LATL 1500s for the Fishes

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

A former Los Angeles Transit Lines streetcar is craned into position before being placed into the waters off Redondo Beach as an artificial reef in 1956.

From Ralph Cantos:

After LATL abandoned rail lines 5-7-8-9-& F in the big 1955 abandonment, more then 300 LATL cars (all in mint condition) of the 1200, 1300, and 1500 series and the last remaining standards (500s and 1100s plus the #2501 and #2602) were sold for scrap to National Metals and Steel in early 1956. National Metals later either sold or donated about 25 1500s for use as “fish hotels”. The K-4 1500’s were chosen because they were not of heavy steel construction like their H-4 cozens, but rather mostly wood bodies built on a steel frame. The K-4 bodies were not as valuable as the all steel H-4’s. Only the roofs of the H-4’s were wood. The car bodies were transported by NAVY salvage ship to the waters off Redondo Beach without ceremony and DUMPED! A few years later on an 1958 episode of “SEA HUNT” Lloyd Bridges swam with the local fishes in and out of the car bodies. After being in the sea water for more then 2 years, the 1500’s still looked good. Their wood slat walk over seats , less brass handles , looked ready for rush hour passengers on the W & 9 lines. The local “fish passengers” seemed oblivions to the historic nature of their surroundings. On the East Coast, the local fish were treated to more “substation” hotel accommodations. The fish there , were treated to retired all steel New York City RED BIRD subway cars. The body of LATL #2501 was later rescued from National Metals, and moved to OERM. Sadly , the #2602 perished, but its sister #2601, lives on at OERM.

Ralph Cantos Collection

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Showing 10 comments
  • Jonathan
    Reply

    I wonder how they look now.

    • Paul Jackson
      Reply

      As per http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/99n3p098 “On September 28, 1961 the last diving observation showed only one streetcar with the framework intact. The remaining five were reduced to wreckage, with only the floor areas somewhat intact.

      “[In November 1963] The relatively short life for car bodies and streetcars is a serious drawback to use of these materials. At Paradise Cove, where car bodies have been on the ocean floor for about 4½ years and at Redondo Beach where the streetcars have been soaking for about 4 months less, deterioration has been so bad the materials are almost entirely rubble.”

      • Pacific Electric
        Reply

        Awesome find, Paul! Thank you!

  • Michael Patris
    Reply

    Wow! I grew up in that area and never knew this story! Of course, my mom was still in high school when it happened, but we did plenty of diving in the late 1970’s but obviously not in the right place! Now we have to send a crew! Amazing photo and story!

  • Robert Hernandez
    Reply

    I was upset when we lost Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Transit Lines ( aka L A Metropolitan Transit ) …. THEN they took the Streetcars and put in Ocean for the Breakwater and for an Artificial Reef …… I am sure the Fish and other sea animals found a good home…… SEE the Trains and Streetcars at Orange Empire Railway Museum, Perris, CAlifornia …….

  • Dave Greaves
    Reply

    Does anyone know the episode number of the sea hunt tv show that had them in it ? For a while they were playing sea hunt on the air again in socal but as I saw them all a gain a few time they must have been showing a different season/yr as I never saw the episode with them in it…. ?

  • Michael Patris
    Reply

    Thanks to Geoff Hagins who hosts / posts to the Old South Bay Facebook page, we now know this photo was taken by Charles H. Turner in September of 1958. The ship was a United States Navy submarine salvage vessel named “Gear.” Perhaps some of our Naval historian friends can find a better picture of this ship and post it here.

  • Michael Patris
    Reply

    USS Gear was also known as (ARS-34) as salvage vessel for the 11th Naval District.

  • Michael Patris
    Reply
  • Michael Patris
    Reply

    Gear (BARS-4), originally intended for the Royal Navy under terms of the Lend-Lease Program, was launched as HMS Pacific Salvor (BARS 4) on 24 October 1942 by the Basalt Rock Co., Napa, Calif.; acquired by the U.S. Navy and designated Gear (ARS-34) on 21 September 1942, and commissioned 24 September 1943, Lt. J. F. Simmons in command.

    Gear departed San Diego on 6 December 1943 en route to Pearl Harbor and the Gilbert Islands to Eniwetok atoll, in the Marshall Islands. Here she performed salvage, towing, and repair for ships of the fleet as a unit of Service Squadron 10 until 17 July 1944. She provided similar services at Saipan (25 July-7 August), shifting to Apra Harbor, Guam, on 8 August 1944 for various operations that included the towing and sinking of concrete barges on Calalan Bank to serve as a breakwater, pulling amphibious landing ships off various beaches: and towing a ship to Tinian and Saipan before return. She returned to Pearl Harbor from the Marianas On 6 December 1944 for overhaul, and departed on 29 January 1945 with an amphibious assault force bound for Iwo Jima.
    Gear arrived in the outer transport area of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945, to witness the landing of Marines under cover of intensive Naval gunfire and air attack. She proved invaluable in assisting the ships of the fleet, pumping out flooded spaces, repairing motors, making ship repairs and performing various towing assignments. She returned to Saipan on 5 March with an LSM and two LCI’s in tow. Four days later she was en route with a transport assault force that arrived off Okinawa on 1 April, D-day of invasion. Here she braved the day and night aerial onslaughts in a busy schedule of battle damage repairs to such gallant fighting ships as Wichita (CA-45), England (DE-635), Aaron Ward (DD-483), Ingraham (DD-694). She departed Okinawa on 15 May for repair service at Ulithi (21 May-12 June), then proceeded via Eniwetok with two tank landing ships in tow for Pearl Harbor, arriving 6 July 1945. Gear departed Pearl Harbor on 11 July and arrived at Portland, Oregon on the 20th. After voyage repairs, she performed towing and salvage for the Alaskan Sea Frontier at Adak until 6 May 1946, returning to San Pedro on the 23d for services there until decommissioned on 13 December 1946. Gear was assigned to the San Diego group, U.S. Pacific Reserve Fleet until 24 February 1953. A civilian crew of the Merritt Chapman Scott Corp. then operated her for Navy towing and salvage service at San Pedro, Calif. Under contract to the Merritt Chapman Scott Corp., she continued Navy salvage and repair duties at San Pedro with occasional coast towing. Laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, San Diego Group; Loaned under contract to Merritt Chapman Scott Corp.; Returned to US Navy custody, (date unknown); Struck from the Naval Register, 30 April 1981; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 1 July 1982, by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service.

    http://de635.ussengland.org/OtherShips/USS%20Gear.htm

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