Pacific Electric No. 5011: LA’s PCC Wonderland

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

By Ralph Cantos

In the land of American traction, just four United States cities shared the distinction of having two different transit systems using the modern PCC. Those cities were Los Angeles, St. Louis, Cleveland and if you count the Red Arrow St. Louis Car Co.-built modified double end PCCs, Philadelphia.

Of those 4 operations, only in Los Angeles and St. Louis could the PCCs of 2 different systems be photographed in one scene.

In these two photos, the PCCs of the Illinois Terminal Railroad and the St. Louis Public Service are seen at the only place such photos could be taken. The other photo depicts the PCCs of PE and LATL on 7th Street in Downtown LA.

The photo of PE no. 5011 is truly remarkable for at least three reasons.

  1. Number 1: Here you have PCCs of different car builders. The 5011 was built by Pullman Standard and the LATL car was built by St. Louis Car Co.
  2. Number 2: The 5011 is standard gauge and the LATL PCC is narrow gauge.
  3. Number 3: The ONLY place in Los Angeles where this photo could be taken was on 7th Street between San Pedro St. and the entrance to PE’s “6th Street Surface Yard” below and next to the Main St. elevated Station.

The 5011 was on a fan trip, and the LATL PCC is in regular service on either the R or J lines. No other place in America could such a photo be taken of two very different PCCs of two systems on the same street.

The PE PCCs would last just 15 years in service, while the LATL prewar car would enjoy 26 years of service before the entire LARY / LATL / LAMTA PCC system was scuttled in March of 1963.

As a note of interest to all PCC fans everywhere, the eight Illinois double-enders delivered in 1948 (and nearly identical to SF Muni’s “Torpedos”) would have the distinction of the shortest PCC service life. All 8 cars were retired in 1956 after just 8 years of service.

Of the 8 cars, two of them survive in trolley museums. The 2 museum cars were leasted from the Trolley Museum and returned to regular service for a few years on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit. The 1700-class St. Louis Public Service PCC rolling along below the IT bridge would go on to have a long service career in such places as Tampico, Mexico, Cleveland’s Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, San Francisco Muni. and to this day, one car, San Diego Trolley no. 529 still rolls along nearly 70 years after it was built in 1946.

I only wish that one of PE’s PCCs — arguably the most beautiful PCCs ever built — could have been saved for preservation at OERM, but it was not to to be, and like the equally beautiful Butterfly 12s, they were lost to history…

Ralph Cantos Collection

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Showing 6 comments
  • Duncan Still

    There was one more place in L.A. where the two PCC lines could theoretically appear in one photo. In 1940 or so, PE PCC’s were used on the Venice Short Line for a short time. The Venice Short Line intersected the LARY “J” line at Venice Blvd and Grand Ave.. I know of no such photos, unfortunately.

    • Ralph Cantos

      Duncan, you are CORRECT! If such a photo (or photos) were taken at that intersection and could be found, they (or it) would be “THE PCC PHOTO, TO END ALL PCC PHOTOS”. R C

  • Johan Eriksson

    Best PE Lovers,

    I know that my thoughts of course are related to economics but if we play with the “physical” thought, -is it technically possible to re-create a PE PCC of the classic most beautiful 5000-series ?

    I know the story, bought “the car that fought back” in Toronto(!) in 1981, and it´s a disgrace the whole scrapping-story, not even preserving this and some other PCC types. And of course all scrapping of the modern streetcar in the US…. 🙁

    I try to follow what PCC´s that actually are preserved in museums and elsewhere and realize that probably none of them would like to give up one (or two) of their touchstones but if you play with the thought, could a (a bit un-sure here) SF “Torpedo” or any other preserved type be rebuilt into a “realistic” LA PE PCC?

    -Hope I don´t upset any PCC-preservers around the nation when we come with the truck…. 😉

    Thank you for letting me share these optimistic but perhaps “dreamy” thoughts!

    /Johan Eriksson, Stockholm Sweden -and “hooked” since these Toronto and Newark PCC-rides back in 1981

  • Bob Davis

    The Tahoe Valley PCC Railway took two single-ended San Francisco Muni PCCs and made a “kitbashed” double ender, which is still presumed to be in their “yard” south of Lake Tahoe. This would make a double-ender with center doors, the nearest thing to a PE PCC, although the two cars are St. Louis built all-electrics. To make a Pullman air-electric center door double-ender, one could start with a pair of Boston MTA cars (several might be available) and send them to Brookville with a large amount of $$$$$.

  • Ralph Cantos

    The Tahoe double-ender all electric is over 60 feet long !! And yes, a PE PCC could be built out of 2 Boston Pullmans from Dallas. The front ends were almost identical on both cars. Anyone up for a fund raiser !!

  • Fred M Pohl

    Its a shame Shaker Heights Boston Or San Fran did not buy these instead of shipping thme south of the border If Red Arrow had acquired them they would have to re-guage them to 5ft 2 1/4 inchees and could have saved the Ardmore Line which quit on 29 December 1966 It was a event that changed my life forever I have been almost 48 years a railfan I never rode PE or LA Railways let alone been to L.A. But I like thier stuff just the same

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