PE’s Butterfly 12s: The Magnificent Six

By Ralph Cantos

This 8×10 photograph from the Craig Rasmussen collection shows “Butterfly 12” no. 1221 rolling along towards San Pedro Station on March 5, 1948. In as much as the Butterfly 12s numbered 1216 to 1221 were rebuilt in 1939-40 for “Deluxe” service for the 58 mile long San Bernardino line, passengers aboard the #1221 must have marveled at the 1221’s interior appointments and striking exterior appearance. Most post-World War II runs on the San Pedro line were usually handled by 1000s, so this run using the 1221 must have been an unexpected treat for those passengers on aboard.

I have examined this crystal clear photo with a high-powered magnifying glass, and it appears that the 1221 is in virtually PERFECT condition at 35 years of age. She could have lasted indefinitely. Say what you want about the PE, but when it came to car maintenance, most if not all of PE’s rolling stock from the venerable 950s to the Blimps were kept in A-1 condition. Sadly, little more than 2 years after this photo was taken, the entire 1200-class of high speed interurbans were sold for scrap and burned at Kaiser Steel in Fontana.

Officials from Buenos Aires looked at the 12s and liked what they saw, but the 1200 were so well built, that adding second passenger loading doors to the car ends was virtually and economically impossible. The slower 11s, with their double-loading passenger doors, went to South America instead, leaving the entire 12 class to face the scraper’s torch. A terrible loss to the traction preservation movement that was still several years into the future.

Pacific Electric business car no. 1299 is now preserved at OERM. It began as a Portland 12 trailer before being rebuilt and powered as Officers Car 1299.

Craig Rasmussen Collection

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  • Bob Davis

    I remember seeing “Butterfly Twelves” on the Monrovia Line as part of the typical three car 1200 trains that ran during rush hours. There would be only one train of Twelves, and I might see anything from 1200 to 1262, as they would be “mixed and matched”. The 1216 class, in addition to their flamboyant paint jobs, still had the restrooms with the oval art glass windows, and I wondered about a PE trip that was long enough to require a “head” on the car. Since this was the late 1940s, the only run that might qualify for time and distance would be the Balboa line.

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Jack Finn CollectionPhotographer unknown, Steve Crise Collection