Pacific Electric PCC No. 5023: Dawn to Dusk of a Beauty Queen
By Ralph Cantos
Pacific Electric’s double end PCCs were arguably the most beautiful PCCs ever built. Unfortunately for PE’s Pullman built PCCs, beauty did not translate into longevity.
Depending on the city system where the PCCs operated, the service life of the cars was about 20 yeas in such “rust belt” cities as Pittsburgh to almost 35 years in Mexico City and more than 50 years in Newark, New Jersey. Good maintenance was the key to long service life.
Even in Toronto, where snow- and salt-covered streets cut the average life of automobiles to about 15 years (if that long), the TTC’s fleet of PCCs lasted into the late 1980s with the last PCCs still in operation into 1991.
On the other hand, some PCCs did not do as well. The San Diego Electric’s twenty-eight PCCs were retired after just 12 years of service. After about 5 years of dead storage, 20 of them were sold to El Paso City Lines where they saw service into the 1970s. Six of the San Diego were scrapped and 2 preserved, at this time both cars 508 and 528 at OERM.
PE’s beautiful, well-maintained double-enders served the Glendale-Burbank Line for all of 15 years before being put into “really dead storage” in the damp PE Subway tunnel. After four years, the cars were sold to Buenos Aires for further service. However, that tenure lasted just about three short years before the cars were once again retired. All 30 of the car disappeared with out a trace, with no photo record of their final disposition.
In these two photos from the Jeffrey Marinoff Collection, the “dawn” photo shows the 5023 at the Pullman Standard factory in all her splendor and beauty being made ready for shipment to Los Angeles in November 1940. Just twenty-one short years later, the “dusk” photo shows the same car , now renumbered M1523 in the final year of service during its short second career.
One car, no. 1528 (PE no. 5028) was never modified with train doors and remained a true double-ender. It was used as a training car to the end. How wonderful it would be if some rich Buenos Aires rail-fan could have purchased this car, stashed it away for posterity, just waiting to be discovered and returned to Los Angeles. It does not hurt to dream, as some dreams do come true.
Jeffrey Marinoff Collection