Western District

5154: Cut Down In Its Prime

Posted on: August 25, 2013 by Pacific Electric 9 Comments
Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This very sad photo was taken in November of 1955 at the entrance of PE's Subway Tunnel. Car 5154, the former no. 704 (BRILL 1925) is being made ready for its trip to National Metals & Steel on Terminal Island for scrapping.

What makes this photo so sad is that the 5154 had several decades of serviceable life remaining in its car body. In 1939-40, the PE spent hundreds of thousands dollars, all of it private capital, to completely re-manufacture the 160 Hollywood cars to "better than new" condition. This rebuild brought the Hollywood cars up to PCC standards of speed, comfort and safety. Then in 1949-50, the PE again spent thousands of dollars per car to bring 131 Hollywood cars up to the highest and latest safety standards.

When the last car (no. 5181) left Torrance Shops in mid-1950, its condition was so excellent, it was ready to render the traveling public three to possible four more decades of dependable, comfortable service. And yet, here we see car 5154 literally in prime, mint overall condition, and just five years from its last overhaul, being treated like so much scrap metal.

When the Glendale - Burbank line was abandoned on June 19, 1955, 15 Hollywood cars were working the line along side the 30 near new PCCs. Two cars, nos. 5166 and 5167, were mercifully saved from a trip to the scrap pile, and were trucked over to the Watts Line, where the two cars joined a ragtag assortment of low numbered 5100s (St. Louis Car Co. 1922). The two new arrivals at Watts became "the babies" of what remained of the last operable Hollywood cars. Not so fortunate was the 5154 and 12 other former 700s — they were DOOMED!

When the first Hollywood car was en route to Terminal Island, tied down to the back of the flatbed truck like some slaughtered animal, one of the trolley poles became dislodged from the hold down hook. The trolley pole reached up as if asking for help, pulled down phone wires as a result. So all the remaining cars making the final trip had both of their trolley poles spot welded to the roof guard. If you look closely, you can see that the trolley pole on the hapless 5154 is now welded down to the guard next to the pole hook. This was just the first of the horrors that awaited the 5154. And so this beautiful, handsome, 100%-complete and operable car, was just hours away from the end of its life — a sad, terrible waste of the finest suburban trolley cars this country would ever see.

And while this horrible scene was being played out at Toluca Yard, thousands of miles away in Buenos Aires, 27 other Hollywood cars would continue to roll along well into the 1980s.

Ralph Cantos Collection

9 Responses

  1. doug

    August 25, 2013

    One of the many things that were just so wrong…

    Reply
  2. Danny P

    August 25, 2013

    Sad day 🙁

    Reply
  3. Tito

    August 26, 2013

    I had the privilege to ride these cars in Buenos Aires. Loved how the seats would spin around to change direction. Very comfortable indeed. They were in regular service until 1974, one survived as a work car until the 1980s.

    Reply
  4. Robert Hernandez

    August 26, 2013

    I remember seeing CAR after CAR transported on the Southern Pacific Railroad Tracks thru San Gabriel Valley to their DOOM . I WAS SO SAD … I never got my childhood dream being a STREETCAR CONDUCTOR on the PACIFIC ELECTRIC … Following my Great Grandfather ….

    Reply
  5. Tito

    August 26, 2013

    Don’t know why more of these didn’t wind up in Argentina.They were sorely needed down there.

    Reply
    • Ralph Cantos

      August 26, 2013

      Tito ! did you take any photos of the PE cars when you were down there?? I would love to see them if you did. Ralph

      Reply
  6. Gary Boughton

    August 27, 2013

    me too, Tito!

    Reply
  7. Bob Davis

    August 29, 2013

    There were several cases where electric railways found that their investments didn’t stay in service long enough for any real return. I’m thinking of Chicago Aurora and Elgin cars that were bought in 1945 and retired in 1957, the Illinois Terminal modern interurbans (that turned out to be incompatible with some of their track). We could even consider the NWP cars that became PE 300-318 or the PE PCCs.

    Reply
  8. John Robert C Fox

    October 19, 2013

    remember the picture at terminal island rows and rows of Hollywood cars stacked on top of each other. waiting for their demise ! some with their trolley poles reaching up to the sky. as to say help us help us !!!

    Reply

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