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