Pacific Electric 1033 at Terminal Island: Man made it, and man will destroy it

By Ralph Cantos

Through history, man-made objects of “industrial beauty” have come and gone. I have always been interested in just about all forms of transportation: propeller airliners, first-generation jet airliners, ocean liners, air ships, antique cars, trucks, buses, grand FOX Theaters, early streamlines (Union Pacific’s City Of Denver), historic buildings ( LA’s Richfield Building) , and of course, streetcars and interurbans.

Even to this day, it always pains me to see things of industrial beauty destroyed or scrapped. As a 12 year old in the mid-1950s, the sight of  beautiful Hollywood cars piled high at Terminal Island brought me to tears. I could not understand how something as beautiful as the Hollywood cars could be destroyed in that fashion.

But history is full of beautiful man-made objects whose time on earth eventually comes to an end, with the exception with such things as the Great Pyramids. For sure, they are historic, but I personally don’t consider them as things of beauty, but that’s just me.

This photo of Pacific Electric no. 1033 at Terminal Island was taken in the early months of 1951. The 1033 appears to be in perfect condition, ready for another day of dependable service, as it had done for almost 40 years on the PE.  But alas, it was not to be. Like PE’s fabulous  Butterfly 12s. the handsome 950s and the Hollywood cars, for one reason or another, time has run out.

Today, if a car like the 1033 were to become available in this condition,  any museum on planet Earth would mount an all-out financial campaign to save such a piece of transit history. The fact that the RMS Queen Mary survives today is nothing short of a miracle, when such other historic ocean lines like the RMS Aquitania were scrapped.  The Graf Zeppelin was scrapped simply because Hitler thought it was useless to his war effort.  And so it goes even to this day, a good example — the scrapping of LACMTA’s Blue Line cars, with decades of useful life left in them.

Ralph Cantos Collection

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  • George Hays
    Reply

    I remember in the early 60’s the OETM sought to buy a Helms Bakery truck. A number of old types were available including the early ones that looked like little Twin Coaches – actually they resembled Brill Master Units but smaller on rubber tires with the jelly donuts in the back. To Jimmy Walker’s surprise the trucks were all snapped up at more then bargain prices. Now they are still valued collector’s item because there was little or nothing like them running around the highways.

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