A Blue Goose on a Red Car Line
By Steve Crise
Over the years there have been a good number of steam and diesel locomotives displayed along Exposition Boulevard courtesy of Pacific Electric Railway’s Santa Monica Air Line. Several examples of forthcoming railroad technology and in some cases complete passenger train sets have been exhibited for public review on this busy section of track. Cross country passenger trains from the three railroads that served Los Angeles took advantage of this prime location to show off their latest equipment right in the heart of the city. Passenger trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at some point had all displayed their newest passenger trains in this area. Even General Motors showed off their “Train of Tomorrow” by making an appearance here in 1947.
This location was an obvious choice for such a public event since the area was directly across the street from Exposition Park and the campus of the University of Southern California. Streetcar service was provided by no less than four lines of the Los Angeles Railway including J, K, U and the V-Line on Vermont Avenue. All combined, they provided plenty of service to this location from almost any point in the city. The PE was also able to handle passengers that wished to visit the exhibits by providing service on their Santa Monica Air Line route.
Early on the morning of February 20, 1938, a photographer caught one of these Exposition Boulevard display events in the making as Pacific Electric freight locomotive 1616 hauls Santa Fe’s 3460, their one and only streamlined steam locomotive, across South San Pedro Street at 30th Street, once again using the Air Line rails to tow the beautiful new engine to the display area. The train seems to have paused in the middle of the crossing perhaps to give the photographers a moment to make their shots before the procession continues on its journey and proceeds to rattle across the tracks of Los Angeles Railway’s S-Line.
It is interesting to note that two key features in this photograph still remain in place at this intersection. The building at the northeast corner, 2916 S. San Pedro Street, mostly remains in its original state. And, the unusual steel lattice-work power pole is also a feature that remains in place making this an easy location to verify on Google Earth.
3460 remained in service for the Santa Fe until 1957 when she met the cutting torch at Sheffield Steel in Kansas City, Missouri, at the ripe old age of 20. She died with most of her streamlining features still intact, although by this time her beautiful two-tone blue paint job had become dirty and faded.
Pacific Electric 1616 was a Baldwin – Westinghouse product and came to the railroad as part of the last two locomotives ordered from them to be delivered to the PE in 1920. The 1616 has appeared in many photos over the years probably due to the fact most of her working life was spent in the Terminal District of downtown Los Angeles and in West Hollywood. As one would expect, the 1616 was ill-fated to a similar end that would take place in February of 1955 at Lipsett Steel Company of Huntington Park. The 1616 fared a bit better than the 3460 in terms of longevity, lasting a total of 35 years in service to the PE.
This wonderful photo came to us from the Craig Rasmussen Collection as part of his Joe Moir photo collection. Unfortunately the photographer’s name was never recorded, so it remains a mystery as to who the actual creator of this interesting photo was.