Western District

PCC Service on the Venice Short Line

Posted on: September 1, 2013 by Pacific Electric 11 Comments
Craig Rasmussen Collection

Craig Rasmussen Collection

By Ralph Cantos

Pacific Electric stunned the American Transit Industry when the Railway took delivery of 30 double end PCCs in November of 1940. Not only were PE's PCCs the first double enders, but were the FIRST MULTIPLE UNIT PCCs built up to that time. Many PCC fans consider the PE PCCs the most beautiful ever built in the pre-war era . Only the 25 postwar all electrics built new for Louisville Railways come close to the esthetic beauty of PE's PCCs.

So it was that Americas most revolutionary PCCs should make their debut on two of PE's most important Western District lines, the heavily patronized Venice Short Line, and the Glendale-Burbank Line. PE rebuilt the Glendale - Burbank Line from top to bottom, end to end, in preparation for the new cars. It was no secret that PCCs' "temperamental" riding characteristics required top notch rail infrastructure. The new cars did extremely well on the rebuilt Burbank Line.

HOWEVER...the VSL was an other matter. By 1940, the rail and roadbed on the VSL were nearing 45 years of age. By the time the PCCs arrived , there was enough of the "modernized" Hollywood cars on hand to almost completely eliminate the need for the wood bodied 950s that had served the line for decades.

BUT as often is said, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray." The PCCs tenure on the VSL was brief, maybe a year or so. As beautiful as the PCCs may have been, they could not deal with the rough track. With the out break of World War II, a decision was made to reassign the 13 VSL PCC's to the Burbank Line. Thirty one of the big handsome 950s, then in the midst of being scrapped, were rescued from the fire, run through Torrance Shops and returned to service in early 1942 in "better than new" condition.

The classic 950s along with six 1000s and several two-man Hollywood cars rendered fast dependable service on the VSL all during the War, carrying crush passenger loads.

Even after the War ended, patronage on the VSL continued at high levels. Three-car trains were a common sight in the post war years. I am sure that the PE management did not run three car trains for the benefit of rail-fan photographers, three car train were a necessity to carry the high passenger volumes.

The 30 PCCs now settled down to a life on the Burbank line. By 1954, the Pullman built cars that had been such a sensation in 1940/41 were nearing the end of the career in a span of just 15 years. The PCCs continued to render excellent service into 1955 when the abandonment of the Glendale - Burbank line, with DECADES of service life remaining in its rebuild infrastructure, was announced.

All PE passenger service had been sold to Metropolitan Coach Lines in Oct 1953. MCL's greedy, self-serving management did not give a DAMN about the welfare of the traveling public, air pollution, the importance of travel time, or anything else except inflating the Company coffers at the expense of EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING . And so it was that on June 19, 1955, despite vigorous opposition from the City of Burbank, the line was abandoned.

The 30 near perfect PCCs were "stuffed" into the Subway tunnel, just inside the portal opening. It did not take long before vandals reduced the first eight to ten cars into piles of rubble. Only the pitch-black darkness of the deep recesses of the tunnel kept the vandals from destroying the entire fleet of Americas most beautiful PCCs.

After four years of storage and vandalism, the PCCs were sold to Buenos Aires, where they joined 27 Hollywood cars. Unfortunately, the TEMPERAMENTAL riding characteristics of the cars caught up with them once again and the service life in Buenos Aires was a short 3 years.

Sadly, none of these revolutionary PCC's was preserved.

In this photo taken in April 1941, car no. 5010 (Craig Rasmussen collection) is stopped at Culver City Station to entrain a lone passenger for a fast, if bouncy, trip to Santa Monica. The decade of 1940 to 1950 was a financially great time for the PE and Southern California commuters.

HOWEVER, the next decade of 1950 to 1960, would see the complete destruction of "The Worlds Greatest Interurban Railway" starting right there at Culver City in September of 1950 with the abandonment of the World Famed Venice Short Line, the first of a decade long string of rail abandonment that would virtually wipe out the entire rail system.

And now, 60 years later, commuters that drive the I-5 "Golden MISTAKE Freeway" and the I-10 Santa Monica "Freeway" more like a parking lot, are paying dearly for the short sighted decision that were made by greedy business men and the Highway Department so many years ago!! .

11 Responses

  1. Savvas Tzionis

    September 1, 2013

    Love your work, Ralph.

    If I ever make it to LA, would love to hear you in person

    Reply
  2. jesse

    September 1, 2013

    Hello everyone…. i have been followed the news and mettings for the old santa ana line to los angeles. All of these meetings are to ask permission to public. A question arise in my head. ..do the government ask the low income families when the shot down pacific electric. Poverty were forced to live a miserable lives since they cut down the way society were moving back then. I feell all these meetings are ridiculous and make us look more dum that we are. What the public should do is arise a massive law suit against General Motors and every entity that were involved in this cause of fraud. Many people has die and more is sick today due to pollution in the air as well trafic accident. That should be a primary argument of detision tocut down on traffic. Unfortunately pople are slaves of rules.

