Northern District

Pacific Electric and World War II Hysteria

Posted on: June 2, 2017 by Pacific Electric 1 Comment


Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This 1942 photo taken at the Santa Anita Racetrack's "horse car spur" shows Pacific Electric cars nos. 1370, 1226, and 1237. The train had just arrived from 6th and Main Street Station. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Japanese, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order no. 9066 in February.

When that order was sighed, thousands of Japanese Americans were "rounded up" along the West Coast of California. Many of them were taken to PE's 6th and Main Street Station where they boarded 3-car trains for a short trip to the Santa Anita Racetrack. At the track, temporary shelter was provided until they could be registered and identified. From here, they boarded an armada of buses — the majority, PE WHITE Motors model 798s — for the long trip to the Manzanar relocation camp to sit out the remainder of World War II.

The use of PE interurbans and buses for this purpose, was not one of the finest moments in PE's 50-year history. But World War II did provide the PE with some of its finest hours in that same 50-year history. Southern California would have been up the proverbial "creek without a paddle" had it not been for the PE and LARY's vast rail and bus system.

It was public transit's finest hour, never to be repeated after the war ended.

Ralph Cantos 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

PE Logo: Spotted on the Northern District

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



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.

1201: Rams vs. Redskins

Posted on: August 2, 2016 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments


Jack Finn Collection

Jack Finn Collection

Here's a great image from the Jack Finn Collection. We have Pacific Electric no. 1201 at Macy Street Yard with a "Rams vs. Redskins" banner mounted on the car side, advertising an upcoming game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 16, 1948. And on August 13, 2016, the Los Angeles Rams return to the Coliseum after more than 20 years, playing their first pre-season game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Jack Finn Collection

5063 on Fair Oaks south of Walnut

Posted on: May 30, 2016 by Pacific Electric 8 Comments


Jack Finn Collection

Jack Finn Collection

From the Jack Finn Collection comes this image of Pacific Electric Hollywood Car no. 5063 on Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena, south of Walnut. The image is circa 1945 but the cars may provide a more definitive date.

Jack Finn Collection

Found 8mm Pacific Electric Footage from the late 1940s

Posted on: January 24, 2016 by Pacific Electric 10 Comments


We're thrilled to share this found footage from none other than Amsterdam, the Netherlands, by Frank M. Wiggers, who like us, shares a passion for anything railroad and mass transit.

He recently received a private film (likely 8mm) with Pacific Electric footage, and had it digitized and reached out to us for more information. We shared it with famed transit historian Ralph Cantos, who provided the following set of appraisals. Give it a watch and let us know what you think. And thank you to Frank for sharing with us!

From Ralph:

  • Very interesting footage. It  starts at Macy Street Yard and moves east along the Baldwin Park Line.
  • In the opening scenes, the 306 looks to be in A-1 condition, just out of the paint shop. I would say that 1947- 48 would be the time line of this short segment.

Please leave your additional comments below for us so that we can better document the entire clip!





Unknown Photographer, Robert Gaddie Collection

Unknown Photographer, Robert Gaddie Collection

Pacific Electric no. 304 is assigned to the East Colorado - Lincoln Avenue Line in Pasadena. Its exact location is unknown. PE no. 304 was built by J.G. Brill Company in 1913. It was a center-entrance, low-floor car nicknamed "Dragon" on the PE.

They were were equipped with maximum traction trucks and two General Electric 201 F motors. Their fatal flaw was that they had to operate with a two-man crew. There was no way to convert them to one-man operation. As the PE reduced its local operations in the depression, these cars became surplus. All were disposed of by 1934.

Note the this photograph appears on page 39 of "Cars of the Pacific Electric Vol I Interurbans Special # 29" August 1975.

Unknown Photographer, Robert Gaddie Collection

Sierra Madre Destination Sign

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


Courtesy Craig Rasmussen collection

Courtesy Craig Rasmussen collection

Pacific Electric Railway Dash sign showing Sierra Madre as its destination.

Courtesy Craig Rasmussen collection

Pacific Electric No. 742: A Visitor From The Valley

Posted on: November 20, 2014 by Pacific Electric 4 Comments


By Ralph Cantos

As was always the case on New Years Day on the PE, it was "all hands and cars on deck."

