Interurban Memories on Vinyl, 1961
By Ira Swett
With this posting we offer you four recordings from side one of the 1961, 33 1/3 phonograph album release titled “Interurban Memories” from Fidelity in Motion.
The following liner notes are from the typewriter of Ira Swett, photos are from the PERyhs Archive or as noted.
Seated at the typewriter is traction historian Ira L. Swett seen here with other traction fans at his home at 1416 S. Westmoreland Ave in Los Angeles, c.1950. Standing, second from the left is cartographer Raymond E. Younghans, the creator of many of the map published in Ira’s Interurban Specials.
A view of the area railfans called “Whistle Alley” between Olympic Bl. and Washington Bl. LAMTA is passing the scaffolding for the construction of the Santa Monica freeway at 16th Street. 12/03/60.
Track One January 4, 1959; Afternoon.
Our mikes have been set up in “Whistle Alley,” a stretch of four-track main line in Los Angeles on Long Beach Ave. between Olympic Blvd. and Washington Blvd. Familiar PE whistles, often shrieking into wild harmonics, chronicle the comings and goings of “Blimps” – 73 feet long and 65 tons heavy of Big Red Car. They’re running on the Long Beach Line, last of PE’s once impressive array of interurban electric railway lines. Listen to the echoing of those whistle blasts as they ricochet back and forth of buildings lining the railroad!
Donald Duke captured PE Blimp # 410 inbound on the Main Street Station viaduct perfectly demonstrating the length of these massive vehicles.
Track Two January 4, 1959; Afternoon.
Again the whistles and rumblings of the Blimps are starred. PE operated 71 of these massive vehicles, among the largest interurban cars ever built. The last Blimps were retired on April 9, 1961 when the Long Beach Line was abandoned. The line had served since 1902 as the chief rail artery between Los Angeles County’s two largest cities.
Track Three November 1, 1959; 1:15 P.M.
Again aboard for a ride to Watts on the PE’s famed “Hollywood” cars! It’s the last full day of operation for the Watts Local, which operates on the outside tracks of the Long Beach Line from L.A. to Watts, 7.45 miles south. We’re riding on the 1801, one of the few survivors of the 160 Hollywoods built in the Twenties chiefly for service on busy Hollywood Blvd. Our mikes have been set up just behind the motorman; the conductor stands half way back in this center-entrance car and his calling of streets will be heard faintly. Also to be heard, and much more plainly, are the chatterings of a loose window, the bangs of the front exit door, the conductor’s bell signal, some conversation between the motorman and a deadhead buddy, the wigwags at grade crossings, and above all that ubiquitous PE whistle with its vocal pyrotechnics. Our ride begins at the great Sixth & Main Station, and proceeds down the elevated, along San Pedro St. and Olympic Blvd with its diesel buses, then onto the local track. From there on it’s a continuing symphony of wigwag belles, auto horns, railroad crossings at Amoco Tower, Vernon Ave. and Slauson Ave., passing Blimps, buzzers sounded accompanying electric railway operations. We conclude by pulling into Watts, with it’s substation, interlocking tower, three diverging routes with their complex of slip switches, dwarf signals, and car house. It’s been a wonderful ride hasn’t it!
Track Four January 4, 1959; Afternoon.
We bid goodbye to the Big Red Cars by again listening to the talk of the four-track main, with those heavy Blimps charging down on us, then fading into the distance. This was PE – World’s Greatest Interurban!