Ralph Cantos Collection

Pacific Electric 313: A Nash Airflyte Flies No More

Posted on: September 13, 2017 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

by Ralph Cantos

This photo taken in mid-1951 shows the result of a grade crossing accident on the Bellflower Line. Pacific Electric no. 313 smashed the hell out of the 1950 Nash Airflyte sedan that dared to challenge the 313 at one of the many 45-degree crossings on the Bellflower Line. In the photo, the motorman and others inspect the minor damage to 313's steps and the safety light bulb.

Before the line was cut back from Santa Ana, accidents on the Bellflower-to-Santa Ana portion of the line were numerous and severe. Most often, hay trucks and other large commercial vehicles were involved. The drivers of these large vehicles seemed to be oblivious to the high speed of the PE trains.

To make matters worse, east of Watts, just about every grade crossing on the line was at a 45-degree angle. At best, these crossing were "protected" by worthless "wig-wags" and at worst, wooden cross bucks. The line between Bellflower and the Santa Ana city limits saw some of the highest speeds on the PE system. Before 1950, regular equipment of the Santa Ana line was usually provided by 10s, 12s, and "hot rod" Blimps. All three classes were capable of speeds in excess of 55 mph (Blimps) to about 65 mph (10s and 12s). The 45-degree angle crossings may have been responsible in part for all the carnage.

But even after the line was cut back to Bellflower, accidents never stopped, but more often than not, by this time, autos were the victims of the Blimps that stalked the line like hungry lions in the automotive jungle. The 1950 Nash was eaten by the 313, just one of many that fell victim to the hungry, marauding Blimps.

Ralph Cantos Collection

LARY 4: A smashing end to a long career

Posted on: August 13, 2017 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

The Los Angeles Railway's fleet of MAGGIEs worked the hilly I line for several decades. Unlike the majority of LARY's car fleet that used air brakes, the MAGIEs used an electric magnetic brake located between the wheels on the standard LARY archbar truck, not unlike the magnetic brake on the more modern PCC truck. The I line was not very long, just a few miles running between Bonnie Brea Street on the west, where a connection was made with the D line, to First and Hill Streets on the east end.

The magnetic brake worked very well, BUT there was one fatal flaw in the design. As long as the trolley pole remained on the power wire, all went well. But on this fatal day, the trolley pole on MAGGIE no. 4 de-wired as the 4 descended First Street towards its terminal at Hill Street.

With the trolley pole de-wired and swaying in the wind, the hapless 4 now had no braking ability save for the hand crank brake. One can only assume that the motorman made a valiant attempt to stop the 4 with the hand brake, but to no avail.

The 4 came rampaging down First Street, crossing Hill Street and smashing into a small building on the east side of the street. The results are depicted in these two photos. Remarkably, no one was killed, but there were 8 injuries. South Park Shops was famous for building and re-building hundreds of LARY streetcars, but the 4 was not worth rebuilding, it was too far gone, and was scrapped on the spot. The I line was abandoned a few months after this 1939 accident. The remaining MAGGIEs were placed in storage at the sprawling Vernon Yard and were eventually scrapped during World War II.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Inside and out of an LARY MAGGIE.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

MAGGIE no. 6 and one other sit on the scrap track along with retired Standards at Vernon Yard, 1943.

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

In this October 1949 photo, Pacific Electric PCC no. 5021 rolls to a stop on Brand Boulevard at Broadway. This was urban rail transit at its finest. The Glendale-Burbank Line was perfection in every respect. The infrastructure was completely rebuilt just 10 years earlier, and the revolutionary double-end MU PCCs were nearing their 10th birthday.

And yet the dark gray skies above the perfect catenary signaled the fact that the Pacific Electric Railway as an interurban rail system would soon begin to disappear. As News Year's Day 1950 dawned, the PE still operated about 450 rail cars over 15 major lines. Three-car Rose Parade Specials would again take thousands of passengers to the Rose Parade in Pasadena as they had done for decades. The popular Venice Short Line would provide worry-free, dependable transportation to the beach at Santa Monica and Venice aboard the breezy, venerable 950s and 10s. But all this wonderful, trusty rail transportation was at death's door.

On September 17, 1950, the world-famous Venice Short Line was converted to motor bus operation and from that day forth, the rail abandonments came fast and frequent. Cities along many of PE's routes and the Highway Department could not destroy the remains of the PE fast enough, as the lines were abandoned. Just 10 years after the last run of the VSL, New Years Day 1960 saw just one line remaining, the Long Beach Line utilizing about 35 battered and neglected rail cars dating back almost 50 years. With the PE rails and rights-of-way gone, city planners could now move forward in building a futuristic freeway system that would make automobile travel across Los Angeles a happy and joyous experience. (How joyous was your trip on the I-10 or 405 yesterday?)

