Pacific Electric’s Rear Tower at 6th and Main
By Ralph Cantos
In this image, Pacific Electric Hollywood car no. 5064 departs the 6th & Main Street elevated station for Glendora. Time was running out for the Northern District by this Summer 1951 photo. The 1100s were now in dead storage at the West Hollywood yard awaiting sale to Buenos Aires, and the Hollywood cars would ring down the final curtain on the North in September.
What makes this photo interesting is that it clearly shows the “REAR CONTROL TOWER” (note the red arrow) that operated all the electric switches on the elevated, including the North-South switches at the base of the ramp on San Pedro Street. The Tower can be seen just above Blimp no. 318, it’s the window with the awning on it.
I was lucky to visit the Rear Tower a few times and found it a very interesting experience. Until the 1951 abandonment of the Northern District, the tower man had his “hands full” pulling the large brass levers that protruded from a large wooden cabinet. Soon after the Northern District abandonment, the switch at the base of the ramp was removed and replaced by a east-to-south curve. When the Watts Line was abandoned at the end of 1960, there was little or no need for the tower man to operate the levers except for a few hours during morning and evening rush hours, and on April 9th, 1961, the tower man got the boot.
Alan Weeks Photo, Ralph Cantos Collection
And here’s a photo of the platform after abandonment, in 1962:
More from Ralph:
PE electric switch a the base of the elevated: There seems to be some disagreement on how the electric switch was operated at the bottom of the 6th & Main elevated ramp. In this 1949 Donald Duke photo taken from across the street, I do not see a “switchman’s shanty” anywhere . The logical location for such a structure would be at south side of the ramp. I don’t see any trace of such a structure in this photo. When I use to hang around the 6th & Main terminal.
I noticed a small “booth” next to the southern most terminal track that may have been used for dispatching and communication to the Rear Tower. The PE employee in the booth would let the Tower man know the destination of the departing train, so the switch at San Pedro St could be set in the proper direction. I did not arrive on the scene until 1957 and by then the switch at San Pedro St was long gone and the little booth stripped of all electrical equipment.