Ralph Cantos Collection

PE 748: Last Days of the Venice Short Line

Posted on: January 5, 2018 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This photo of Pacific Electric no. 748 and train was taken in the last days of the world-famous Venice Short Line. The scene is at the foot of Venice Blvd. at Pacific Avenue in Venice. Behind the 748 is a new GM 2700-class Diesel bus, most likely on a training run. And like a scene out of the jungle, the GM Diesel bus is stalking the hapless 748 and train hoping to pounce on the train for the kill.

The September 17, 1950, abandonment of the VSL WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END for the Pacific Electric Railway as a large-scale commuter rail system. The VSL had great potential for upgrade to a fast and efficient light rail route. But the thinking of the day was to eliminate all forms of suburban and city rail transit in Southern California in favor of "more efficient" freeways.

And so, the VSL passed into history. The wide right-of-way down the center of Venice Blvd. would lay abandoned and weed-grown for more than a decade after abandonment. Finally, in 1963, the "improvement" of Venice Blvd. began. The right-of-way was removed and ONE auto traffic lane was added in each direction. The massive La Cienega / Venice Blvd. bridge was demolished and at the same time, and the long Pico / San Vicente viaduct went with it.

From the September 1950 abandonment of the VSL, to the last run on the Watts Line on November 2, 1959, the entire PE rail system was wiped out except for the Long Beach Line. Finally on April 9, 1961, the massive job of destroying a fantastic commuter rail system was complete. Modern freeways now moved the masses with far more speed then any of PE's trains.

Then in the 1980s, as auto traffic had reached intolerable conditions, transit experts came up with a brilliant idea. Why not built a light rail line between Long Beach and Downtown LA? I am sure some of these experts wondered why no one had come up with that idea before. As a result, the METRO RAIL BLUE LINE was born. And so now, decades after the PE was destroyed in the name of progress, the LACMTA is faced with rebuilding "HUMPTY-PE-DUMPTY" once again.

If I had not seen this transit fiasco with my own eyes, I would never believe that something this stupid could have ever taken place....

Ralph Cantos Collection

PE 969 and 999: Unholy Shenanigans at Pasadena

Posted on: December 17, 2017 by Pacific Electric 3 Comments

 

Alan Weeks Photo, Alan Weeks Collection, Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This photo, taken on October 8, 1950, was in front of the Pasadena Car House on North Fair Oaks Avenue. The occasion for this embarrassing moment to 43-year-old car 969 was the "celebration" of the abandonment of the Pasadena via Oak Knoll line and the inauguration of the "NEW MOTOR COACH" service on that same Oak Knoll Line. The new General Motors 2700-class Diesels buses can be seen in the background.

The 969 was being pushed by famed car 999. The desecration of the 969 was a moot point by this date, as the 31 remaining 950s were retired a few weeks earlier with the September 17th abandonment of the world-famous Venice Short Line. For the 999 and 969, a bleak future awaited them at National Metals & Steel on Terminal Island. By the end of November 1950, all the 950s were off the PE, awaiting a fiery cremation at the scrap yard.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Only one car, 994, would escape destruction, at least for about 6 months. Rail fan and PE Historian, Ira L. Swett, had car 994 set aside for preservation. The PE had sold the 950s and 10s for an unheard of $1750.00 EACH. That was a hell of a lot of money in 1950. The trolley preservation movement was still several years away, and Travel Town was still in the planning stages. Most LA railfans were just teenagers at that time and $1750.00 dollars was just to much an obstacle to overcome.

And so, sadly, the 994 was lost. Today, the body of 993 awaits a multi-thousand dollar restoration at OERM. It had escaped scrapping by being used as an employee locker room at the scrap yard. Richard Fellows purchased it, hoping to place it on rubber tires like his 1058 and 665. He passed away before before doing any type of restoration. One other 950 never made it to Terminal Island; that car being the 983. It was purchased from the PE for use as a storage shed in Compton. If you knew where to look, the body of the 983 could be seen from the windows of Long Beach Line Blimps just a few hundred feet behind Compton Station. Richard Fellows purchased the body of 983 and it would be "repurposed" as his rubber-tired 1058. An so, the 993 remains the only intact body of the beautiful 950s. Long live this fantastic survivor.

Alan Weeks Photo, Alan Weeks Collection, Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Richard Fellows built the 1058 from the body of PE 983. Terminal Island.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Here is another photo of the 1058, this photo shows the correct paint job. In the first photo of 1058, the lower body frame was painted black, which was incorrect. Richard soon painted the lower body red. In this photo, the 1058 is on its way to Downtown LA for the movie, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?

PE 1219 Mishap: The Santa Ana Line claims another PE train

Posted on: October 27, 2017 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This photo taken around 1947 shows speedster no. 1219 in the ditch after smashing into a large tractor-trailer rig on the notorious Santa Ana line. The 1219 and train were properly rolling along at a "mile-a-minute" clip when the big rig loomed at a crossing on the track ahead. One can only imagine what the motorman must have shouted out loud (OH +#^*!!) as he threw the 1219 and train into the "BIG WHOLE" and braced for the inevitable crash and "pile up."

With no "PA" systems on the trains back in those days to warn of the impending disaster, passengers on both cars could only hold onto the seat frame in front of them while the conductors on both cars must have tumbled down the isles as the emergency brakes were activated. The partial remains of the big rig can be seen in the photo. Both the 1219 and the 1262 came out of this mess in better shape than the truck. Both cars would live on for a few more years. The entire 1200 class, save for 1299, were scrapped at Kaiser Steel Fontana in 1951, ending a distinguishing career of PE's finest interurban cars.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Pacific Electric 313: A Nash Airflyte Flies No More

Posted on: September 13, 2017 by Pacific Electric 5 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 4 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 2 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