And today, the ghost of the PE past has come back to haunt the very cities that were so quick to see the last PE trains gone. So now, the cities that were so quick to put an end to urban rail service, must come up with unmanageable hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild something that was allowed to be destroyed as City officials looked the other way. A very painful lesson has been learned...the hard way.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Pacific Electric and World War II Hysteria, Part 2

Posted on: July 9, 2017 by Pacific Electric No Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

In this photo from March 1942, Pacific Electric cars 1373 and 1375 are seen at the Santa Anita Racetrack. The Japanese-American gentleman in the foreground seems a little bewildered as he waits to be registered. Almost every one of the evacuation trains utilized at least one combo to handle the baggage and worldly belongingss that the "evacuees" could bring with them. In most cases, these Americans lost just about everything they owned except for the clothes on their backs.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Pacific Electric and World War II Hysteria

Posted on: June 2, 2017 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

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

Pacific Electric 614: Spotlight on a Future Icon

Posted on: April 18, 2017 by Pacific Electric 1 Comment

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This full-page ad from the St. Louis Car Co. dates from about 1928-29. The photo shows Pacific Electric no. 614 and train just after emerging from the Hill Street tunnel no. 1 at 1st and Hill Streets in Downtown Los Angeles. The photo was probably taken around 1924.

The text reports that the PE now has 160 of these versatile suburban cars in service at the time the ad was printed. Actually, the St Louis Car Co. did not build all of the reported 160 cars. The 160 cars were built in 4 orders:

1. Cars 600 to 649 — St Louis Car Co. 1922
2. Cars 650 to 699 — St. Louis Car Co. 1924
3. Cars 700 to 749 — J.G Brill 1925
4. The last 10 cars, 750-759 — St. Louis Car Co. 1928

No matter, all 160 cars were equal in all performance respects. The cars were fast accelerating, and could reach their astonishing top speed of 28 mph in short order.

Minor improvements were made on the last 3 orders. The 10 "750's" were by far the best of the lot. The last ten cars had two major improvements, those being: roller bearing on all axles, and to me, the most important...brass window sashes. I remember riding the dilapidated Hollywood cars on the Watts line in their final years. Years of neglect by Metropolitan Coach Lines and the MTA had taken a terrible toll on these last valiant veterans. The wood window sash on the last survivors were lacking in red paint which left the exposed wood window sash subject to swelling after rains. The windows were almost imposible to open for several days after it rained. It was minor problem, as it never rains in Soouthern California. The Timken Roller bearings were replaced by standard friction bearings when the cars went through Torrance Shops as time passed.

Today, the spot where this photo was taken is unrecognizable. Everything is gone, and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse has replaced the background in the old photo. Out at OERM, 5 Hollywood cars have been saved, representing 3 of the 4 orders. The Hollywood cars would become legendary in the decades after their construction. The Pacific Electric contently got their money's worth from these fine cars.

Ralph Cantos Collection

LARY 3007: Los Angeles joins the PCC “Parade of Progress”

Posted on: March 9, 2017 by Pacific Electric 1 Comment

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

by Ralph Cantos

This 1937 Westinghouse full-page ad shows new Los Angeles Railway no. 3007 photographed on 2nd. Avenue between 48th & 54th streets. This section of track did not have any regular streetcar service, so it was an ideal location for photographing various car types as well as movie work and motorman training.

Cars 3001 to 3060 arrived in mid-1937 to great fanfare and civic pride. The LARY PCCs were the 4th order delivered. The Brooklyn & Queens Transit Corp. got the very first St. Louis Car Co.-built PCCs, followed by the Pittsburgh Railways and then the San Diego Electric Railway.

The new PCCs were a sensation for the time. They were able to outrun most family automobiles from a standing start and braking was equally impressive. The bright yellow LARY PCCs were a very impressive contrast when compared to the drab yellow and brown-painted standard rolling stock of the LARY. The first of the new cars went to work at once on the busy P line along West Pico Blvd. and East First Street. The lengthy J line soon got the new cars as well, and patronage on that line increased noticeably.

Eventually 165 PCCs of three types would grace the streets and boulevards of Los Angeles, delivering impressive mileage and dependability . In the end, only one car, the 3035, was lost to accident damage. The loss of LA's PCCs in March of 1963 was Cairo's and Chile's gain, and Los Angeles became just another "town" with an inferior all-bus transit system.

Today, two PCCs from the San Diego Electric Railway and four from Los Angeles Railway live on at the Orange Empire Railway.

Ralph Cantos Collection

 

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’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

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