    Reply
  3. Danny P

    September 1, 2013

    This article is very well stated. What a sad situation.

    Reply
  4. Duncan Still

    September 1, 2013

    There has been a lot printed on the rough rides experienced on the PCC’s due to poor track. However, well after the removal of PCC’s from the VSL, there are photos of the PCC’s on fan trips traveling to segments of the PE with probably some very questionable track. For example, this site shows photos of a PCC on a fan trip on the freight only El Segundo branch and another on the La Habra line. I have also seen a PCC on a special run on Highland Ave for a Hollywood Bowl event in the 1940’s. I also witnessed PCC’s traveling on the Santa Monica Air Line in 1952 en route to the Torrance Shops for refurbishing. The fan trips may have had speed restrictions but the ones I saw on the Air Line seemed to be moving at reasonable speed. Because of this, it is possible the rough ride reports are somewhat exaggerated. Perhaps some passengers got motion sickness on the Venice Line (as did passengers riding in the first car on the SP Daylights due to a motion imparted by the locomotive tender subsequently resolved by adding some motion dampers). Or, maybe railfans were willing to put up with discomfort in order to get “rare mileage”.

    On the point raised regarding the groups behind the removal of rail service, one other group we do not hear much about that brought pressure to remove streetcars from streets was the Southern California Automobile Club. Their campaign started in the 1920’s. Their complaint was that streetcars cluttered up streets making it more difficult for autos to move freely (little did they know what traffic gridlock would become). The auto club photo library has several photos of streetcars turning from one street to another for the purpose of documenting their argument and giving them a talking point with politicians and the press.

    Reply
  5. Bob Davis

    September 1, 2013

    Regarding the Auto Club: Long infamous for their anti-transit attitude, in 1990 or 91 (to my great surprise) they mentioned the Blue Line as a way to get to an event in downtown LA. Regarding PCCs on less than ideal track: Are there any records of the “streamliners” venturing into the Northern District? I have never seen photos or read stories of such an event. According to Special 61, PE “ran the numbers” on rebuilding the Monrovia and Pasadena lines, and equipping them with PCCs, or buying a fleet of buses. We know how that came out. I remember the track near my home in Monrovia–even a ten-year-old boy could tell it was overdue for replacement.

    Reply
  6. Jo Ann Olson

    September 2, 2013

    I road the venice short line many years as it was during the war and we didn’t have gas for our cars. This was our only way to the beach.

    Reply
  7. Jo Ann Olson

    September 2, 2013

    Correction: I rode the Venice Shortline for many years as it was during the war and we didn’t have the gas for our cars. This was our only way to the beach.

    Reply
  8. Duncan Still

    September 7, 2013

    Since this is pure speculation based upon logic (all of the people who would have authoritative information on this subject are long departed), I am posting this as a plausible reason for PCC service on the VSL. From Rimpau/Vineyard east all the way into downtown LA, the Venice Short Line paralleled the LARY P line at a distance of three or so blocks. The P line received an equipment upgrade in 1937 with the attractive PCC cars. In addition to the lower fares on LARY, the LARY PCC’s probably stole business from the VSL. It is likely that PE hoped having their own PCC’s could help get some of this business back.

    PE was under PUC order to improve the equipment on the Glendale line, hence the order for PE’s PCC’s. Had all 30 PE PCC’s been assigned to the Glendale line, there still would have been need for more cars on the Glendale line (as evidenced by the use of a three car train of 950’s on the Glendale line through the year 1948 during rush hours – as well as being supplemented by the 600/5050 class until the 1955 abandonment). So, the only reason I can discern for having PCC’s on the VSL at all was to counter the LARY P line PCC’s.

    Reply
    • George Todd

      September 13, 2013

      If Jesse above were age 20 when he or she “attended hearings on the discontinuance of the Santa Ana Line,” he or she will be at least 83 years of age now… Hmmm?

      Reply
  9. John Robert C Fox

    October 19, 2013

    there will never another Pacific electric .it could return. but there is to much corporate greed. there is still a lot of the rights of ways still around.these so called transit planners need to use them.

    Reply
  10. John Robert C Fox

    October 19, 2013

    this is my second thought. these rights of way are . the Whittier line .the Santa Ana line Huntington drive. San Bernardino line .southern district. Glendale_Burbank line.some of the western district,northern district,eastern districts.even the Glendale,Burbank subway could be used again just stop corporate greed. It Can Be Done!!!

    Reply

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