Pacific Electric 990 and Train: Poetry In Motion
By Ralph Cantos
Pacific Electric’s roster of “modern” wood-bodied interurbans peeked at about 335 units. These wood-bodied beauties consisted of 4 distinct classes: the 500s, 800s, 950s and 1000s.
The number of wood interurbans on the PE system probably reached its high point around 1922-23. PE began to retire the cars 500 – 599 as new 600-class Hollywood cars began to arrive from St. Louis Car Co. The last of the 500s operated until 1937, at which time they were stored at Torrance Shops. By 1939, those cars not sold to private parties were gone. A few years later, the mighty 800s followed the 500s into history, save a few that were converted to light duty box motors, such as no. 1498 that was displayed at Travel Town for several decades.
The handsome 950s were next on the list for extermination. Nineteen of these classic beauties had already meet their fiery fate at Torrance Shops when World War II put a stop to the scrapping of anything that could roll and carry passengers. Indeed, World War II extended the service lives of hundreds, if not thousands of streetcars and interurbans across the USA. The PE put the surviving 31 950s through Torrance Shops, and when they rolled out the door in mid-1942, the big cars were in better-than-new condition.
The bigger 1000s were also refurbished at the same time. Both classes would render excellent service for the Pacific Elecxtric throughout the war and beyond.
But all good things must and did come to an end. The September 1950 abandonment of the Venice Short Line and the demise of the Northern District spelled the end for all wood-bodied interurbans on the PE.
In this beautiful 1948 photo by Jim Stubchaer, car 990, now 41 years young, leads an afternoon VSL rush-hour train just west of Vineyard Junction. A close examination of this photo reveals that the second car in the photogenic train to be none other than car no. 999. You can just make out the 5 window front and the different side window arrangement left over from its days as a deluxe car, El Viento.
By November of 1950, the 950s had gone to their final resting place at Terminal Island. The body of one car, no. 993, was set aside as a locker room. A few years later, Hollywood car no. 655 replaced the 993 as a newer locker locker room. In time, both cars would be saved by Richard Fellows and find their way to OERM where the body of 993 awaits restoration.
As a final note, “The Dean of PE History” Ira L. Swett tried to save car no. 994, but due to a lack of funds, the lack of any location to store the car, and the lack of any significant trolley preservation movement, he was forced to give up on the effort, and the 994 was lost.
Jim Stubchaer Photo, Jim Stubchaer Collection
If you look on page 263 of Ira Swetts SPECIAL #36,you will see a photo taken of car #994 several months after the rest of the 950’s had been burned for scrap. Ira had the 994 set aside in hopes that one of LA’s major Studios might purchase the old girl,since he himself could not. But it was not to be, and so this last complete 950 was lost,a very sad ending to one of PE’s most beautiful wood interurbans.