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

LAMTA 3025 at City College: Part 2

Posted on: October 19, 2016 by Pacific Electric 2 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This photo looking east on East First Street at the LA Civic Center dramatically illustrates the speed and determination the LAMTA employed in the swift elimination of LA's perfect PCC-operated rail system. Once the P line, this nation's busiest surface streetcar line, operated along East First Street. Now, just weeks after abandonment, the excellent rails are paved over. The LARY-LATL overhead wires, renowned in the industry for their excellence, remain as a ghostly reminder of P cars past.

The LAMTA even went to to the trouble of removing the familiar white "CAR STOP" sign from the span wires as the rails were paved over. Perhaps the LAMTA thought some uninformed Angelino would wait in vain for a P car if the "CAR STOP" sign was still displayed above the rail-less street.

Most all Angelenos loved the fast, silent, smooth PCCs that took them to work and play. The shiny new replacement buses were no improvement in comfort or service on any of the former PCC-operated lines. It was a shameful downgrade in service levels, and everyone that rode the PCCs were very aware of it. But the LAMTA and LA City officials did not give a damn, they had bigger plans for the area around Pico Blvd. and Georgia St. The beautiful PCCs just happened to be in the way of a progressive Los Angeles, and the former rail commuters would pay dearly for it.

Ralph Cantos Collection

LAMTA 3075, LA’s First Green PCC: A False Sense of Optimism

Posted on: September 26, 2016 by Pacific Electric 6 Comments

 

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This photo taken by the late Jerry Squire in 1965 is from the Andy Goddard collection, and shows LAMTA no. 3075 at Vernon Yard being made ready for its trip to LA Harbor. From there, it's off to faraway Chile to be used as de-motorized, locomotive-hauled trailers. Twenty-two air cars were sold to the CHILE NITRATE CO. Two cars were stripped for parts at Vernon Yard, the remaining twenty cars sold whole. Cairo purchased the remaining 134 cars shortly after the Chile deal was completed.

The 3075 was the first LA PCC to be released from South Park Shops in April 1958 in the new green MTA scheme. The car had a complete rebuild and repainting much to the delight of LA rail fans. It was hoped by all who saw the 3075 for the first time that she was now ready for several more decades of service on the streets of Los Angeles. Alas, it was not to be.
Just five years after making its debut in its new two-tone green paint job, the 3075 and 163 of her sisters would be retired and placed in dead storage at Vernon Yard to await an uncertain future.

By the end of 1965, Vernon Yard was devoid of all the PCCs. They had all departed for a much less glamorous life in either Chile or Cairo. Both systems trashed the once-pristine cars. In less than 10 years, the Chile cars were reduced to employee housing at the company's nitrate mine operation. The cars that made it to Egypt were reduced to rolling wrecks in about the same amount of time.

Four cars, numbers 3001, 3072, 3100 and 3165 live on in retirement at OERM, while 3101 now resides in Colorado at a railroad museum there. The big, beautiful "all-electrics" served the commuters of Los Angeles for just 15 years, a damn shame to say the least.

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

Pacific Electric 578: Post Cards and the PE

Posted on: September 13, 2016 by Pacific Electric 7 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

This nice post card dating from about 1923-25 shows Pacific Electric car no. 578 westbound on the East Broadway Line in Glendale.

The HOTEL GLENDALE dominates the intersection of Glendale Avenue and East Broadway. This was a very important intersection in the City of Glendale. It was here that the PE interchanged with the struggling Glendale & Montrose Railway. The G&M operated along the center of Verdugo Road from downtown Montrose on the north to an interchange with the Union Pacific Railroad in south Glendale. A short branch to connect with the Los Angeles Railway E Line diverged off the Verdugo Main line via Wilson Avenue-Broadway-and-Colorado Streets where the LARY connection was made in Eagle Rock. (The 5 Line)

PE's 500s were the backbone of the railway's suburban operations until the coming of the Hollywood cars in 1922-23. Even though the Hollywood cars were designed and built specifically for service on the Hollywood Boulevard line, the PE brass soon realized that they had a winner in the Hollywood cars, and the 600s began to replace the 500s en masse.

Today, except for the G&M car house in Montrose, most all traces of the little railway are gone. The building at East Broadway and Glendale Avenue that was once the HOTEL GLENDALE still stands today, although repurposed as another enterprise.