New Years Day 1940 was no exception. With the exception of the 100s (and, later, the PCCs), just about every class of PE's vast assortment of interurban and suburban cars put in an appearance on the Northern District to handle the deluge of passengers headed to the Rose Parade.

Even the trusty fixtures of the Venice Short Line, the handsome 950s, would head to Pasadena.

The Valley Sevens were no exception to the migration of "out-of-towers" called upon for Rose Parade duty. In this photo taken on New Years Day 1940, Western District no. 742 heads up a three-car train as it rolls along the Northern District's "4 track main line."

Compared to the other as-yet-to-be-modernized Hollywood cars (nos. 600 to 734), the Valley Sevens were real speedsters. As built, the Hollywood cars had a breathtaking top speed of 28 miles per hour. You would have to drive a wooden stake into the ground with fluttering white flag next to an unmodernized Hollywood car to see if it was actually moving. The Valley Sevens could clip along at brisk 45 mph, so the passengers aboard this train will arrive at the Rose Parade in record time.

This would be the Valley Sevens' final event in this configuration. All 15 Valley Sevens were modernized into the new "Butterfly" paint scheme in late 1940. The rest of the Hollywood cars were brought up to Valley Seven performance standards as part of the modernization program.

In later years, the 742 would become a fixture of the Northern District. With the September 1951 destruction of the Northern District by foolish freeway construction, the 742 and 27 of its sister Hollywood cars would head for Buenos Aires for further service where they would have a long and prosperous career.

Northern District passengers would have to settle for slow, pokey replacement bus service in the name of progress...yeah right!

Ralph Cantos Collection

Last Hours on the Monrovia-Glendora Line

Posted on: October 30, 2014 by Pacific Electric 3 Comments


By Charles Wherry

These three photos also deal with the last hours of rail passenger service on Pacific Electric's Monrovia-Glendora line.

Los Angeles Examiner photo, Charles Wherry Collection

Los Angeles Examiner photo, Charles Wherry Collection

This image has previously been posted on the website but there was no accurate date given. I have included the Los Angeles Examiner’s page and date which is seen in the extreme right hand corner of the image as Monday, October 1, 1951.

And above is the accompanying text that went with the above photo. Notice that the text states:

“At 12:34 a.m., the last ‘regularly scheduled’ train on the Los Angeles-Monrovia run pulled out of the PE terminal at 6th and Main streets.”

Los Angeles Examiner photo, Charles Wherry Collection

Los Angeles Examiner photo, Charles Wherry Collection

The special ERA car followed with its 43 members 10 minutes later. As a side note, I wonder if any of the members took advantage of the 17 cents a dozen cookies that Van De Kamp’s was offering in the adjoining ad.

William Wherry photo, Charles Wherry Collection

William Wherry photo, Charles Wherry Collection

The final image shows the last ‘regularly scheduled’ train referred to in the Examiner article.

I was aboard car no. 735 on this trip along with my brother and mother (seen in the window) and dad who took this picture.
I had just turned 7 years old and being up in the middle of the night was quite a thrill.

My PE employee timetable shows a scheduled departure of 12:35 a.m. from 6th and Main St. with a 1:24 a.m. arrival at Shamrock Avenue, which begs the question; how did we get back to L.A.? The same timetable shows the last inbound schedule from Monrovia on that long ago day to have departed 11:26 p.m. so we couldn’t have been on that. The only answer I can come up with is that we ‘hitched’ a ride with the SC-ERA folks on their inbound trip back to L.A. since theirs was not a regularly scheduled car and they had to get back home whereas we ‘regular’ riders were on our own.

I distinctly remember the explosions of the torpedoes mentioned in the Examiner piece. The noise reminds me to this day of popcorn popping in a skillet. Somewhere out in the murky dark, after a particularly loud and almost continuous barrage of torpedoes we stopped to pick up a passenger. It was Jack Farrier with a suspicious looking brown paper sack and an equally suspicious wide grin on his face. Someone asked Jack what was in the bag. “My lunch”, he responded. Everybody had a good time.