Pacific Electric 100s on the Scruffy Streets of Vera Cruz, Mexico: Pampered LA Life A Distant Memory
By Ralph Cantos
Pacific Electric’s 100-class cars built in 1930 were often referred to as “double-truck Birneys.” The late Ira L. Swett described them as “several cuts above” actual double truck Birneys in every respect.
The cars numbered 100 to 114 were first used on local lines around Riverside and in Long Beach. The 100s were never equipped with eclipse fenders. By the time they were assigned to the “cushy” Echo Park Avenue Line, eclipse fenders were no longer required on PE cars.
When all 15 of them emerged from Torrance Shops in late 1942, they were a splendid sight. For unknown reasons, the 100s never were painted with “Butterfly head-light wings” found on the Hollywood cars and the PCCs. It would have been a nice touch, but after just eight years of service on Echo Park Avenue, the line was abandoned on October 1, 1950, and the 100s faced an uncertain future.
The ever-watchful officials of the Vera Cruz (Mexico) tramway system pounced on the 100s and they were on their way south before the end of the year. All 15 cars were in service in Vera Cruz in the early months of 1951.
This photo, taken in 1955 by the late Jerry Squire is from the Andy Goddard collection. It shows Vera Cruz no. 203, the former PE no. 102. When the 100s arrived in Mexico, they were in excellent condition having only been in local service around LA for just 8 short years.
Several changes were made to the cars before they went into service in Vera Cruz. Among them, the cars were made single ended, life guards were tossed, marker lights trashed, and a more simple K-35 controller installed.
Since the PE paint on the 100s was barely dry, the cars entered service with the PE paint job basically intact.
As time passed, the once-pristine condition of the 100s begin to “fade.” Starting about 1965, the 100s (what was left of them) began to appear in a rather tacky yellow paint job and things went down hill from there.
The remarkable fact that the Vera Cruz trolley system lasted into 1981 is a miracle in itself. But by that time, the entire system simply fell apart. The 100s lasted 30 years in that unforgiving service.
Ralph Cantos Collection