LAMTA 3148 at Watts: A fish out of water!

By Ralph Cantos

This photo, taken by the late Jerry Squire, is from the Andy Goddard mega-collection. PCC 3148, St. Louis Car Co. class of 1948, rolls south at Watts in the early evening haze. It’s February 1960 and the LAMTA is in the midst of “test runs” using PCC 3148 hijacked from the very busy P line. The 3148 is riding on borrowed San Francisco Muni standard gauge B-3 trucks taken from their car no. 1024. The tests were being run to evaluate the possibility of continuing rail operation on the historic Long Beach Line. I have to admit, that even I, who was most critical of LAMTA, was really excited about these test runs. And as the late great Paul Harvey would often say, “The view out of the rear view mirror is a lot clearer than the view through the front windshield.”

He was indeed correct.

The LAMTA had everyone, myself included, “bamboozled” into believing that they really wanted to keep passenger service to Long Beach “a RAIL LINE.” As for me, I was convinced from day one that the LAMTA was nothing more than Metropolitan Coach Lines with a new name. Even the MCL two-tone green paint scheme was retained. There was no way in HELL that the LAMTA was going to keep using rail equipment of any kind to Long Beach. There were no used PCCs to be had at the time. Toronto and Mexico City had snapped up just about every last available used PCC in the America, with Tampico picking up the crumbs that were left. And even if there were used PCCs available, that would have meant costly modifications to the 6th & Main Street elevated station where a reverse loop would have to be constructed.

And of course there was the twenty miles of SP-owned roadbed that would have to be completely rebuilt to accommodate the PCC’s temperamental riding qualities. In reality, the LAMTA wanted out of 6th & Main, and anything and EVERYTHING else that ran on rails and was powered by electricity.

When the “BS” test runs were completed, the standard gauge trucks were returned to the MUNI and the 3148 went back to work on the P line, the busiest surface rail line in the US. About a year after the test runs were completed, hundreds of railfans, many from across the country, made the last run on the Long Beach Line, and like myself, with tears in their eyes.

The next order of business on the LAMTA agenda: wipe out and destroy the well-liked and profitable PCC operated R-S-J-V and P rail lines , and the LAMTA would stop at nothing until that dirty, dastardly deed was completed. Again quoiting Paul Harvey, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Jerry Squire Photo, Andy Goddard Collection

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Showing 3 comments
  • Gerald Hunter

    4 questions from one of those born too late; Is that the Bellflower/Santa Ana line curving off to the left? And the Torrance/ Gardena to the right? What building is in the right corner of the photo, I’m guessing the Watts car house? Also would the 105 fwy location be in the distant background?
    It is interesting to try and ”see” these historic photo’s as they are today and compare. Thanks for the chance to travel back in time.

    • Ralph Cantos

      Hi Gerald, correct on questions 1- 2 and 3.. Not sure about the 105 Freeway. You can still see the foundation of the Watts car house and the Bellflower right-of-way from the Blue Line trains..

  • Gerald Hunter

    Many thanks Mr Cantos, for your reply to my questions. If anyone would have the answers, I am sure that a historian of your caliber would. Would you favor us with an article on either the El segundo/Manhatten Beach lines or the Gardena/Redondo Beach line?

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Ralph Cantos Collection