LATL H class cars to Seoul, South Korea

Pictured: Doomed car 1397 keeps company with one of the “lucky” cars at South Park Shops in mid-1955.

By Ralph Cantos

On May 22,1955, the Los Angeles Transit Lines scuttled 5  major car lines, all operated with H and K class cars. Lines 5-7-8-9-& F made their last runs. About a year later, the W line (what was left of it) was also abandoned.

With the 1955 abandonment, about 250 H and K cars were now surplus. It did not take long for LATL management to put the unneeded cars up for sale. As usual, National Metals & Steel on Terminal Island was the lone bidder on all but a few cars. National Metals paid about $250.00 per car. By the end of 1955, the cars were being trucked to Terminal Island.

Then, fate stepped in. When the Korean War ended, the trolley system in Seoul, South Korea was in shambles. They were in desperate need of replacement operable streetcars. It just so happened that the Seoul trolley system operated on the same 3′-6″ gauge track as did Los Angeles Transit Lines system. (Only Denver CO. had the same 3′-6″  narrow gauge track as did LA )

So the US Government stepped in and purchased about 60 H class cars that would be sent to South Korea. By the time this arrangements was made, only about 75 or 80 H class cars remained at South Park Shops, and they were owned by National Metals. The Government purchased 60 cars for twice what National Metals paid.

Then LATL was paid to refurbish the cars. The most notable modification made to the cars, was to enclose the open end sections. Windows were removed from cars still on the property and installed on the Korea bound cars. Seoul does not enjoy the same mild  weather as Los Angeles.

A fresh coat of paint and the cars were  ready for their new life in Seoul. Even though the cars escaped the scrappers torch here in LA, time finally caught up with them.

For a variety of reasons, the trolley system in Seoul was abandoned in November of 1968. The entire system was cut up for scrap — lock, rolling stock, and barrel.

Here on of the "lucky" cars leaves South Park Shops for its trip to the LA Harbor.
Here on of the "lucky" cars leaves South Park Shops for its trip to the LA Harbor.
LATL #1397 on LA Harbor
LATL Car Headed for LA HarborHere one of the Korea-bound cars rolls along South Figueroa Street heading for the Harbor.
LATL H-5s ready for Korea
LATL H-5s ready for KoreaHere the cars sit sparkling in the sun at the Harbor waiting their turn to be loaded on a ship.
LATL H-5s for Korea
LATL H-5s for KoreaA floating crane has picked up one of the cars that will be floated over to the ship that will take them away to their new home.
LATL H-class cars head for S. Korea
LATL H-class cars head for S. KoreaAnother car waits to be loaded, its trolley pole still secured down from its truck ride to the Harbor.
LATL H-6 in Seoul, South Korea, 1958
LATL H-6 in Seoul, South Korea, 1958A faded photo from 1958.
LATL Seoul H5 #386Here one of the LATL cars is photographed at the car barn.
LATL streetcar in Seoul Korea scrap yard 1968
LATL streetcar in Seoul Korea scrap yard, 1968This horrible scene taken in late 1968 at the car barn. The LATL H class cars are at the top right in this photo. EVERYTHING seen here is to be cut up for scrap Time had finally run out for these trusty old cars. None are known to have been saved.
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Showing 3 comments
  • Steve

    Another fascinating piece of Los Angeles transportation history that is generally overlooked. The images provided by Ralph are also fascinating. I personally don’t recall ever selling most of them especially the photos from South Korea. Great job as usual from our favorite contributor.

    • Pacific Electric

      Ralph is the best!

  • Robert Peterson

    I was fortunate enough to ride the H class cars both in Los Angeles and Seoul thanks to the U.S. Army.

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PE 674 on San Vicente BoulevardAndy Goddard Collection