of the San Diego Electric Railway's PCCs were replaced by buses in 1949. The annihilation of the PCC had begun, but thankfully, complete annihilation was never achieved . To this day, fifty-plus-year-old PCCs still ply the streets and right-of-ways of several cities across the USA, the buses that replaced many of these same PCCs having been scrapped decades ago.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Editor's Note: here is what appears to be the old Glendale & Montrose Railway carhouse in the back area of the current Anawalt Lumber location. It resembles the peaked roof design of the old Pacific Electric Watts and Ocean Park car houses.

1538 on East Olympic Boulevard at Ceres Avenue

Posted on: September 8, 2016 by Pacific Electric 3 Comments

 

Photographer unknown, Steve Crise Collection

Photographer unknown, Steve Crise Collection

Los Angeles MTA blimp no. 1538 is photographed heading eastbound on East Olympic Boulevard at Ceres Avenue in February of 1961. Dash signs reads Long Beach, with connections for Wilmington San Pedro.

Photographer unknown, Steve Crise Collection

PE Logo: Spotted on the Northern District

Posted on: September 7, 2016 by Pacific Electric 4 Comments

 

rc-pe-van-pasadena-contemporary

Some good things never seem to go out of style or grow tired. Andy Shier spotted this van parked at the curb near his home in Pasadena and took this photo. Andy was not able to accost the owner and get any details in regards as to the nature of the business and, or if, the owner is a Pacific Electric fan.

Andy Shier Photo

Editor's Note: The company calls itself Pacific Electric Coop. According to their site, they are a IBEW union-affiliated electrical and solar contracting company based in Los Angeles. No mention of the real Pacific Electric on their site, but they've definitely appropriated the vintage logo for their branding.

PE’s Santa Monica Air Line: From obscurity to rising star

Posted on: August 26, 2016 by Pacific Electric 8 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

For the last 20 years of the Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line's existence, about 50 or so loyal regular commuters enjoyed a variety of equipment. The 1930s saw the mighty 800-class of heavy interurbans providing most of the "service" on the line, that being one morning inbound and one afternoon/evening westbound trip. The 1940s saw a mix of 950s and 1000s holding down the runs. For the last three years, a single Hollywood car provided the service to the dwindling passenger loads.

In this side-by-side photograph, just about 63 years separate the views taken at almost the exact same location in Cheviot Hills. On the left, Hollywood car no. 5112 is seen making the afternoon westbound trip in the last weeks of September 1953. Some 63 years later, an LACMTA test train passes the same location, known today as the Cheviot Hill Trench, in the weeks before the line's opening in May 2016.

The success of the LACMTA's EXPO RAIL LINE has been spectacular. The new line follows the original alignment for much of the way, starting at Exposition Park. The new line leaves the original route at 17th Street in Santa Monica and runs down Colorado Avenue parallel to the original right-of-way just 100 feet north of the original line. Numerous dangerous grade crossings have been replaced by spectacular aerial "fly overs." The terminal at 4th & Colorado is built over the original right of way.

Passenger loadings have surpassed expectations by a large margin. Currently two- and three-car trains provide 12 minute service for much of the day, seven days a week. The EXPO line is a winner by all accounts.

After the Air Line was abandoned in October 1953, the 5112 was transferred to the Southern District's Watts Line. From that last run in 1953 to the last run on the Watts Line in November 1959, the 5112 (now renumbered 1801) would provide gallant service along the famous 4 tracks under the most deplorable maintenance conditions imaginable. Finally in 1960, the 5112 was rescued from the scrappers torch and now resides at OERM.

Ralph Cantos Collection