The PE equipped the East Broadway Line with its beautiful Pullman PCCs in 1941. A dubious distinction befell the PE PCCs when in 1946, the East Broadway line was abandoned. It was the first PCC-operated car line in the USA to be abandoned. But as history would soon prove, abandonments of PCC-operated streetcar lines in the 1950s would become all too commonplace. After the East Broadway Line, all of the San Diego Electric Railway's PCCs were replaced by buses in 1949. The annihilation of the PCC had begun, but thankfully, complete annihilation was never achieved . To this day, fifty-plus-year-old PCCs still ply the streets and right-of-ways of several cities across the USA, the buses that replaced many of these same PCCs having been scrapped decades ago.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Editor's Note: here is what appears to be the old Glendale & Montrose Railway carhouse in the back area of the current Anawalt Lumber location. It resembles the peaked roof design of the old Pacific Electric Watts and Ocean Park car houses.

PE’s Santa Monica Air Line: From obscurity to rising star

Posted on: August 26, 2016 by Pacific Electric 8 Comments

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

For the last 20 years of the Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line's existence, about 50 or so loyal regular commuters enjoyed a variety of equipment. The 1930s saw the mighty 800-class of heavy interurbans providing most of the "service" on the line, that being one morning inbound and one afternoon/evening westbound trip. The 1940s saw a mix of 950s and 1000s holding down the runs. For the last three years, a single Hollywood car provided the service to the dwindling passenger loads.

In this side-by-side photograph, just about 63 years separate the views taken at almost the exact same location in Cheviot Hills. On the left, Hollywood car no. 5112 is seen making the afternoon westbound trip in the last weeks of September 1953. Some 63 years later, an LACMTA test train passes the same location, known today as the Cheviot Hill Trench, in the weeks before the line's opening in May 2016.

The success of the LACMTA's EXPO RAIL LINE has been spectacular. The new line follows the original alignment for much of the way, starting at Exposition Park. The new line leaves the original route at 17th Street in Santa Monica and runs down Colorado Avenue parallel to the original right-of-way just 100 feet north of the original line. Numerous dangerous grade crossings have been replaced by spectacular aerial "fly overs." The terminal at 4th & Colorado is built over the original right of way.

Passenger loadings have surpassed expectations by a large margin. Currently two- and three-car trains provide 12 minute service for much of the day, seven days a week. The EXPO line is a winner by all accounts.

After the Air Line was abandoned in October 1953, the 5112 was transferred to the Southern District's Watts Line. From that last run in 1953 to the last run on the Watts Line in November 1959, the 5112 (now renumbered 1801) would provide gallant service along the famous 4 tracks under the most deplorable maintenance conditions imaginable. Finally in 1960, the 5112 was rescued from the scrappers torch and now resides at OERM.

Ralph Cantos Collection

 

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

Pacific Electric car no. 994 rounds the curve at Overland Avenue in the spring of 1950. This is the westbound afternoon / evening trip. Hollywood cars provided service for the last three years of the line's existence.

PE's Santa Monica Air Line was something of an "institution." The line was built in 1875 by the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad. Just 2 years after the line opened, the LA & I RR decided to sell the line to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The SP, hoping to build up a lucrative freight business, built at its own expense the world famous "LONG WHARF" in hopes of beating out Long Beach and San Pedro as a major shipping port. When that did not work out, the SP leased the line and Wharf to the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad around 1908. A few years later, all LA&P holdings and infrastructure were taken over by the "New PE" in the Great Merger of 1911.

The Santa Monica Air Line was essentially built as a freight line. Passenger service along the line tended to be an annoyance to the PE. Passenger schedules along the line reflected the PE's annoyance with the line. The best service (what there was) was provided between Downtown LA and Culver Junction. West of Culver Junction, the service was "sparse" at best. After several unsuccessful attempts to abandon passenger service altogether, a "compromise" was reached with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) around 1932-33: a grand total of ONE in-and-outbound passenger trip was provided for the "convenience" of about 50 die-hard regular passengers who cherished the rail service.

Meanwhile, the world-famous Venice Short Line that provided much more frequent service to essentially the same destinations, was abandoned on September 17, 1950, leaving the Air Line as the lone passenger service on the Westside of LA, Santa Monica, and Venice.
This wonderful passenger service was cut back to 11th Avenue on October 27, 1953, leaving those faithful Air Line passengers high and dry.

This was done in preparation for the sale to Metropolitan Coach Lines of all remaining PE passenger service, both rail and bus. When MCL took over PE's passenger service, the Air Line was not included in the sale. And so for about 30 days in October of 1953, the Air Line would become the LAST passenger service on the PE.

Today, rail service along the Air Line has been reborn as the LACMTA's EXPO Line. Two- and three-car air-conditioned trains run along the line at 12 minute intervals with standing-room-only passenger loads, a far cry from the 50 faithful passengers that kept the line going for so many years, riding aboard 800s, 950s, 1000s and finally, Hollywood cars to the bitter end in 1953.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Alan Weeks Collection

Alan Weeks Collection

Alan Weeks Collection

Alan Weeks Collection