Pacific Electric No. 5011: LA’s PCC Wonderland
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.
- 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.
- Number 2: The 5011 is standard gauge and the LATL PCC is narrow gauge.
- 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